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5 minutes with ... Marvin Blickenstaff.

Marvin Blickenstaff is internationally renowned for his teaching, lecturing, performing and publishing. He teaches at The College of New Jersey in Ewing and the New School for Music Study in Princeton, and serves as board president of the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

When did you know you were destined for the professional piano world? When I was 13, I announced to my parents that I was quitting piano, as my two older brothers had done. My mother did not accept this and contacted Fern Davidson, the outstanding teacher in our small Idaho community. Mrs. Davidson's lessons epitomized commitment and discipline. I was thrilled with the literature, high standards and motivation of competitions and auditions. After a few weeks of lessons, my professional ambition was clear: I would become a pianist!

What was the genesis of the innovative Music Pathways series you coauthored? During an early "sabbatical" in New York City (after several years of college teaching), Carl Fischer publishing company offered me a position and solicited new composer recommendations; I suggested Lynn Freeman Olson. Eventually, the management proposed we collaborate on a "large piano publishing project." We asked Louise Bianchi of Southern Methodist University to join us, and after several years of writing and testing, Music Pathways was born.

You have great ideas for introducing rubato (Keyboard Companion, Autumn 2000); what about the fine line between "rubato" and "rhythmic anarchy"? With younger students, rubato is taught through modeling (students imitating the teacher's timing) and playing teacher-student duets. To avoid rhythmic "anarchy," it is extremely helpful to have the student count aloud. The voice is a modifying element, providing naturalness to the slowing down or speeding up.

If America's Next Top Piano Pedagogue is a TV show, who is its star? I cannot cite only one name, for I am thrilled with the numerous excellent teachers emerging as leaders in our profession. Both college-level and independent teachers are training students to honor and appreciate our musical heritage. The credit goes largely to our many outstanding higher education pedagogy programs.

Learning is a two-way street. What lessons have you learned from students? Every day I learn from students about pacing, motivation, physical training, musical response and so forth. They constantly reinforce my conviction that music motivates learning.

Are there pedagogy stereotypes you'd like to debunk? Yes--that teachers and teachers of teachers are lesser musicians than performers. Guiding the learning process is a refined art. Successful piano pedagogy teachers should be placed on a high pedestal, for they are the keys to our musical future.

What is your ultimate goal? To become the best possible teacher for each of my students (My "cross" is that I feel I am never good enough for them.) and to play the piano beautifully.

Any cure for "presto slobberissimo, molto inarticulato" playing? Careful listening for clarity through slow practice with a metronome. Have students "conduct" a play-back recording (taped or sequenced) of their practice to become aware of unsteady playing.

Arthur Houle is founder and director of the International Festival for Creative Pianists (www.pianofestival.org). Houle has taught at the New England and Boston Conservatories, the Universities of Iowa, North Dakota and Texas-Austin and, most recently, at Albertson College.
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Title Annotation:Professional Resources
Author:Houle, Arthur
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Interview
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:535
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