Dr. PHEAROSS GRAHAM
musicologist | pianist
-private piano lessons-
I remind myself that every student who walks into my studio has infinite potential. As a teacher, I recognize, value, and cultivate students. This may take on a number of manifestations brought out by private study. Pedagogically, I tailor lessons to the individual and avoid one-size-fits-all approaches.
Because each student can vary tremendously and present different issues that can change over time, I hesitate to define precisely a teaching approach. Nonetheless, in delivering a comprehensive piano education, lessons include the study of:
Piano technique: The art of using one’s hands and body in a coordinated, efficient manner to translate sound originating in the mind to sound that others can hear. Principles of physiological alignment, utilization of gravity, forearm rotation, and other skills that make playing easy and enjoyable inform my teaching. Playing should never be painful; physical freedom and facility at the piano is the ultimate aim. I avoid repetitive finger isolation exercises, which often lead to injuries and disengaged minds. For those especially curious, click on this link to view Dorothy Taubman's Choreography of the Hands to get an idea of some of the technical ideas I draw upon from my own training.
Music theory: The means to understand and describe the written language of music in a systematic manner. We may talk about form, harmony, counterpoint, and other compositional concepts found in a score of music. Additionally, we may also learn about lead sheet notation (relevant to jazz and popular music), realizing Baroque figured bass, and so on. Here's a useful link: https://www.teoria.com/.
Ear training: Hearing and discerning the Western language of music. Students learn to hear printed music in their inner ears and identify specific music elements being played. Students learn how to identify particular chords and functions, name intervals, and take written dictations. I integrate this with concentrated rhythmic training.
Sight reading: Playing music from printed scores at first reading.
Practice management & strategies: Learning to manage one's time when practicing is an essential tool for artistic success. I work with students to empower them to practice effectively and efficiently, thinking about how to break down larger goals into smaller components. Aspects of cognitive psychology, sports psychology, and long-term planning inform our work.
Music history & interpretation: Learning about the composer of a piece; related performers; diverse historical, musical, and cultural contexts, as well as related art forms and values of a given era, can lead to crucial insight when preparing for a performance. Many of my piano students, as time progresses, can explain their interpretations and speak intelligently about their interpretative decisions. My objective is to open students' minds to the many possibilities that lie beyond their immediate understanding and give them artistic options. Here, aspects of musicology figure into lessons.