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The Hobbyist's Guide to Playing the Piano.

by Marjory Frances Brown-Azarowicz. Vantage Press, Inc. (516 W. 34th St., New York, NY 10001), 2003. 198 pp. $18.95.

Marjory Frances Brown-Azarowicz offers a calico-quilt of information about playing the piano for those who have decided it is that time in life to "take up the piano" as a hobby. The book is divided into sections to accommodate different readers--those who are just beginning lessons as a teenager or adult, those who have just started lessons and those who have been taking lessons for several years. Chapters answer basic questions ranging from choosing a piano and an appropriate teacher and how to sit at the piano in the first section, to ideas for memorization, explaining score structure and setting goals for competence in the last section.

The book's format hits the mark with its intended audience--each short chapter clearly answering basic questions that easily could be posed by someone eager to learn the piano but ,rot knowing where to begin. The writer's style is friendly and conversational, filled with personal anecdotes from her thirty years' teaching experience. I found this especially effective in the opening section, coaxing the reader to take the plunge, and explaining you are not too old to learn: "The act of learning knows no age barriers--open the door, share the joy, fulfill your dreams!"

The chapter about choosing a teacher included references to professional music organizations, comparison of group and private lessons and a useful checklist of questions that can be asked at an opening interview or audition with a prospective teacher. I found the chapter on correct hand position, finger dexterity and bodily relaxation the richest in information for teachers, with specific suggestions gleaned from lectures by Suzanne Guy and Maryen Herrett. The relaxation and technical routines described can be helpful, especially for adults who often fall into stressful approaches because of their eagerness to conquer technical hurdles. The chapter on practicing also offered some excellent guidelines for mapping out strategies for improvement.

The difficulties in the book lie in trying to answer performance-oriented questions in words rather than through performance at a lesson. The explanations of rhythm, scales, staccato, legato and dynamic color are difficult to describe in words with no sounds to guide understanding. Chapters about theory and score structure are more effective as reference and are handled well in the book. The book ends with useful listings of beginning methods, theory, ear training, gospel/hymn books and publisher resources. As piano teachers, we cannot help but enjoy each chapter's opening question--"What things did your piano teachers teach you?" My favorite answer, from Chapter One, "Playing the piano is the most exciting, most frustrating, most rewarding, most wonderful indoor hobby of all." Reviewed by Joanne Haroutounian, NCTM, Arlington, Virginia.
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Author:Haroutounian, Joanne
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:458
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