Saturday, June 25, 2011

Personal Summer Sightreading Goals

Summer means many things to me as a teacher. It means a more relaxed teaching approach, keeping my students engaged while giving them a bit of a break from the higher expectations I have for them over the school year. It means a revised schedule with more morning lessons and free evenings (LOVE this!). It means trying to stay on top of just who's on vacation from one week to the next ;). And, last but not least, summer always finds me inspired to try and accomplish some personal goals.

I'll admit that I waited until Saturday morning to post about the new project I started mid-week simply because I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pull it off. But, with a little extra effort on Friday, I did!

With one week of summer lessons behind me and the new schedule starting to feel more familiar, I decided to set a summer sightreading challenge for myself. The first week of lessons found me, as usual, pulling out repertoire and considering music for students, and in the midst of the planning I realized just how much music I had that I'd never played through! I try my hardest when purchasing books for my students to use the book well so that they get their money's worth out of their purchase, but it was suddenly clear that the same couldn't be said of my personal repertoire collection. I was ashamed to see how many books I had purchased (many by the request of my teachers) just to play one song from the entire book. It was time to make a change!

I started by pulling out a collection from one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) composers, Chopin. I purchased this book in college solely for the Scherzo in B Minor. Other than that the book had not been touched. Add to that the fact that while I have played Chopin Mazurkas, Etudes, Preludes, Scherzos, and Nocturnes I've never actually played any of the Waltzes (how'd that happen?!) and it wasn't hard to see that this was as good a place as any to start.

The book contains 15 of the Waltzes, and my goal was to sightread through 2 or 3 of them each day, finishing all 15 by Friday. I had so much fun playing through this set of pieces, and felt a great sense of accomplishment on Friday afternoon as I completed number 15. Now I have a more personal, comprehensive grasp of Chopin Waltzes and a clearer idea of which I'd recommend to my students. There's nothing like actually playing potential repertoire to assess more accurately the technical aspects inherent to each piece and which student would best benefit from a study of that piece. In addition to that, the index is marked with my favorite selections and I plan to work on these a bit more intensively in the coming weeks to add to my base of repertoire.

What a fun start to my summer! I've already given my shelves a critical look to try and determine what book will be chosen for the coming week...hmmm, that book of Bach Inventions, maybe the Mozart Sonatas, Debussy...??? so many choices!

Have you set any personal musical goals for the summer? Do you have any repertoire suggestions for me? What are your favorite Chopin Waltzes? I'd love to hear about your personal goals or suggestions for music I might enjoy looking at!


  1. Good for you, Sarah! I love Chopin too. I am memorizing his Nocturne in e minor- one of my favorites.
    My summer goal is to progress in memorization of my grade 10 repertoire so that in the fall when I start back with my teacher, I will have my pieces pretty much learned and will just need to polish them for exam.
    I have a repertoire suggestion for you! How about Concone's "Joyous Awakening?" It is one of his technical study pieces= opus 30 no. 19
    It is so beautiful. I love to just play through it and let it roll off my fingers. It has some really neat progressions in it.

  2. I am having a Debussy summer. I have a student learning Reverie so I brushed up on that. I also pulled out The Girl With the Flaxen Hair, and Plus Que Lente. It feels like he sounds around here.

  3. You're so right - when you read through the entire works of whatever genre by a composer you get a very good idea of the style. Inspired by another blog, I decided to get through way more music myself. I about this at
    Since writing that post I've read through all of Bachs WTC Book 1, and am now slowly making my way through the Beethoven Sonatas.
    I think I own all Chopin's works - the Waltzes are relatively easy to read but some of the others are quite a challenge. I'm trusting that getting through all the Beethoven first will improve my reading enough to tackle more Chopin.

  4. Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions! It's so important as teachers to take time for personal goals. Not always easy, of course, but so worthwhile!

  5. I used to wonder why my teachers only assigned a few pieces in each book, but now, years later, I understand and appreciate that they were building my piano library. I tell my students the same thing.

    In the years since I was in lessons, several times I have challenged myself to try to play through everything I have. Fun!

    Too hard to choose a Chopin favorite. Can't even choose a favorite composer--depends on my mood! Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and of course hymns and hymn arrangements!

  6. Jan- You're right. Building up a student's repertoire and exposing them different styles and genres is very important.

    When I'm purchasing a book for a student, I personally like selecting compilations rather than a book featuring a single composer. There are several excellent collections of graded music out there that expose students to different styles and are a lot more cost effective for the parent as well. I've found myself leaning toward this method more and more in recent years. Any thoughts on that?

    I do find that, as I'm now a teacher, it has been really nice to have a wide selection of repertoire from my student days to draw from when looking for a piece for one of my students. Many times I'll just let them borrow one of my books rather than have them make the purchase.

    I agree that there are quite a few who make my 'top favorite composers' list, and mood definitely determines what I decide to play on a give day. Recently, I've been giving Bach a visit :)