SOPP697: How to Teach in an Organ Studio Where One Student is Playing With One Finger Only and Another - Rather Well
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 697 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. Today, we’d like to talk about how to teach in an organ studio where one student is playing with one finger only, and another rather well. Ausra, do you know what I’m talking about?
A: Yes, I think you are talking about experience working with our students in our Unda Maris Studio.
V: Right. Over the years, we had very varied levels of skills in our studio students. So it might be, let’s say, very advanced student who can play almost concert level repertoire, or another student could be, let’s say, just beginner. And not only beginner, but barely can read music at all. Without any keyboard experience. What are some other examples, Ausra?
A: Some of them actually graduated from the musical school, so have great abilities, but some of them started to learn music as children, and some haven’t had any musical background, and even don’t read music very well.
V: The challenge, of course, is not picking the right repertoire for each of them. Every teacher understands that, right - you have to adjust your expectations and your repertoire to each student according to their level and maybe even their taste, too. And we are doing that every year. What is different for us is because we are organizing a joint group recital at the end of school year, and in this recital we have to show results. So it’s easy to show results with an advanced student who can almost play concert repertoire rather well, but with beginners it’s already complicated, right, Ausra?
A: Yes it’s quite complicated, you know. But I think you do pretty well job selecting repertoire and teaching them, and final results usually is better than I expected.
V: Thank you, Ausra. It’s not always easy, because you have to consider your audience also, when selecting repertoire for concert. What kind of audience will come, and what kind of overall concert experience they will have. So, yeah, we are constantly facing those challenges. And in the past, we have been even charging people for concert tickets. So these were paid events, and if you charge tickets, people expect high level. But even now when we no longer have paid tickets during concerts at our church on the organ, it doesn’t mean we don’t strive for the highest possible level, right, Ausra?
A: Sure. We still do our best.
V: Right. So one of the ways to do that is to make sure students prepare well in advance, because sometimes they can play rather well during rehearsals, but they can freeze during live performance.
A: Yes, and we had that in the past, more than once.
V: I was surprised that people with music school experience in the past can actually freeze. With beginners it’s understandable. They lose their place in the score. But it’s strange when somebody who has probably several years of experience in music schools can actually stop in the middle of their piece and not know what to do.
A: Yes. So overall it takes a lot of patience teaching people like that. And I think it’s much, much harder than teaching professional students. What do you think - would you agree with me?
V: Definitely. The best feeling I have with our studio is when I can already see or feel that this student is already swimming without my help. And from that point onward, I can feel that they will prepare for their concert rather well.
A: Yes, and yet another problem we encounter is that some of our students don’t have access, or regular access, to an instrument. Don’t you agree?
V: Yeah, yes. They love the organ, but not everybody is fortunate to have an organ at home. Very few people are.
A: Or even a piano, or any type of keyboard.
V: So in the past, we made some paper-based resources for them to tape and glue together, and they would have a life-sized organ manuals from paper, and organ pedals from paper, too. Do you think that works?
A: Yes, actually that helps for some people if they really did their homework.
V: Because it’s tricky. You have to imagine sounds in your head when you’re pressing paper keys. And for us it’s easy. We can actually practice without paper keyboards, we can practice on the table. And we do that all the time in hotels when we’re traveling. But for amateurs like that, they don’t have inner hearing developed, and they cannot hear what they are pressing right now.
A: Yes. Another challenge is how to manage time during the studio time. Because the attendance is not required. So sometimes we know in advance who will show up and sometimes we don’t. We never know how many students will we have and how we will have to divide our time. And since Vidas loves to talk, sometimes even maybe too much, sometimes we are short on time. So then I just take the lead and say, “ok, now you play, now play.” Less talk and let’s play.
V: Yeah, it has to be a delicate balance between talking and letting others play because if you don’t say anything and just say “do it again, do it again, do it again,” it might work, but not always. Sometimes you do need to explain things or demonstrate things. And that means that student is standing or just watching you, not working. The other thing is when you explain something about the organ and repeat old stories, and sometimes those stories might take too much time, too. So I’m really glad, Ausra is joining me for a few years now as a teacher in Unda Maris Studio, and she can feel better this time that we have and can distribute that time among students more evenly.
A: I simply, you know, look at the watch and count how many people who have played and how many still have to play.
V: Again, another thing that is a challenge is when you have, let’s say too few students to come - like two or three. Like three students and two teachers. It’s almost like a private lesson. Right, Ausra?
A: Oh yes. It’s so funny.
V: It’s a weird feeling. And then usually what we do is actually teach them, and we let them do their fullest work, but obviously they cannot play for two hours, right, three students, so they leave us time to practice and record.
A: Yes, that’s a nice thing. Not often happens, though.
V: All right, so let’s recap. If you’re facing this situation where students are varied level, you have to actually adjust to their level and pick pieces very appropriately to their skill level. What else do you have to do, Ausra?
A: Plan program and time accordingly.
V: And I hope if you’re teaching somebody like we are, you can organize a group recital at the end of the year, or even at the end of the semester sometimes you can do that. It’s a really great opportunity to show students the practical application of their work. And they actually enjoy playing it in public, right?
A: Yes, very much. Because they can invite friends and family.
V: Yes, so please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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