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Listening Skills/"Perfect Pitch" Development

When piano students repeatedly learn the importance of listening to what they are getting back WHILE they are playing the piano and have personal experience with integrating how far away -or how close- each note is to another, the sounds of each note do indeed become a known to them. Later, this translates to their being able to identify which notes they are hearing. This is commonly known as having "perfect pitch". (As a young child, it became known that I had "perfect pitch". Later, I had a music theory *professor who stated that there was no such thing as "perfect pitch", only highly-developed-relative pitch!) Some years later, I discovered that indeed it CAN be taught! Students can even learn to sing ...on pitch! I know that this will sound impossible to many, but my students, who really want to have "perfect pitch", and do really work for it, are all the testimony needed. They experience success! -Andrea Marsavonian

*Acknowledgement, Lewis E. Rowell, Professor of Music
• Ph.D., Doctor of Philosophy, Eastman School of Music, 1958
• B.M., Bachelor of Music, Eastman School of Music, 1955

Auditioning Singers, Without Harm

If someone you know (even love!) is unable to carry a tune and seldom can sing on pitch, I have a favor to ask of you.First, let me preface the favor, by saying that many people audition to sing in a choir or chorus. In their audition, they are asked to sing a note that someone plays for them on a piano. When they cannot sing the note that was played, a different note is played for them to sing. When they again cannot sing the second note, sometimes, (only because they could not match the tones played for them to sing) someone will say something like: "Oh, don't feel bad. Ya' know, some of us are just not very musical people...Possibly followed by, "Perhaps you could be the librarian for the choir!"

It is actually very safe to say, that anyone who has had such an experience, does indeed believe that he is not a verymusical person. THIS IS NOT THE TRUTH; yet, it is not very pleasant to think about how many people have goneto their graves, believing such a lie about themselves. Barring the presence of a physical condition that would actually prevent their hearing, it IS a lie.

Consider this scenario: The owner of some lawn and garden centers in Virginia, was my piano student. He told me that he had a degree in economics, but had always wished he had a degree in music. He enrolled in Old Dominion University asa music major. I agreed that I would help him be prepared for his private piano lessons there. Eventually, he said he'd like to sing in the Vocal Jazz group at ODU, but knew he'd have to audition for it.

So, on the piano, I played a couple of notes for him to sing. He could not match any note played. Then, I asked him to singany note and to keep singing it for a moment. I played the note he was singing and told him to move with the piano up and then move with the piano down. He did it PERFECTLY!!! It was the first time he experienced the realization that all of the notes he was singing, were the exact notes that the piano was playing!! We repeated this and yes, I did work with him. Probably six weeks later, he auditioned for Vocal Jazz and was accepted.

If one is tasked with auditioning singers and any of them cannot match a tone, in my books it is criminal to respond witha statement that "some of us are just not musical people". I hate to say it, but such a person has no business auditioning anyone. Present only is: "Singer, you need to come to MY note." (It would be the rare audition in which the wrong note the person sang, would be played on the piano, so that the singer could experience a matched tone and then have him move with the piano up or down. That would be remedial in nature.) If the purpose of the audition is to establish whether a candidate can match a tone, this is perfectly fine!! -So long as the one who cannot match a tone is not made to feel defective!!! We all are musical people, who use the pitches of our voices to match how excited we are, or are not! The musical pitches of our voices can be all over a musical scale and do vary with our emotions and whatever our task is! Don't forget that how we feel at any given moment, is constantly being expressed in our speech, and we are using musical pitches ALL of the Time.

More people need to give this some thought! -Especially the ones who have been handing out "life sentences" to those people whom they determined, had not learned how to match a tone while singing.

"Some of us are just NOT musical people" ????? -Wrong!!!

I believe that there should be billboards all across our country and others' as well, that state: IF YOU WERE EVER TOLD THAT YOU CANNOT CARRY A TUNE, Barring a physical hearing problem, IT IS PROBABLY A VERY TEMPORARY CONDITION ...WHICH CAN BE SOLVED!

Thank you for reading! Sharing the Above, is the Favor requested. Hope in what IS possible, matters!
"The truth shall set you free." Your feedback would be most welcome!

Andrea Marsavonian

Article, Observations for Parents of Piano Students

There are so many options for Piano lessons in Frisco! This is written with a desire to share some observations which hopefully will provide some insight to assist in your selection process…for you, or for a member of your family.

Parents who highly value education, while having never received piano lessons or personally studied any musical instrument themselves, often decide their children will receive piano lessons because as parents, they are cognizant of the many benefits derived from music study.

Their parental desire to provide for their children the best education possible, is truly ideal! When parents bring their children for piano lessons, they often tell me their child has studied piano for three or four years.

When I determine the extent of their child’s learning is barely akin to that of a child who may have had lessons for merely a few months, I am astounded that such low levels of student development are even possible.

While investing in our children’s education, parents should expect significant progress and substantive advancement! It is not acceptable for a student to chronically remain at the "beginner level.”

Unfortunately, there are some teaching materials which are so "dumbed down,” they bring forth student progress which at best is only minimal…for years.

Learning that after studying piano for some years, a student has never been taught how to play even the basics of the C major, G major, or F major scales, nor the chords in those keys, how to use them, and have not been taught music is written in both major and minor keys, and additionally learning they possess no comprehension of how to accurately count the music he or she is playing, …is for me as exasperating as it is outrageous.

A few have the misplaced notion that to play the piano, one only needs to receive a few piano lessons. They do not understand that what propels a student forward is what happens immediately AFTER his or her lesson, when they return home to their keyboard, and apply at home what they learned in their piano lesson.

Daily practice on one’s instrument, represents essential preparation for the next lesson. The foregoing represents the protocol which must be present and adhered to for the pupil to consistently advance.

Progress does not happen in a vacuum or by accident. Progress is planned for and is sought because we value the beauty found in great music!

Sometimes piano students are enrolled in group classes for their lessons, as opposed to one-on-one private lessons. Group classes may provide enjoyable social time. However, group classes may serve to prevent students from taking ownership of what has been taught, simply because he is "Part of the group.”

In today’s learning climate, we owe it to our children to raise the bar for what they are capable of doing and becoming, and to identify those opportunities wherein what is truly expected of them, ultimately represents their best work and achievements.

The foregoing approach may well represent the only way to ensure students will not find themselves ensnared by an ever increasing and culturally pervasive state of societally fomented mediocrity.

To me, there is nothing more inspiring and exciting than hearing and observing a piano student perform his or her music with conviction, precision, and authority.

What a joy and honor it is to provide piano students with the opportunity to enjoy and realize the fruits of their studious labor.

Such fruits, which are derived from their own learned pursuit of excellence, are rightfully theirs to have and to hold in a state of ‘fully actualized potential,’ all while being shared in a ‘performance based’ arena, where ‘completely turned-on power’ thrives!

Together, let us all commit to "Making Music in America, Great Again!”


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