‘Soft Way to Mozart’ In Spain From a Conservatory Perspective
SoftMozart as a wonderful method for teaching music. And I speak of music and not only of piano because Softmozart helps setting the foundations of not only piano fundamentals but also ear training, internal rhythm, harmony and music memory.
I find it my obligation to be alert of new possibilities for my piano students. I teach all levels but I am specially concerned about the beginning of education. Mainly, because I am convinced that the younger the student, the better the teacher should be. Not only in the psychological approach but also because of the fact that one needs to have the final goals so clearly as to not introduce anything that could be a learning burden for a student in the future. After all, music learning is taught in a spiral method. We teach the same concepts again and again and the only difference is the context, the music piece that the student plays.
On the other hand, there are many methods that captivate the student at the beginning but makes them face a desert after a year or two. I am thinking of teaching methods that provide the student with no reading grounds. Most of these students quit when they find themselves having to read what they think they can play by imitation. I also find my obligation to dive into the real XXI century, meaning that the students of today deserve the possibilities that the rest of the curricula offer to them: technology.
I was startled to know the results of the investigations of Rauschen in 1997 where he compared the results in spatial-temporal outcomes of a group of children who had taken piano lessons, a group of children that had taken computer lessons and a group of children who had taken no special lessons appart from traditional school subjects.The study found that those receiving piano lessons indeed scored 34 percent higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability. Then followed the children who had received computer training.
Well, SoftMozart combines these two trainings.
To start with, children just stick to the piano no matter how young. I have seen three year old children waving goodbye to their parents without even looking at them as they left and begging for more after their lesson. And this is a very good start for any teacher
In respect to the advantages of the method I would like to highlight:
It doesn’t interfere at all with my traditional teaching. The teacher has a reason to exist with constant indications about fingering, hand position and relating concepts from one piece to another.
The chosen pieces are also "traditional". Bastien, for example, is one of the most famous methods in Spanish Conservatories.
Fruit Lines and Guess Note are two games that also help train absolute ear. After more than twenty years of teaching I have found no better method for this. The child constantly listens to the sound of a note with no boring sensation because he thinks he is only playing with a video console game when in fact he is receiving constant listen-recognise feedback about absolute pitch.
Some children just respond to sound. To be able to recognise these children at so early stages is an invaluable tool for a teacher. Any other method to work these that I can think of would involve an active respond from the child, and we all know that the shiest children can be the best hidden artists.
Note duration makes rhythm not only a mental process from the mathematical point of view but also a fast muscular responding process, as it should eventually become in the future for any pianist. The child thinks and feels the rhythm and it is hard to tell what comes first.
Small children can spend years in music movement lessons before starting piano in traditional teaching. Now I see no reason why they should wait for so long before playing piano, provided the piano keys weight is appropiate for their muscles.
With respect to Gentle Piano these are the rest of the advantages I find:
The vertical disposition of the staves compared to the horizontal simply mean that what is on the right is on the right and what is on the left is on the left. This sounds absurd but the fact is that with traditional teaching a piano students needs to face orientation indications that contradict natural laws. Some parents are concerned with this fact (so what will happen when he faces a "normal score"?). I just press a key on the computer and the students faces the "normal score". And the student just plays because he also recognises his favourite toy if we turn it around. The important fact is that he has understood in a natural way the direction of the music on the score and the direction of the same notes on the piano.
Some traditional teachers say "ok, but art has nothing to do with this". My answer is always the same one. Your first obligation is to teach the student how to read and now the linguistics. Your second obligation could be letting him read a best seller or take his hand and dive him into Shakespeare. Well, I don’t know of any Language teacher who wouldn’t appreciate all this help in teaching their students how to read. This can only result in having spare time for the "artistic process".
The evaluating process is an instantaneus thing. The competition is not with the teacher. The teacher doesn’t correct things as "not a do or a fa but a mi". The teacher can teach and correct other more important things and doesn’t need to accompany with words every sound of the piano. After all we keep telling our students that music and silence go together. The fact that the teacher is in your team and that the competition is IN the computer, is another pedagogical approach that I find invaluable.
I can only recommend SoftMozart for any teacher willing to have an invaluable aid in teaching what for so many people is the reason to not have continued with piano education: boring approaches or just the intrinsic difficulty in beginning of the learning process.
Victoria López Meseguer
Piano Teacher at the Conservatory Joaquín Turina, Madrid, Spain.
Pedagogical advisor of Escuela de Múscia Acción Piano
Cursa los estudios superiores de Piano y Música de Cámara en el Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid con los catedráticos D. Julián López Gimeno y Don Luis Rego.
En 1983 se presenta en el Teatro Real de Madrid en un concierto difundido por RTVE.
En 1986 reside en Londres donde consolida su forrmación pianística con Joan Havill y Peter Feutchwanger.
Ese mismo año es invitada a participar en el Festival de Otoño de Madrid y en los Lunes Musicales de RTVE.
En 1987 cursa estudios de Master en piano y Musicología en la Universidad de Austin (Texas).
Durante los cuatro siguientes años estudia bajo la dirección de Elliott Antokoletz, Walter Ducloux y David Renner, con quienes se especializa en el análisis y la interpretación de la música de Béla Bártok, W.A. Mozart y Richard Strauss, análisis de la música de cámara,y en nuevas técnicas de pedagogía musical.
Durante el año 1991 realiza los cursos de análisis de la música del S. XX impartidos en U.T por Elliott Antokoletz, traduciendo después sus artículos al español. Realiza también los cursos de análisis de óperas de Mozart y Verdi impartidos por Reber y cursos de acompañamiento al piano, investigación musicológica y psicología de la música que se imparten en dicha Universidad.
En Austin, trabaja como profesora de piano en la Becker School y en St. Francis School y figura en el Dean's List de la Universidad.
Durante 1991 y 1992 es profesora de piano por oposición del Conservatorio Superior de Música de Murcia.
En la actualidad es profesora de piano del Conservatorio Profesional de Música “Joaquín Turina” de Madrid y Asesora de Educación Musical y Nuevas Tecnologías en La Escuela Acción Piano Aula de Música.