By Lehrer, Phyllis A.
American Music Teacher , Vol. 52, No. 4
I recently asked the director of a large community music school how a newly established branch of that school was doing. My colleague answered, "Not as well as we'd hoped; but they don't really know us yet." This conversation seemed very relevant to a topic musicians encounter regularly: How can all of us involved in music teaching, music learning and music making help to weave music into the fabric of everyone's life? How can the work of the college, conservatory, community music school faculties and independent teachers matter to people who do not have or want careers in music for themselves or their children? How can public school teachers (of music and all subjects) not only feel the excitement and integrative nature of music study, but also work hand in hand with students and teachers from their communities who are passionately committed to music study?
At the 2001 MTNA conference in Washington, D. C., we heard firsthand, about the teaching experiences and school and community collaborations of Roberta Guaspari, who was a violin teacher in East Harlem and the subject of the 1999 movie Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep. In the October/November 2001 issue of American Music Teacher, we read about Midori Koga's inspiring work on music study for the aging, including the touching story of her grandfather, who returned to the violin in his eighties. While attending the 2002 National Summit for MTNA Leadership in Cincinnati, I learned of a recent project related to teaching the elderly, implemented by Martha Hilley, NCTM, and Waneen Spirduso of The University of Texas at Austin. The research project involved teaching two group piano classes for Austin area senior citizens age 70 to 85. Two graduate students from the university joined Hilley and Spirduso, the director of the Institute for Gerontology. They collaborated with an occupational therapist from the medical community to work with elderly beginning piano students. Hilley will further introduce this program during the College Faculty Forum (CFF) panel session at the National Conference.
Piano pedagogy programs frequently invite children from local communities to enroll in lessons for modest fees, giving new teachers and teachers-in-training the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to lessons for an eager constituency. The Small Miracles Foundation, founded by Westminster Conservatory teacher Robert M. Diefendorf, partners with area public schools to find children who want to study piano but need scholarships to do so. The college and conservatory provide space for lessons and practice; the undergraduate pedagogy program provides the teachers. …