Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Method

Theodore Leschetitsky, famed teacher of great Romantic pianists, reportedly had a sign above his studio door that read "no method". His approach was said to have been individualized both by his mood and by his connection to each student, either of which could be changed on a whim.

Years back I attended my first PMTA conference. I met many independent teachers, one of whom stopped me in my tracks by asking me what method I used. Not that I couldn't answer her, but I wondered why a more experienced teacher would care what a young teacher was doing at all. Then I realized she wanted to know what printed lesson materials I was buying for my students, which I still thought a curious question.

The difference between "method" and "materials" is worth examining. Leschetitsky was a proponent of the great and grand 19th century literature, his materials, but his way of teaching had a lot of flexibility, hence no method. I wonder how many modern teachers think of method and materials as exactly the same thing?

Not hard to do these days, with all the "methods" on the market. Having taught from a great many of them, I find the wealth of materials available to be great indeed, each method having its own special characteristics. Most methods are beautifully designed and printed and include special elements like CDs of the music. Most meet pretty high quality standards.

What I do with those materials when I get them home, however, may be quite different from other teachers. That is my method, the way I attempt to connect with students and their individual goals and learning preferences. Do I have just one?

Although I never turned out a Paderewski from my studio, I, like Leschetitsky, enjoy being a flexible teacher. In some ways it might be easier to stick with a set curriculum, but easy isn't my goal. Connecting with the student is my goal.

Having reliable "tricks of the trade" is great, and I draw on them frequently. Having one path to music teaching from which I never waver, not so much.

1 comment:

  1. Your "No method" brought me a ray of hope. For some time now, I had serious doubts whether there would be any fellow piano-teacher out there with even a bit of critical sense in them.
    I have been studying various aspects of piano pedagogy and found a whole range of unaddressed issues and incohesions, and I have been deeply upset with lack of awareness of that and any debate in the community.
    Anyway, I also find it wrong to call a compilation of exercises, or tunes, a
    'method', as these books (and concepts behind them) lack certain essential ingredients, and that should prevent us from recognizing them as such. I can also see how their use causes a considerably stiffened-up approach to the students.
    The fact that the whole continents got involved in the practice of teaching and thinking by a particular 'method' doesn't change the issue; the real problem is why are we unable to see what's wrong with these books (and our using them the way we do).
    Anyway, so much for now,
    Paul R.