Monthly Archives: January 2017

Introducing Important Keyboard Composers and Literature

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By Tom Gerou

To play with correct style, it is essential to understand the historical background of the piece and its composer. Deeper understanding leads to greater expression and appreciation.

With the success and interest in Great Music & Musicians 1: An Overview of Music History, Nancy Bachus and I felt a second book focusing on keyboard composers and keyboard literature would be helpful to piano teachers by providing an easy way to introduce both well-known, and lesser-known, composers and their music to students.
Great Music & Musicians 2Great Music & Musicians 2: An Overview of Keyboard Composers and Literature explores the progressive development of the piano repertoire and the times and personalities of leading keyboard composers. Great composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms (known as the “Three Bs”) are household names in the lexicon of keyboard literature and are given greater emphasis. Also discussed are many lesser-known composers who have made contributions to keyboard literature, and are important in understanding the progression of musical styles.

Burgmüller, Clementi, Czerny, Hanon, and Heller are composers likely to be more familiar to students than to the general public. Successful piano teachers themselves, these composers wrote pieces aimed as preparation for more complex concert repertoire. Students learn many of these pieces during their formative years of piano study, since they were specifically created to assist technical and musical development. History is a series of smaller stylistic developments that culminate in works of great masters in each cultural style period. Yet, to students and teachers alike, the lives and times of these influential, often overlooked composers, are commonly unknown.
Great Music & Musicians 2 presents in chronological order, the development of keyboards, style, and composers, with colorful use of fine art to visually guide students through the centuries. Musical examples for listening are provided through downloads to further illustrate the text. Each section of the nine units, is organized into six pages. The final page provides a summary of the unit, musical examples with guidance for listening, and a written activity. Texts are brief and intended to offer easily-read insight on each topic.
The example pages that follow are a small sampling from various units throughout the book that illustrate the approach we took in writing Great Music & Musicians 2.
English Virginal MusicA student may wonder if there was keyboard music before the Baroque period. During the late Renaissance early Baroque period, influential English virginalist composers—Byrd, Gibbons, and Bull, became known through large collections of published keyboard works, allowing the spread of the English keyboard style throughout Europe.

 

Italian Keyboard Composers

 

Concurrently, in Italy, composers Gabrieli, Frescobaldi, and Merulo developed their own keyboard styles. Uniquely idiomatic to the instrument, their music introduces new examples of dynamics and virtuosity.

 

 

Unit Summary

 

Each activity page contains a unit summary, two listening examples, further suggested listening, and an activity that reviews important concepts from the unit.

 

 

 

Female ComposersFemale composers such as Élizabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Nannerl Mozart, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, and Cécile Chaminade are appropriately included throughout the book. Each is placed within their style period, along with their more famous male counterparts.

 

Lesser-known ComposersLesser-known composers, like the Englishman John Field, are included because of their influence on the great composers. In this case, Chopin’s masterful Nocturnes were influenced by Field’s earlier ones, yet he is virtually unknown to many students.

Master composers such as Claude Debussy are given greater treatment in the book. Notice the image of Debussy’s piano at the top right. Effort was given to show pictures of keyboards throughout history so students can see its development. More attention is given to the piano, although clavichords, harpsichords, and organs are also represented visually and in listening examples.

Master ComposersA vital tool to understanding chronology in piano literature is the numbering systems used for different composers. Where appropriate, the most common numbering systems used for a composer’s catalog of works is introduced. For instance, Debussy’s works are identified by the Lesure (L.) catalogue numbers of François Lesure (French, 1923–2001).

20th CenturyEffort was made to introduce composers in chronological order. However, since multiple musical styles often develop simultaneously, many units focus on unique developments within the major cultural periods (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century). An example of this is one page of Unit 8 exploring the Spanish style of Albéniz, Falla, and Granados at the turn of the 20th century.

Dmitri ShostakovichA wealth of 20th century piano literature stems from Russia and the Soviet Union. Major composers of this library of literature are Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and student favorites Khachaturian and Kabalevsky. Each page discussing the composers has a visual backdrop that helps to convey the time, like this page on Soviet composers Shostakovich and Kabalevsky. This is to encourage teacher and student to further explore the impact of politics and culture on music.

Nancy Bachus and I enjoyed creating this book. One of the most difficult challenges was what not to introduce or explain. We tried to avoid lengthy text and details, believing an introduction to major keyboard composers would be most memorable and helpful to students as they progress in their studies. A framework of the major style periods and composers gives a foundation for students to understand musical style and to interpret it. Great Music & Musicians 2: An Overview of Keyboard Composers and Literature merely touches the surface of an immense library of literature and the composers who created it. We hope students will be inspired to explore and to learn more about the great music and musicians they are studying!

Tom Gerou
With over 130 publications, Tom Gerou is known for the wide variety of his output. His outgoing personality also allows him to excel as a popular Alfred Music clinician, offering special insights into Alfred’s latest publications.


Top 10 Reasons to Perform Musicals in School

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In our age of the Internet, social media, reality television and other “worthy” pursuits that can steal away our students’ attention, are musicals still worth preparing? Of course, my answer is a resounding “YES”!

Here are my top 10 reasons for doing a musical once, twice, or even three times this year (and in years to come). And they’re based not only on my personal experience through the years, but what I’ve heard from countless others over the last three decades:

  1. The Event Factor. Since musicals aren’t performed on a regular basis, whenever they are performed, they’re an event. They can build excitement and a real positive “buzz” in the classroom.
  2. Dramatic Impact. There’s no question we live now more than ever in a fast-paced, visual world. Drama—especially when connected with music—offers a way to tell a story that can leave an indelible impact on its performers and listeners.
  3. Greater Depth. A musical offers a longer time to “plumb the depths” of any given subject, so the potential impact on students is exponentially increased.
  4. Growth. Musicals tend to offer healthy musical challenges that students might not experience otherwise. This can contribute to a growth in confidence and musical understanding.
  5. Outreach. A one-time special event musical is a great excuse to invite friends, family, and community members and showcase your student’s hard work.
  6. Bonding. An event tends to “rally” a classroom together and generate excitement among students. Everyone becomes part of the musical ‘team.’ If there are a few extra rehearsals to pull the musical together, those offer an opportunity for greater bonding between the teacher and students.
  7. Wider Involvement. A musical offers a chance for parents and even more students to get involved, too! They can help with design, building or painting (if there’s a set); audio/visuals (sound, lights, PowerPoint, and/or video); costumes (if there are any, of course), and more.
  8. Encourages Participation. There’s no question that, in general, musicals sometimes take a recruiting process to get students to audition. Use the audition process as another means of outreach to excite students to be a part of the fun!
  9. Dinner or Dessert Theatre. Who doesn’t love the mixture of food and musicals?! Contribute to the ‘event’ factor by offering some appetizers and baked goods. Another great avenue to get the parents involved!
  10. Memories. Students will fondly recall the time they were the singing sidekick or a belting baritone! Memories are another way to help share the joy of making music for years to come.

Bottom line: Musicals—when carefully chosen, prepared, and performed—can create a lasting impact on those who experience them. And that is worth “the roar of the greasepaint, and the smell of the crowd!”

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Mark Cabaniss is a music publisher, producer, writer, and educator. He is President/CEO of Jubilate Music Group, based in Brentwood, Tennessee. Two of his elementary musicals (Tom Sawyer & Company and Gilbert and Sullivan Rock!) are published by Alfred Music. www.markcabaniss.com


 

 

Our Top 7 Music Goals for 2017

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As we close the curtains on 2016, and 2017 makes its debut (it’s starting on a high note, wouldn’t you say?), we took a moment to list our top musical goals for the next progression around the sun. What do you plan to work on over the next 365 days? Here are some ideas . . .

  1. Step outside of your musical comfort zone—learn to play a new style. Listen to some New Age, Metal, Classical, Jazz, R&B, Bluegrass, or whatever you listen to least. Pick up a new instrument. Momentarily abandon what you find to be safe—what you’re good at—and feel what it’s like to be new at something again. You’ll be rewarded with an expanded musical palette and a bigger musical mind for new ideas. Warning: this may result in ultimate personal growth.
  2. Experience more live music—FYI, your studio and/or classroom don’t count as live music venues. And if you’re digesting the same scales, exercises, and songs day after day, week after week, season after season, then it’s time to refresh your ears! Maintained inspiration = maintained motivation.
  3. Create more—there’s no such thing as too much music, and we’ve just begun another year to make some more! Try to set some time aside to compose a new song, score, melody, lyric, or even a lesson plan for the classroom. Get those ideas on paper, and share them with the world. Not a fan of performing? See goal #1.
  4. Practice, then practice some more—this is a musician’s equivalent to the-rest-of-the-world’s “exercise more” New Year’s resolution. Simply put, it’s the most obvious and necessary evil element to being a successful musician. Don’t just fit it into your routine—make it a habit, and find ways to make practice fun, efficient, and enjoyable. List your specific practice goals, and consistently track your progress over time.
  5. Take breaks—while this may sound contradictory to everything else on the list, we often get caught up in adding so much to our plates and we don’t consider the consequences. Fatigue can lead to loss of motivation and a drop in performance—every musician’s absolute nightmare! As important as each note on the page may be, the space in between is equally as important. Take time in your routine to turn it all off, step back, breathe, and be silent.
  6. Collaborate—take it from us, this is a big part of what makes music fun. Get out and join a band, orchestra, or choir. Accompany someone, or find a new writing partner. Expand your network, make new friends, and connect with others over the joy of making music.
  7. Continue to share the joy—our personal favorite. As students, keep learning. As teachers, keep teaching. And as musicians, keep playing. It’s all of our duties to spread the joy of making music with the rest of the world, and there are so many ways to do so. It’s contagious!

While the New Year is certainly a great opportunity for self-reflection and goal-setting, realistically we should constantly be evaluating our goals and refining the roadmap to being our best musical selves—for the next 365 days, and beyond. What are some of your biggest musical goals?