by Jenny Bay
Tonight I want to let you all in on a little challenge I have given myself for the summer, and invite you to join me!
First, a little background. I recently have been reading a fabulous book called The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. While this book is not piano-related, I couldn't help but relate so many things in it to piano teaching. The book is written by a sixth grade reading teacher who decided that by requiring students to only read 3 or 4 books (chosen by the teacher and read as a class with tons and tons of supplementary materials) over the course of the school year, students were not only not enjoying it, but were not becoming better readers. The only way, the author says, to help students become good readers is to require them to READ BOOKS - and a lot of them. She requires her students to read 40 books (of their own choice) over the course of the school year. It really is an intriguing concept, and it instantly made me think of piano. Of course we want our students to perfect their pieces, spend lots of time practicing each line, each hand, each nuance - but what has a student gained if they have a handful of pieces polished to perfection, yet they do not spend much time actually "playing" the piano, or "reading" through pieces? Or worse, they are not able to sightread a piece, and therefore are not able to just sit down at the piano and PLAY a piece for pleasure.
Anyway, it's food for thought! I do think that sightreading is a vital skill that one should have to truly be considered a fine pianist. A good sightreader is someone who has a solid understanding of music theory and has the skills needed to apply that theory to make music. Plus, a pianist should be able to sit down and play for enjoyment. (I'd love to hear your take on sightreading...its importance, its place in piano lessons, etc.)
Now on to my challenge - as a busy mama, wife, and piano teacher, I have unfortunately too often set aside my pianist self (for lack of time and motivation - mostly time!) and not put my piano fingers to good use! This summer, I have challenged myself to sightread 100 pieces of piano literature. I want to get myself playing again. And playing a lot. I want to dive back into the joy of actually making music! I have set aside the evenings after I tuck in my children to do this, and am keeping track of which pieces I read through and how many pages I have sightread each day. I randomly decided to begin with Debussy (I grabbed this wonderful collection from my shelf and started playing! Claude Debussy: Piano Music (1888-1905)), and in the past week have played through twelve of his piano works (I am counting individual movements of larger suites, sonatas, etc. as one piece).
So, who's with me?? I would LOVE to see many of my readers join me in this challenge, and enjoy playing some great music this summer! You can choose any composer and any pieces that you want. Maybe you're dying to play through ALL of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier? Maybe some Chopin preludes? Whatever it is that you've been wanting to try, now is the time to go for it! I am super excited about this challenge. Now, I have had a week's head-start, so I will try to finish my 100 pieces by August 24. For the rest of you, let's try to complete the challenge by August 31.
So, in conclusion -
THE CHALLENGE: Sightread 100 pieces of piano literature this summer!
DEADLINE: August 31, 2012
LET US KNOW: If you want to be in on the challenge, leave a comment on this post! Feel free to grab a Summer Sightreading Challenge button from my sidebar to stick on your blog to help remind you. Plus, it never hurts to let others know you're working on a goal to help give you some extra motivation :)
I will occasionally check in and let you know how I'm doing on the challenge (how it's going, what I've been playing, some great pieces I've discovered) and I'd love to hear updates on your progress as well! Thanks for joining me, and happy music-making!