Summer Workshop 2006 Report
from Stephen & Betty
CONGRATULATIONS to CSYM students and thank you to all those CSYM parents who
helped organise, manage and generally give full support to our workshop this
past July. All activities took place at West Road Concert Hall, which made for
a lovely, intimate and relaxed atmosphere. The children were able to receive
very specific training and attention from each teacher, and parents could enjoy
the company of friends old and new.
The most impressive feature overall was the concentration, purposefulness,
and friendly happy faces of our students all week long (despite the heat!).
Because the students were so well-prepared, our excellent faculty could really
give something back to them. A high artistic energy pervaded, evident from the
enjoyable concerts which took place daily, and the improvement and progress the
students were able to make over an intensive four-day course.
When children had openings in their schedule, they could watch lessons,
observe the four-piano rehearsals, or take a break at the Creative Corner, where
they designed a 'Beautiful Hearts - Beautiful Tone' mural, made music-reading
puzzles, practice charts, among other things - while listening to CDs!
Inspiring moments for us, as teachers, were re-uniting with our dear friend
and colleague, Bruce Anderson, from Florida, as well as working alongside
Dalcroze expert, Jacqueline Vann, and getting to know the brilliant and good-
natured composer Huw Watkins. The personalities and expertise of the teachers
are the key to a workshop's success, and we still are in agreement that we hit
on gold again with this combination.
Bruce Anderson is a Suzuki piano teacher who has taught worldwide, in North
and South America, Europe and Australia. And why is he in such demand? Well,
firstly it is his personality, one that breathes warmth, sincerity, and
conviction, and a solid understanding of Dr Suzuki's philosophy of education.
This was not only apparent in his 'kick-off' first day talk, but also during
his coaching of the children towards performance of their Book One & Two
repertoire pieces on four pianos. Here he was crystal clear in his musical
intention, master of communication/empathy with the children, and very precise
instruction/involvement of the parents in the process of study, and of practice.
Altogether a model of how to practise and create rapport with the children,
providing parents with plenty of new ideas to help them with their day-to-day
practice, long after the workshop finished.
The unison-piano practice is a weekly component of Bruce's home programme,
taking place at his local Steinway store! Although we don't have a weekly
practice venue like his, we are extremely fortunate to have the resources of
West Road Concert Hall to provide a top-quality study opportunity for our
students. Also, more valuable than an individual lesson, four-piano coaching of
this standard involves the parents together so that they, too, are learning all
the time. It would be to miss the point to think that the workshop is only for
As Bruce pointed out, not only do the children make improvements musically
and technically as they work on unison-piano repertoire, but the end result is a
performance that surpasses any work they do on their own. This was demonstrated
when the children performed their summer workshop piece again at the first
lesson in September.
The X-factors in this workshop equation, i.e. X because you cannot measure
the breadth of learning that takes place, are the Kodály, Dalcroze, and choir
sessions. Musicianship training develops the inner hearing, and therefore the
musical expressiveness of the students' playing. Because of the mastery of the
teachers these classes are also done in a way that is musically appropriate, and
enjoyable for the children, all the while strengthening those so important
basics in their playing.
Dalcroze incorporates several strands of study; it is rhythmics that is
usually taught on our courses, and which the students continue to enjoy. This
involves studying musical elements and nuance through physical movement - Betty
particularly enjoyed joining in one 'swash-buckling' session on quick-changing
bar-times in which she smashed plastic bottles like swords with Rose Last.
'Plastique animee' is another Dalcroze strand often studied by more advanced
students and chamber musicians. This involves 'bringing alive' the music through
organised movement, which can involve in-depth musical analysis of rhythm,
melody, harmony, and form. The older boys worked with Jacqueline Vann on
improvisation, and reported it was the best-ever Dalcroze work they'd done.
Composition and chamber music
Prior to the course, all the children had produced a composition; for some of
the younger children this was an improvisation. A few older students notated
their pieces, at least in part. Huw Watkins spent one day coaching chamber
ensembles, and one afternoon working on compositions.
Although Huw is used to teaching postgraduates at the Royal College of Music
where he is a professor of composition, he coped magnificently with each
student's personality and where they were coming from musically. Considering
the students ranged in age from 8 to 16, this was no mean achievement. Both in
the composition sessions and as chamber music coach, his approach was to treat
the students as fellow musicians. Many times he encouraged our students to write
down their compositional ideas so that longer pieces could be developed (if
that's where the music leads!). Huw generously gave an informal concert where he
played a selection of pieces from Kinderscenen by Schumann and Kinderspeil by
Lachermann (a new discovery for us). This was followed by a question and answer
Huw is a much in demand professional chamber musician as well. He was a
featured soloist with the Britten Sinfonia Orchestra at a recent Cadogan Hall
concert of the BBC Proms, and will be premiering his new work with that same
orchestra in a November lunch-time concert at West Road.
Hannah Biss returned again this year to play and coach the nine chamber music
movements (including works by Judith Weir, Nicola Le Fanu, Colin Matthews, Huw
Watkins, David Sawer, and Philip Cashian). Andrew Power (cello) and Camilla
Goldbeck-Wood (violin) combined their depth of skill and experience and worked
daily with the pianists, making for a stimulating and productive chamber
The final concert, which included the premiere of Caroline Bosenquet's little
trio 'The Joggers', ran smoothly (despite a few thunder-claps during Alice's
trio!) and was of a very high standard. With extra 'Bruce-practice' during the
week, the 4-piano pieces had improved dramatically, resulting in a most
impressive sound and near professional stage presence.
And although the choir was small, the children demonstrated their ability to
learn and memorise complicated sol-fa quickly and accurately by performing a 4-
part canon by Mozart. Two pairs of pianists were, without warning, asked to
improvise on two pianos as part of this final show, adding to the energy of the
Earlier in the course, concerts had taken place dedicated to Kurtag's
'Games', and to pieces from 'Spectrum 4'. Sam Wood gave an impressive recital,
in preparation for his up-coming diploma recital examination, of Mozart's K330
and FERVENT by Fitkin.
The aim of these workshops is to create a multi-dimensional musical environment
at each level of study that provides:
- a long-term goal, structuring the year into several short-term goals;
- continuing studies to balance the musical development of 'eyes, ears, hands
& mind'; and
- extended musical activities & challenges that don't ordinarily exist within
the framework of our weekly programme.
We trust that both parents and children came away feeling proud, satisfied and
energised from their four-day immersion in the world of piano and musicianship.
Betty & Stephen Power
28 November 2007 21:47