In this issue:
● Vacation schedule
● Masterclass guest teacher
● Recommended concert
● Thoughts on rotation
Dear Students, Parents, and Special Guests,
Another year has just about come and gone! As I reflect upon the past 12 months, I feel very grateful for my students, their parents, and all my musical colleagues here in Ottawa and beyond for their dedication and hard work. Being a musician, whether one does it professionally or strictly for one’s own enjoyment, is a true gift and a privilege. As a teacher and performing artist, not a day goes by when I don’t contemplate my great good fortune in being able to live a musical life, and I have my students to thank for that.
The Studio will be closed from Monday, 25 December 2017, and will re-open on Tuesday, 2 January 2018. Students are welcome, though not obligated, to reschedule missed lessons in the New Year. Students who will be away during the Holidays should let me know no later than 48 hours in advance. Please refer to the Studio Policy regarding absences and scheduling make-up lessons.
MASTERCLASS GUEST TEACHER
I will be conducting a masterclass as a guest teacher for Ryan Phelps’ studio on Friday, 8 December 2017, at 6:00pm, at the Steinway Gallery Ottawa, 1481 Innes Road. Some of the repertoire being played will include the Chopin “Winter Wind” Etude, and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor Op. 23 No. 5. You are welcome to attend!
My friends and colleagues Roland Graham and Matthew Larkin will be leading two performances of Handel’s Messiah this week with the Rideau Chorale, Thursday and Friday, 7 and 8 December at 7:30pm at Southminster United Church, 15 Aylmer Avenue. Roland and Matthew are musicians of the highest calibre and the Rideau Chorale is a great ensemble (full disclosure: I am an alumnus!). Please don’t miss this incredible event (though it conflicts with the above Masterclass — Ottawa is nothing if not an embarrassment of musical riches!). You can buy your tickets here.
THOUGHTS ON ROTATION
Now for the geek section of the Newsletter: When pianists are re-trained in the Taubman Approach, an enormous emphasis is initially placed on rotation, meaning the placement of the finger into the key by means of pronation and supination of the forearm. Questions often arise about the necessity of this phase of retraining, and of its ultimate efficacy, particularly in speed. Tension, muscular fatigue, or pain while playing is caused primarily by favouring the fingers alone, misalignment of the playing apparatus (fingers, hand, and arm), or both. In order to relieve the burden or work from the fingers alone, and to ensure that each entry into the key feels strong, capable, and free, there must be a connection between the fingers/hand and the forearm. Rotation is the primary means of establishing that connection. Because it relieves the fingers of much of the workload, they move more freely, and tension and fatigue are far less likely to occur. The use of rotation also involves and facilitates the favorable posture of the finger, which “lands and stands” on the key in its natural curvature, without flexion (curling) or extension (splaying). It allows the finger to enter the key feeling completely aligned with and connected to the forearm.
As the student progresses, the initially large rotational movements are minimized, but not ever entirely eliminated. Rotation folds into other movements and becomes part of a synergistic whole. At that point students begin to feel an ease at the keyboard they may have not previously experienced. Even the so-called “double-rotation” (the anticipation of a rotation into the key by a preparatory swing in the opposite direction) can be achieved at great speeds when minimized, and allows for total alignment, control, and release of each finger as it enters and leaves the key. When the pianist is thoroughly trained, the rotation is often more “felt” than observed, but its beneficial effects are undeniably palpable.
So why is so much time and effort spent on learning how to rotate? The piano is a relatively static object compared to the infinite combinations of movements humans beings are capable of making, and a lot can go wrong unless the pianist is trained in learning how to rotate in a precise, efficient manner. Rotation, learned incorrectly, can lead to ungainly and inefficient movements. Retraining in the Taubman Approach requires the objective observation of a trained teacher such as myself, to ensure that the student stays within the parameters of efficient, coordinate movement. This can take time, but it is time well-spent in the process of learning how to play the piano with freedom and expression.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Newsletter, and please don’t ever hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you! Please enjoy whatever holiday you might celebrate as the year draws to a close. I look forward to seeing you in 2018!
With gratitude and appreciation,
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