The continuation of musical performance throughout history is rooted in pedagogy. From the original Gregorian chants all the way to Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra – all music needs to be passed down through teachings of dictation from composers and musical styles and interpretations from the performing musicians. The earliest examples of written music we have today have come from the church. In the church, the reading and performance of music was taught to be used for religious purposes. But as time passed and music began entering the public realm of entertainment, instruments, musical notation, and performance styles developed. There were always teachers that informed up and coming music students about the current styles and techniques of their given era. Today in the contemporary conservatory, the teachings are formally passed down by teachers to students in their respective studios. Each studio has a teacher and a number of students ranging from five to fifteen on average. Students have individual lessons with their studio teacher. But every so often the studio comes together to have masterclass, technique class, studio class, scale class, or even seminars led by their teachers or members of the studio assigned to lead a class by the teacher. In the following examples you will hear students having individual lessons with their teacher, two students practicing scales and arpeggios together, a composition seminar class discussing modern playing techniques for piano, a cello studio practicing the elusive skill of shifting quietly between notes in a scale, and a piano masterclass in which a student performs in front of the class and the teacher offers constructive criticism. In private lessons, students work one-on-one with their respective teachers going over anything from etudes, which are designed to improve technique, to solo works. Teachers and students usually have a close bond. The best teachers know exactly what to say to encourage improvement. In these personal settings, teachers can give examples and recommend techniques that cannot always be given in group settings. However, that does not deplete the value of group technique classes. When working in groups with the studio teacher and peers, students can learn to be more critical of themselves and the playing of their instrument in general, gaining the knowledge to give advice to their peers. Group classes also help show the importance of intonation. In addition to practicing shifts, students also practice scales with their peers. When working with someone else, poor intonation becomes extremely obvious. While working one-on-one or in small groups is valuable, seminars also have great importance and give students new perspectives. Being in a studio creates camaraderie and creates an environment where students learn effectively, giving music the opportunity to grow and change as it did in the past.
This recording is of a UNCSA (University of North Carolina School of the Arts) piano studio masterclass conducted by Dr. Dmitri Shteinberg with student Owen Dodds playing Bach Partita in G major. A partita is essentially a dance suite. Bach composed this set of six partitas for harpsicord. This particular suite is composed of seven dances (Praeambulum, Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande, Tempo di Minuetto, Passepied, Gigue). In this recording you will hear a student play through the introduction of the praeambulum and a teacher playing through the same excerpt as a method of instruction. In piano masterclass, Dr. Dmitri Shteinberg teaches his students to listen as a way to correct their mistakes. By listening to the teacher play, the student is able to hear what the audience wants to hear. Every concert hall requires a certain kind of adjustment from the performer. What a student may hear at the piano might be vastly different from what the audience hears. Dr. Dmitri Shteinberg shows the student the articulation that is required to use in a hall like the one they are playing in (Watson Hall).
Developing your own technique on an instrument is an extremely individual endeavor that truly takes a life time of trial and error, but over the years masters of the instruments have developed some basic universal guidelines for the technique of their respective instruments. In the following sound clip, you will hear a cello technique class being led by the professor of cello at UNCSA, Dr. Brooks Whitehouse. The elusive skill of silently shifting is highly sought after, and in the lesson recorded you hear a snippet of his wisdom on how to practice and perfect that skill. In technique classes, the teacher tends to discuss the goal of learning a technique and how it might be applied to your common practicing, and then goes on to demonstrate his point on the instrument in front of the class. Then the students are usually asked to attempt the technique and are given pointers on how to better practice the technique. This process of trial and error is only the starting point for the student, how must then take that knowledge and learn how to apply it effectively to their music making.
Practicing scales (and arpeggios) is a building block in great music-making. Scales influence multiple aspects of playing an instrument, including intonation and ear-training, coordination, and muscle memory. While practicing scales alone has its benefits, practicing scales with others, like in this recording, has additional benefits. When playing a scale with someone else, ensemble skills can be practiced, in addition to further honing intonation. Scales have always had a place in the history of music. In Gregorian chant, there were church modes, which were eight different organizations of pitch and intervals. Church modes are diatonic, meaning they have seven distinct pitches. As music history progressed, key notation was developed and accidentals (raising or lowering a pitch) were added. In Western music, seven note scales with a repeated octave are the most common, however into the 19th and 20th century, additional types of scales (some having 12 notes, others having 5 notes) were explored. While scale conventions have changed throughout history, the importance of scales and the practice of scales will continue in its prominence.
Composing is often a solitary experience where one is able to express themselves fully through their own musical influence. Composition seminars allow composers at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts to get together and talk about music. Seminars often consist of composers from around the world coming to talk about their works and their musical journey as a composer. The clip provided is from a seminar in which the three composition faculty at UNCSA got up and talked about effective methods on writing for piano. This is helpful due to the diverse style of each of the faculty. Specifically in this recording, Professor Frazelle gives his advice on writing for piano and the importance of thinking outside of the piano in the attempts to give your writing a more orchestral texture and he talks about how some of the greatest piano music of all time is almost impossible for two hands. Being able to have open discussions on what is best for what instrument in a seminar setting always helps to inspire and further my musical knowledge as a composer.
This particular clip is a very familiar sound to music majors from all across the world, the sounds of a studio hallway. The studio hallway is where students can find professors for extra help or meet for private lessons. While practicing is very important, students learn how to excel at their respective instruments most effectively in private lessons. These usually last an hour and are scheduled weekly. Students usually take this time to ask their teacher questions about repertoire that was assigned the previous week, however, this can also be a time to experiment with the musical ideas/interpretations of a specific piece. The special bond between teacher and student is often formulated in private lessons as this time is an opportunity for professors to exercise a much more personal approach to teaching their pupils. Teachers can help foster a deep love for music in their pupils, which thus perpetuates the appreciation for classical/instrumental music, and the history of that art form..