One of the most challenging aspect of teaching organ students is finding a place for them to practice. I wrote about this some time ago (See: “On my soapbox“) when some churches turned out to be very unfriendly places to seek organ practice time. And how do they expect anyone will learn how to play the organ? Not everyone has the space for an organ in their home, or the financial means to purchase an instrument.
Charlotte Woods, one of the people who travels with the Historic Organ Study Tours to Europe every year, is a Steinway piano dealer. I remember overhearing her say that Steinway’s least expensive instrument can be yours at a monthly cost of about $600! For most families, this is prohibitively exorbitant—but paying for an organ might be more or less, depending on the instrument.
Anyway, I think that I’ve figured out a semi-solution—and that is to give more organ lessons! Two of my students who do not have access to practice instruments are in fact coming twice a week to lessons, and are making steady progress this way. It does mean that it costs the parent more in terms of cash outlay, but I’m hoping they think it is worth it.
And hey, when my son was taking iceskating lessons (yes, in Hawaii we have an ice rink!) there was no way he could practice at home, and neither could anyone else practice iceskating without going to the one and only ice rink in Hawaii, located near the stadium.
Oh, those were the days! My son’s iceskating lesson was on Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 5:20 am, which meant getting up at 4:20 am, to shower, get dressed and drive sleepily over the hill to the other side of the island. During opera season (when we had Friday night season tickets), it sure was tough getting up so early after coming home after midnight from the opera!
We went to the Ice Palace at least twice a week to practice, which was about a 45 minute drive from across the island, in the days before H-3, the highway through the Ko’olau mountains!
Back to practicing music, did you ever hear about François Couperin’s philosophy of teaching to children: From David Tunley’s François Couperin and the Perfection of Music, he writes:
(Couperin’s) L’Art de toucher le clavecin (1716) remains one of the most informative sources about French harpsichord performance. It also contains some interesting reflections about teaching the instrument to young children. So concerned was he about the dangers of unsupervised practice that he recommended locking the harpsichord between lessons so his young pupils ‘will not ruin in a moment all that I have been trying to instil over three-quarters of an hour.” To emphasize the point he mentions that he himself always pocketed the key of the instrument! (bold print mine, for emphasis!)
So, I don’t feel badly that in a sense I am supervising these kids’ practice sessions. It saves a lot of wasted time and it might be preferable to a parent nagging a child to practice—with only unsatisfactory results.
By the way, this weekend are the auditions for the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists’ scholarship program. Six of my students are applying for funds to keep them studying the organ—the AGO chapter pays for half of the lessons!
And most of them will be performing in a recital of young organists on Saturday, November 18 at 2:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.
More organ lessons? I love it!