Monday, August 1, 2011

National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy 2011

The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy is a not-for-profit educational institution in Kingston, New Jersey.
The work of the Center is based on the philosophy of music educator Frances Clark (1905-1998) Frances Clark believed passionately in the transformative power of music-making in the life of every person - not just the young, the gifted or the privileged. What set Frances Clark apart from her predecessors was her recognition that the quality of musical experience is directly related to the quality of the music teaching-learning experience. Thus she placed singular importance on the preparation of teachers.
"There is music in every child. The teacher's job is to find it and nurture it." -- Frances Clark
The Frances Clark Center advances its goals and serves local, national, and international audiences through its three components: The New School for Music Study, Clavier Companion magazine (to which I am an occasional contributor) and the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP) a bi-annual event for mainly North American music teachers. Papers on a variety of topics are presented and there are also publisher and composer showcases. It attracts a lively and well-informed crowd who attend most sessions and are delighted to have lots of professional input before the new teaching year begins.
I was at NCKP with Novus Via Music Group, publishers of American Popular Piano and I did my by-now-familiar mix of one-on-one demonstrations at the booth and a showcase on the series with my collaborator Scott McBride Smith.
I was pleased to see lots of familiar faces, colleagues from a number of countries, other music publishers and of course many teachers who I have encountered at Piano Festivals, at regional conferences and at presentations. Lori Frazier is a great promoter of midi in education for Yamaha USA (and a great fan of Here she is showing me some of the finer points of the Yamaha piano I was using at the booth:
The response from many teachers to American Popular Piano indicated that how it works is becoming clear to more and more piano studios – using contemporary popular pieces to draw students in and keep them motivated, using Etudes (improvisation) and Skills books to help cultivate better listening and using the Technic books to create strong fingers and secure keyboard geography. This seemed evident in the main presentation – I had a 16 year old girl improvising from scratch and finding her own voice quite quickly and I had 2 delightful brothers play Walking in the Sun (from APP Level 4 Ensemble) in a secure and positively joyful way. Here’s a picture of the boys, along with 2 more siblings (there are 8 children in the family altogether!)
I was also pleased to spend time with Ellen Tryba Chen, who put on the recent improv event in Saratoga, California and with Jan McMillan, who was a lively presence at the conference in Wagga Wagga. It really is getting to be a small world! And we were greatly helped throughout by the sterling work of Isaac Holbrook, who recently stood in for me at Summer Sizzle in Ontario . And I should pay tribute to the tireless work of Clarke MacIntosh, the driving force behind American Popular Piano, the person who first thought of getting me and Scott McBride Smith together.
The major travel season is now over – subsequent reports will come from mainly European destinations, with a trip to India in the diary in late November.