Piano teachers—how do you conclude a book?

Sue Ellen Dubbert said: Feb 28, 2010
Sue Ellen Dubbert
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Madison, WI
13 posts

I’m a piano teacher and am interested in what other piano teachers do at the conclusion a book. I’m interested in input from string folk as well, but finishing a piano book has its own unique challenges ;-)

Do you:
1. require memorization with the later books—past book 3 or so?

  1. require or offer a special recital (either full book or selections)?

  2. do anything really fun and special to celebrate as an alternative or in addition to a book recital?

  3. have suggestions for helping students who are really motivated to move to the next book but who could really benefit from polishing for a LITTLE bit longer and are not so interested in doing so (esp. middle school boys…!)

  4. have requirements about maintaining a certain number of pieces from previous books? (this is really my biggest question…and, with students who are very comfortable readers, its not such a big deal—they have back-up should their memory get foggy. But, what do you do with those who are still developing their reading independence and have a hard time keeping everything in their memory? Ideally, if review happens consistently enough, this shouldn’t be a problem, but it doesn’t always happen that way!)

Currently, I give each student a special certificate and make sure they are recognized publicly at the next recital. I give my group class students the opportunity to play selections during the group class performance time. Looking for ways to spice things up and improve!

Thanks!

Laura said: Mar 11, 2010
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

joyful seeds

  1. require memorization with the later books—past book 3 or so?

I always require memorization for anything that is performed in public, with the exception being chamber music or accompaniments. I believe that the Suzuki “way” lends itself very easily to memorization, and that if it’s difficult to memorize, then perhaps music reading was introduced or relied upon too early. There may be many exceptions to this, but it’s a personal rule of thumb that I’ve so far found rather consistent.

joyful seeds

  1. require or offer a special recital (either full book or selections)?

Depending on how the student feels about it, they either do a special recital, or a large number of selections (somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of the book) at a regular student recital. In the latter case, their pieces are selected by audience request or random draw—meaning that no matter what, they must have the entire book polished and presentable at some point.

joyful seeds

  1. do anything really fun and special to celebrate as an alternative or in addition to a book recital?

I give out certificates and make a big deal of it around my studio. Usually the parents make an ever bigger deal of it on their own, without my help. :)

joyful seeds

  1. have suggestions for helping students who are really motivated to move to the next book but who could really benefit from polishing for a LITTLE bit longer and are not so interested in doing so (esp. middle school boys…!)

I treat it like a swimming badge: if you want to pass, you need all these little boxes checked off. In some cases, it’s a box that applies to a given piece. In other situations, it’s a box that applies across the board (e.g. a certain finger technique, or remembering dynamics). For middle-aged boys, sometimes the more you lay it all out in a black and white manner, the more motivating it is.

Another approach I use is to simply introduce something else entirely. This way, they have the time to finish polishing while they don’t feel stuck on it. Some ideas are non-Suzuki repertoire (to use those precious reading skills!), new scales or other technique, theory, composition, etc. I make it very clear that polishing up the book is their top priority.

joyful seeds

  1. have requirements about maintaining a certain number of pieces from previous books? (this is really my biggest question…and, with students who are very comfortable readers, its not such a big deal—they have back-up should their memory get foggy. But, what do you do with those who are still developing their reading independence and have a hard time keeping everything in their memory? Ideally, if review happens consistently enough, this shouldn’t be a problem, but it doesn’t always happen that way!)

I usually only require one book’s worth of review at any given time. To manage review, i simply ask for review pieces during lessons, with the intention of further polishing or applying a new skill. If they can’t remember it, we either spend time on it during the lesson, or I keep it on the “homework” list for next week and follow through with asking for it again. Students and parents quickly learn that: a) we don’t let review pieces sllde, and b) there is ALWAYS something to improve.

said: May 22, 2010
 63 posts

Currently I have students do their own special recital, with an option to rent out our church chapel, which is a nice space to play. This is currently under review, as the rental expense has doubled recently, and I was disappointed that other studio students did not come to hear. But I digress…

Memorization, of course! Any pieces, I feel, are not even begun to be mastered at any level unless they are memorized. Continuous work at ear training helps this. (I have even seen string quartets perform some things memorized!)

My graduation routine:
A personal concert, with my home, my church (with rental fee), or their home as options.
Ten pieces, mostly of their choice, minimum, to be performed.
A small reception afterwards, on-site, and I come with a cake of their choice (my treat).
Other niceties: proper dress (a dress, or slacks and shirt) to be worn, recital programs done (by me), certificate, and parents encouraged to purchase a small bouquet of flowers
Studio invited to recitals (if OK with family), and student congratulated at next group class

Post-recital, students are asked to choose at least 5 songs from the book that they loved the best, and play them a lot. This also prevents being caught with no pieces. Currently my students have previous books go by the wayside but I’m trying to remedy that by making sure that they’re good in the first place (!) and by making sure the older students play with the younger ones at group classes. At times like that, I do envy strings for their ability to play altogether!

I also have older students start to do exams when they are in book 5, and they usually do a pre-exam recital in the same format, only highlighting their exam pieces plus any other Suzuki pieces they want to do. (One month before their exam).

Hope that helps! Sounds like you have a good studio going.

Anne Murphy said: Jul 18, 2012
 2 posts

I have expectations for my piano students. To graduate from each book of Suzuki repertoire the student must play the last three songs from the book which are the most advanced, for memory and then they receive a certificate for thei accomplishment and then they are ready to move to the next volume or repertoire.

Cleo Ann Brimhall said: Jul 19, 2012
Cleo Ann BrimhallTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
West Jordan, UT
39 posts

I use the piano graduation system as outlines in “How to Teach Suzuki Piano” by Dr. Suzuki (available at www.young-musicians.com) The student must play the appointed graduation piece at an exceptional level. In recital he is honored with a trophy and a certificate. The certificates are a replica of Dr. Suzuki’s painting “If love is deep much can be accomplished”

As for book graduations—I have an annual awards recital where all students in my studio are honored for their accomplishments during the year: Composer statues for each book level, recognition of the graduation performance, consecutive practice/listening awards, Federation of Music Clubs festival participation, etc.

Many parents opt to have their book one students give a home recital—often with a book one story (such as found in Suzuki Piano—More than Music by Biggs and Watts) They must play the entire book one at a fluent level to gain this award.

All students are required to keep four repertoire pieces at performance level at all time. Suzuki said that you learn to play well by playing pieces that you play well. This just as important to Suzuki method as listening.

The most important thing I finally got through my head is that you don’t quit playing the pieces in the previous book until you have new pieces to replace them in the new book.

The process of recognizing accomplishment is an individual matter—as varied as their are teachers. So long as the students feels good about their continued progress and achievement, we are complying with this key point of Suzuki’s philosophy.

Cleo

Alicia said: Sep 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
13 posts

Sue, thank you for asking these questions! They are questions that I have been having myself and thank you to all who gave suggestions. Gives me plenty of ideas!

Alicia Reid
Suzuki Piano Teacher
[javascript protected email address]
http://aliciaspianostudio.musicteachershelper.com

Mary said: Sep 18, 2012
 39 posts

I am a parent and not a teacher, but I wanted to share something my son’s violin teacher did for his book 1 graduation recital. He was required to play the entire book from memory, but his teacher gave him a choice of simply playing the pieces in ascending or descending order or to concoct a story using the song titles. It turned out to be a little like Mad Libs with Suzuki songs and my then 6 year old son loved it. He had a great time looking at the song titles and imagining an insane story that used all of them including all of the Twinkle variations. The entire recital took about 25 minutes so only a few minutes longer than if he had just played through Book 1 straight. He performed it for a small audience of family and close friends and it was pretty entertaining for all.

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