The Pillars as a Curriculum - a Brief Overview

We have fun - but we are serious about education

Although there are a lot of fun things going on at Music Pillars. We want parents to understand that we take the education of a student musically very seriously. Each "Pillar" (Love, Audiation, Theory, Pattern Recognition, Dexterity, Improvisation, Sight-Reading, and Composition) has 10 levels. With levels 8-10 being college admission standards for the very finest Music Colleges in the world (Julliard, Curtis institute, Moscow Conservatory, etc...) True - the vast majority of students will be content (as will parents) with being able to play in the Piano Bands, do some composing, and being able to play hymns in church. And certainly that is acceptable to us at MP. However, we know that there will also be stand-out musicians (typically identified by us at an early age) that really could become a special musician. So for those students - levels 7-10 are there to help provide the tools and framework to really become a functioning and persuasive musician. Anyway, back to a brief overview of the Pillars.


If I love it, I’ll do something about it

Students are an important part of selecting their performances pieces. It is important that a student connects with the music that they are going to perform, and therefore we involve them in that decision process. More time is dedicated in the lesson preceding an upcoming Friday Fest to make sure that they are prepared to perform their pieces for the performance. 


See the forest from the trees, and making music is a breeze

We used a numerical example of learning a pattern versus memorizing a set of numbers to demonstrate that understanding a pattern ALLOWS you to memorize a MUCH SIMPLER and SMALLER set of variables in order to create music. Patterns can also be retrieved from our minds much more quickly and easily after long periods of time, whereas memorization of specific data points is much more difficult to recall later.  It would be hard to overstate how important the Pattern Recognition Pillar is. In our lessons, depending upon the students ability, we will start with pattern recognition within the dexterity exercises, up to identifying very complex and advanced patterns in the works of Shostakovich, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. The majority of students will be using their dexterity exercises will be asked to identify the patterns in their dexterity exercises, which mainly involve note interval patterns. And once that has been mastered, they will then begin to identify Chord Progression Patterns. So don't panic, Shostakovich and the like are for very advanced students.


Once I can understand music, I can play anything

Depending upon where you are in this section, we will be going through various topics, from the most basic of learning root chords, triads, and inversions, to more advanced topics like identifying chord progression in a piece of music, and then onto much more advanced topics such as suspended 4ths, Major and Minor 7s, Major, Minor, diminished, and Augmented chords, learning and understanding key modulations, and of course, the Circle of Fifths through all 12 keys and then various Jazz modes within a given scale.


Fingers that fly will make people cry

You will play dexterity exercises assigned at various tempo expectations (its ok if you don't know what that means yet, don't worry, we will teach  you) for both the left hand, right hand, and together. Dexterity is like going to the gym - for your hands, forearms, shoulders, and back.


When I can play by ear, others will cheer

All students will learn and practice Audiation. Typically your assignment (when just starting out) will be to literally plunk around on the piano until you are able to figure out the melody to 1-2 basic songs (such as a church hymn, or a simple folk song like Mary Had a Little Lamb). More advanced Audiation will include other topics such as:  a. Sing the melody of a song you knowb. Sing back to me 1-4 notes that I play for you on the piano. Play the melody of a musical piece that you know  how to sing, but not play. Play back to me the melody of a piece that I play for youf. Play the melody of a musical piece with the accompanying left hand that you know how to sing, but not how to playg. Play back to me the piece of music that I play for you with accompanying left handh. Take a melody that I give you, and improvise its theme and rhythm, and then be able to play that piece in another key. Depending upon what your ability is as a student, we will spend time in areas that sufficiently challenge you, but are not too overwhelming (until you are ready for a bigger challenge of course).


See it, Read it, Play it, or fake it

 All performing musicians have learned this painful lesson; you aren't very useful to the general public as a pianist unless you can play thousands of songs either by ear or can sight-read quickly and well. You will have all types of music thrown at you to match and exceed your current sight-reading ability. Sight-reading only gets better with practice. And what better way to improve than to have a piece of music given to you, and have to perform it for your teacher having never seen it before! 


I add a part of me to something beautiful

At the early stages of music, improvisation comes naturally through a younger child's experimentation on the keyboard and with their voice. As a student matures and develops a better understanding of theory (in a working form - not in an abstract sense - which unfortunately it is often taught that way) then they can improvise within more complex rhythmic, chordal, and key structures. Good improvisation requires a solid understanding of Theory as well as Pattern Recognition. It is very rewarding to a student, teacher, and other listening to hear and be exposed to good improvisation.


I imagine - then compose

Composition is too often overlooked and under appreciated as a legitimate part of Music Education. Learning to compose, and actually putting together an original piece of music is a fusion of other elements that a student has learned: Pattern Recognition, Theory, Love (creating melodic and rhythmic patterns that are interesting and exciting for the student), Audiation and Sight-Reading.