Going Baroque – Inspiring students to explore


Several weeks ago, Susan Dennis and I wrote a guest blog for Leila Viss (88 Piano Keys) about our experience in planning a Baroque-themed program for our students.  It was a fun way to inspire our students to explore the Baroque era.

Below is our blog post (link to the original post here)

For most piano teachers, their personal experience with piano lessons as a child probably revolved around learning technique (scales, chords, arpeggios, etc.), repertoire, sight reading, and ear training. These lessons would be at a teacher’s studio, and these activities would occur on the piano bench.

In my lessons, a teacher would sometimes offer stickers for playing a piece well. One of my teachers even offered a “treasure chest” with goodies from the dollar store if I earned enough “A’s” on my assignments (this was such a highlight for me!).

Any historical information was generally taught from a textbook or from the teacher explaining the background behind a piece.

As a piano teacher now, there are SO many resources and ideas from creative teachers around the world, and many activities can happen “off-the-bench.”

My colleague, Susan Hamblin-Dennis, had an idea to implement Leila Viss’s “Going Baroque” idea for our piano students.

We loved Leila’s idea of exposing students to what is typically a “boring” era in music. We wanted to find ways to immerse our students in the Baroque environment and make it fresh and relevant to them.

There were several important aspects we wanted our students to experience:

  • Learn and polish at least one baroque piece
  • Perform the polished piece on an actual harpsichord
  • Begin improvising on a chord progression
  • Actively listen to examples of Baroque music
  • Learn about the lives of Baroque masters J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel
  • Learn about how the music and art relate.

To accomplish these ideas, we created a booklet with a collection of eleven activities, and each completed activity earned a sticker/stamp. Sample activities in the booklet included

  • Listening to music by J.S. Bach, A. Vivaldi, and G.F. Handel,
  • Attending a harpsichord masterclass where they played on a real harpsichord, attending a Baroque music concert
  • Participating in a Baroque dance workshop
  • Analyzing Baroque art.

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One of the parents enjoyed the Baroque theme so much, she took it upon herself to research the type of food likely eaten in Europe during the Baroque era, and created her own presentation!

We capped off the activities with a finale “Baroque Bash,” where students played their pieces for each other, enjoyed snacks, received prizes and certificates of completion, and “Mr. Bach” even made a personal visit!

mrbach
By “Going Baroque,” students experienced the Baroque era in an exciting and personal way, and discovered a new interest in Baroque music!

Here’s a testimonial from a parent:

I’ve been thinking back on the wonderful “Baroque Sunday” you arranged for music students and their families this weekend. It took some courage and effort to pull this together, and I wanted to say a big thank-you.

There was a coincidence with my son Haddie– on Friday Dec. 11 he wrote the RCM History 2 exam. As you know, a big part of the syllabus has to do with Baroque music. So, the talk by the Elixir people at St. Barnabas was an amazing way to reinforce what he learned.
Thanks again.

-Cheers, V. Barclay

harpsichord-class

We were lucky to have a clinician who was also a dancer and piano teacher! She dressed up in costume, and danced to pieces played on the piano by students.

Later, we learned the basic steps to the Baroque minuet.

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