Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review: Portraits of the Sky


Ever found yourself teaching a teen student who has absolutely no desire to be taking lessons? It can be so hard to motivate some teen students! While I am blessed to have some who love piano and consistently put forth effort, there are still those whose progress is snail-paced and whose desire to succeed and put forth the effort toward weekly progress is next to non-existent.

I try so hard to maintain a positive attitude, but they very rarely enjoy lessons, and that makes it really hard for me to enjoy teaching them!

I found myself in this scenario at the end of 2010 with a transfer student. While their current reading level and technical skills placed them far below other students their age, I knew that they were going to balk at not having something more 'adult sounding' to play. As I got to know the student, I spent several weeks searching for just the right book that I hoped would motivate them without overwhelming them at the same time.

That's when I lighted on "Portraits of the Sky" a delightful collection of 8 original early to mid-intermediate piano solos by Randall Hartsell. While these pieces sound impressive, they are not incredibly difficult to master due to repeated patterns and musical sequences. The romantic nature of the pieces also make them perfect for students who need a little extra work on expressive playing. Titles like "By the Moonlit Tides" evoke graceful, peaceful images, which Randall Hartsell perfectly paints throughout the pages of this book. The many moods and scenes create enough variety to make this book interesting and refreshing from start to finish.

I knew this book was a winner, so I purchased it and we've been working through it ever since. Has this book completely revolutionized the motivation level and practice habits of the lucky student recipient? I wish I could say yes, but we still seem to be in a motivational rut. However, they are progressing musically and expressively, and their mother has made several comments to me about how much she's been enjoying the music and how much she feels her child has improved in the past few months.

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