The Teacher’s Round Table
Conducted by N. J. COREY
A COMMON QUANDARY.
The following letter represents an experience that is not unusual, and is so well presented that we print it here in this connection, partly because of this, and partly because the foregoing discussion will help to stimulate her thought in thinking out a means of teaching what she has learned.
“I am taking the liberty of writing to you, because I greatly enjoy your ably conducted Teachers’ Round Table in THE ETUDE. In the last three months it has become necessary for me to put my musical training into practical use, and not until then did I realize how sadly deficient I am. I was at one time assistant in a prominent Roman Catholic Church in St. Louis, and for a year I was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Most of my work has been upon the pipe organ. I have had charge of an organ and choir for four years here in my home town, and in the last year I have given seven pipe organ recitals in the State. But when I find I must teach piano I find I have little idea of how to even begin. I do not know how to explain time. Neither do I know what music to give to beginners, or medium grade pupils. I do not know how to explain scales. Yet I do know all these things. Can you give me a list of books, or the name of a book that will in a measure help me? I know that experience is the best teacher, and probably later I will be able to do the things-but now! want something to help me to help my pupils. Will you also tell me what you consider the best studies for first and medium grades, and a few pieces to go with these grades? I can not give eight, ten and twelve-year-old children Bach, Liszt, Raff or Beethoven, and T seem to have forgotten everything about my own beginnings. Please don’t think me dull, but I am trying to be conscientious and 1 don’t want to take money for teaching until I feel that T can give a fair return. C. B.”
The art of applying knowledge, or imparting information, is a difficult one. although not so much so when well systematized. Teachers who are about to put themselves to the test naturally fall into a panic when confronted by an unknown world. All young teachers have this helpless feeling, but it gradually passes away when taken firmly and intelligently in hand. With the clear intelligence shown by C. B.. she will doubtless solve this problem in a brilliant manner. The first necessity is to collect all possible information and systematize it. Too many teachers go at their work in a haphazard manner, either adhering too closely to routine or depending on the inspiration of the moment. Neither way is the best. Teachers should have a clear idea and understanding of their own knowledge and then vary it as may seem necessary in order to make correct application of it in peculiar and individual cases. It is a good idea for a young teacher to begin by tabulating all matters taught in every grade, keeping several pages for each grade, even subdividing same, and adding every item of available material that may come to hand from any source. Otherwise many useful points will be forgotten or lost sight of.
If C. B. has been a reader of THE ETUDE for a long time, she can begin by collecting and tabulating in her book information gathered from the back files of her Round Table department. Many important points can also be found in other pages of THE ETUIIK. In the June issue of the Round Table will be found useful points. In the May number, “Suggestions from a Round Table Reader” will provide an excellent training exercise for individual fingers. In the March issue, “Elementary Teaching” will provide some processes for the very start. A systematic examination of all back numbers should be made in the diligent search for useful items of information. Ten points discovered in as many magazines . would make a valuable showing on the teaching page. Many teachers have told me that they have added immensely to their own teaching value by keeping this sort of a record. Some have had their record books so indexed that they could refer quickly for an exercise for some defect that they had not encountered for two or three years, and had partly forgotten their former method of treatment.
SELECTING AN INSTRUCTION BOOK.
C. B., in selecting- an instruction book for her beginnings, would better not confuse her mind with a number of them to look over, but would better accept one which has been in successful use, make a thorough test of it, and try others at a later time if she finds herself dissatisfied in any particular. Tresser’s “First Steps for Beginners” has been responsible for fine results with many teachers. Therefore I would recommend it. After this I would recommend that the Standard Graded Course be taken up. and many questions will be found answered on this course in back numbers of THE KTUDK. It is a good plan to take up the first book after the “First Steps.” for a thorough review, in which the pupil may correct such things as have not been thoroughly learned or understood during the first time over. In this case the first few pages may be omitted.
In the “First Steps,” as also in the “Standard Course,” suggested lists of pieces for recreation and study will be found. These will provide you with ample material for your first year’s work. After that you will, of course, need to begin to augment that list, as you will not wish to repeat your pieces too numerously in the one community, and also you will yourself grow tired of a too limited teaching repertoire. For etudes in the elementary and medium grades the “Czerny Selected Studies,” by Libeling. will be found most excellent. The first book may be used to supplement the “First Steps,” and the first book of the Standard Course, and it will last well through the second book of the latter. For the medium grade work, Heller’s Opus 47 and �16 have been standard necessities, in teaching esthetic perception in combination with technical training. It is better not to take up these studies until the student has advanced far enough to learn them easily, so that the aesthetic side may receive adequate attention. This will not be the case if they demand the pupil’s entire energy in order to conquer the notes.
The following books will furnish valuable aid to the teacher who is, beginning: “Fifty Practical Questions for the Piano Student.” Borst; “Elementary Piano Instruction.” Hennes; “How to Teach,” Sefton ; “A Primer of Facts About Music,” Evans
I have been asked to name some instruction books that began with both the treble and bass clefs. These inquirers will note from one of the foregoing letters that this simultaneous learning of both clefs can be managed with any book. If one desires, the practice of the bass notes with the left hand can be begun with the first lesson on treble notes. Teachers, however, should not dispense with playing exercises and pieces in which both hands are written in the treble clef. Pupils who confine their attention exclusively to the bass clef for the left hand are much confused when they are later confronted with music written for treble clef only, and passages so written are not infrequent in all grades of music, as well as the reverse. Personally 1 have never known pupils to experience any difficulty in learning to read the bass notes after having learned the treble. In the beginning it may have troubled them somewhat, but no more than it did to learn the treble in the first place. It is well, however, to anticipate the bass clef exercises in the books before the treble section is finished. By doing this the pupil is ready at once to enter upon exercises employing clefs.
CARELESS PUPILS. We have received the following letter, which will give farther suggestion to a recent questioner on “Careless Pupils:”
“If J. W. will try the following plan, T believe it will prove helpful. Look carefully at the signature, and help the pupil to understand what notes are affected by it; then, without playing, read aloud each hand separately, calling the name of each note, and if the pupil fails to say sharp or flat after such notes, refuse to go on until he corrects himself. Sometimes, in a key with which the pupil is not familiar, it may be necessary to go through the exercise three times. Then, unless the time is easy, I have the pupil ‘time-count’ it, counting and pointing, without playing. 1 find that after this drill even little folks will play an exercise almost without a mistake. Of course, this method may take a little more time, but what does that matter if it is conducive to correctness. I often leave the pupil, after he can call the notes correctly and rapidly, to play it over without farther help. Unless the piece is very simple I require the pupil to practice it with each hand separately for the first few days.
“Let me say that I especially enjoy the Round Table, and thank you for the many helps found there.”
The following letter on plagiarism has been received from one of our readers, and calls attention to a remarkable instance which may not be familiar to all.
The question of plagiarism is one which has an unceasing interest, although it is a subject that easily becomes monotonous and unprofitable. Most of the great masters have been charged with the crime. Handel and Mendelssohn have been mercilessly charged as being inveterate thieves. To the writer it does not necessarily follow that because certain melodies of the great masters coincide In outline and rhythm that there may be any illegal adoption of another’s work as one’s own. During student days, and for a considerable time afterwards, the works of those composers who have been most assiduously studied must of necessity more or less influence a developing mind. But a very interesting example is lying on the desk at the present moment, being No. ‘2 of Schumann’s Op. 68, and the scherzo from Beethoven’s 5th sonata for the piano and violin. Alter the accent slightly, and remove the third boat from the scherzo, thus converting it into 2-4 time, and the two compositions become practically identical, in the keys of F and G respectively.
TEACHING THE PARENTS.
“One hour each Saturday afternoon is devoted to a pupils’ recital, which only the immediate families of the students may attend. Suggestions, criticisms and needed lesson points are given at the close. The plan has proven profitable and is greatly enjoyed by the children. But one mother severely criticized her child of eleven. The little girl said, ‘Our piano has so many sticking keys that I cannot do good practice I agreed with the child in regard to the faulty piano, but the mother replied. ‘That is why Violet should play unusually well on your excellent piano.’
“May I ask if there is any way in which these mothers who injure the progress of their own children by such views can be enlightened”? We have much trouble with them.
As I have said before, the parents arc oftentimes more in need of a teacher than the children. They are much harder to inform along lines that are not familiar to them, for they have become fixed and obstinate in their views. Nevertheless there is no possible solution to the problem except to have repeated conversations with the parents. You will have to reason with them, and make your reasoning as simple as possible, as simple as you would for a child. You must remember that if you have been teaching a child for a couple of years, he will have a greater musical understanding in regard to music and its needs in the way of an instrument, than his parents who have never given the matter more than a passing thought. As a rule, too much is expected of parents who have never had musical opportunities. This should be taken into consideration. Then if you are too busy to go to their houses in order to tails over the situation, you should make an appointment with him to come to your house. In this case you could explain in detail to the mother mentioned in the foregoing letter, just why a child could not do good practice on an instrument with many of the keys out of order. Show that under such conditions a child could not even learn what the music was like-that the sounds must he heard, or there would be no result such as was aimed for. I know of no other way for you to attack this problem, except by repeated efforts lo inform the parents; supply the information they have never had before.
How do you treat a surface worker? I have a very clever pupil who tires of a piece before it is learned. She plays fairly well so far as notes and lime goes, but if she finishes a composition it requires months.”
As surface workers are rampant in every sphere of activity, and constitute the great majority of mankind, to the bane of all endeavor, your question is concerned with a problem which could only be answered by a regeneration of the human race. This, again, is apparently impossible, and, therefore, you will find the reformation of your superficial pupils difficult. In the case of children, there may be much hope, but little, so far as adults are concerned. When one’s mental habits become fixed it is difficult to change them. In the case of children, little can be accomplished unless they are developed along all lines. It will be difficult to make a careless child thorough and conscientious in music unless he or she be similarly trained in every department of work and home training. Home influence has a great deal to do with a child’s ultimate habits, and if allowed to grow up careless and thoughtless along general lines you will find it difficult to make him careful and painstaking in music. Your treatment of the surface worker will have to begin, therefore, with the parents. If you can obtain their cooperation in your work, supplemented by a similar strictness of routine in the home and school, you may be able to make a good worker out of the child. Otherwise your case is likely to be a very problematical one.
Specifically it will be useless for you to try to advance the surface worker rapidly. Such pupils are easily non-plussed by difficulties and apt to shirk them. Introduce new difficulties slowly, therefore. Give them short pieces that they should be able to encompass without undue effort, and try and make them thorough in them. Insist on a regular scheme (if practice, so many minutes for each department of work, which routine must be followed faithfully. Try and make them realize that they can accomplish nothing worth while unless they do. Insist on difficult passages being repeated a given number of times without pause, say twenty-five times. They can keep track of these repetitions by placing a small object on the highest key of the piano and moving it down one key for each repetition. Move it down a certain number of keys and then begin over again at flu- ton, if it interferes with the music. Such minds need to be pinned down pretty closely. Try and see if you call accomplish anything along these lines.