TM: Mary, we’re all looking forward to your presentation on Chord playing coming up soon, beamed online from Upstate NY, which will be relevant to pianists and teachers of all levels. In addition to very advanced students, you also teach a number of beginner students from the very first lesson. I wish I had been taught the Taubman work as a child, instead of having to relearn everything as an adult while dealing with a playing-related injury. Could you talk a little about the positives in teaching the Taubman work to kids?
Teaching the Taubman work from the beginning is fantastic on so many levels … First it helps to develop the student’s self-confidence and self-awareness from the first lesson when they learn that they themselves are the only ones who can tell you how their body feels. They learn right away to participate in the lesson – to tell me what they understand, what feels free or tense, what is hard or easy to do etc.
Second, teaching the Taubman Approach from the beginning enables the student to think in the terms that describe the correct movements needed to play the passage. In the beginning I teach detached or staccato (dropping) technique, closely followed with teaching legato. When I asked a young student to play legato, she replied “Then I will rotate.” Young students learn rotation, in and out movements, and staccato right away. Then walking hand and arm motions and shaping follow right along.
The pay off for this is having these little students grow into students who are successfully playing Chopin’s Ballade in G minor or the Grieg Piano Concerto. What a thrill to give students the tools to play these fantastic works of music!
TM: Also, how much parental involvement do you ask for in the process?
In the beginning I ask parents to attend lessons and to practice with students. They do not need to be musicians in order to help their student. I spend time at the lesson showing them precisely what to look for, and what goals they should work towards. It usually works quite well. They can take videos with their phones as reminders during the week. (Sometimes I do have to remind them not be on their phones though lol.)
TM: Finally, you spent a couple of summers living with Mrs Taubman. Could you relate an anecdote from that time, of either personal or musical nature?
The summers that I spent living with Mrs. Taubman were absolutely amazing! What a privilege to be with this genius and see how her approach to life was the same as her approach to piano playing! She always believed that there had to be a way to accomplish what one wanted to accomplish – all you needed was knowledge, creativity and patience – whether you were making music or making dinner! We talked about teaching children very frequently. I remember her saying that one of the first things to do was to teach students to play with perfect rhythm. She thought rhythmic irregularities were not only a sign of poor playing but that they made it very difficult to teach the timing of technical points in the playing. She believed that in artistic piano playing everything in the piece was choreographed, the musicality and technique were one, and the timing was everything.
Book now for a full day Taubman workshop and insights, registrations close July 12: bit.ly/JohnBloomfield2019