Learning to Distrust Play

A few years ago, I visited a private school where a friend was teaching fourth grade. I improvised a duet at a piano with each of the twenty kids in turn using various Patterns from my books. The other kids danced and moved to the music so everyone stayed involved. What amazed me was that

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12 Modes of Teaching and Learning

Which modes do you use? Which do you not? EAR “Can you play the melody of Greensleeves by ear starting on A?” ROTE-IMITATION “I’m playing the first phrase of Greensleeves. Can you do what I do?” EYE—FULL NOTATION “Here’s the score to Greensleeves. Can you read this?” EYE—LEAD SHEET “Here’s the lead sheet to Greensleeves.

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From Instructor to Educator

When I started teaching, I viewed myself as an instructor, someone with a program who planted information “in” a student.  But now, I am nearly the opposite. I am an educator. The root meaning of this word is “to lead out.”  Instead of merely putting information in, I am bringing unique gifts out. I am

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Don’t We Have to Learn Scales First?

When I give workshops on improvisation for teachers (whether classical or jazz), one idea is particularly difficult to accept. It directly contradicts what we have been taught. We were taught that we must “know” a scale before we can create melodies with it. “Knowing” a scale (since the middle of the 19th century) means being

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Don’t Play Piano with Your Fingers!

When I was younger, I really struggled at the piano for a number of years. I just couldn’t do what I wanted to do! Finally, after a completely disastrous performance, I quit piano for an entire year.  As a result of these early traumas, I make physical freedom a top priority in my studio. Why should students suffer when

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Mozart Meets Bach!

Mozart spent much of his youth touring Europe with his family. He would often give performances with his sister Nannerl for the royal crowd. When Wolfgang was just eight years old, the family visited London for the first time. There, Wolfgang met J.S. Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian Bach, the man pictured above, who was then a gifted

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A Favorite Story On Mozart’s Birthday

  When Mozart was thirty-three, he was passing through Dresden and paid a visit to some friends. A portrait artist named Dora (Doris) Stock was at the household that evening. She made the sketch you see below, a portrait that has since become a famous one of Mozart. According to Ms. Stock’s account of the evening, Mozart

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The Limping Horse Trainer

When I was in college, I began collecting parables and stories from various traditions. Some have acted like wise mentors to me during my teaching career, so I’d like to share them with you. I have lost track of the sources, so I will retell the stories in my own way. Here’s the first one:

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