New Books Suitable for National Piano Guild Auditions

Here is my latest article on Music Teachers Helper:

In my last article, I talked about using the National Piano Guild auditions in my private studio to help students set and achieve goals in their studies. In this article, I would like to share with readers some new teaching books and series that I will be using to help students prepare for their next auditions.

With the exception of very young and transfer students who are relatively new to the studio, most of my students participate in the National category of the auditions, meaning they prepare a 10-item audition program for the judge. Almost all of them also do Sight Reading and Ear Training (each counts as one item in the program), so that means they need to have 8 pieces learned, polished, and memorized. Some will do an additional Musicianship Skill such as Transposition or Improvisation, in which case they prepare 7 memorized pieces. A few very dedicated students prepare an International program of 15-20 pieces.

If you are an experienced teacher, you will no doubt have your favorite teaching materials to choose from for each student. In my last article, I talked about how there is actually no published list of repertoire that teachers must choose from for each level. There is a small “Suggestion List” to give teachers an idea of the difficulty of each level, but there is no required set of pieces that students must play from. This gives teachers and students a tremendous amount of freedom in choosing what to play for the judges. Because of this, teachers who are new to the Guild may find it overwhelming and are not sure where to start. Thankfully, there are many wonderful resources published by Alfred that are perfect for Guild Auditions. The following are some of my favorites:

with Ingrid Clarfield at NCKP 2013
with Ingrid Clarfield at NCKP 2013

1. Classics for the Developing Pianist – Core Repertoire for Study and Performance, selected and edited by Ingrid J. Clarfield and Phyllis A. Lehrer

I gave a detailed review of this series in my blog More Supplementary Teaching Resources – at the time, only the first three books in the series were available. At this year’s National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, I attended the Alfred Showcase, and was pleased to find that the last two books in the series have been published. This is how I use the series for the Guild Auditions, in terms of which book is suitable for which level:

Book 1 – Early Intermediate – Guild Levels Intermediate A-B

Book 2 – Intermediate – Guild Levels Intermediate C-D

Book 3 – Late Intermediate – Guild Levels Intermediate E-F

Book 4 – Early Advanced – Guild Levels Preparatory A-B

Book 5 – Advanced – Guild Levels Preparatory C-D

19898676-1If a student studies nothing else but the above books, they will have a very well rounded technique, as well as appreciation and understanding of the four main stylistic periods. They will also have learned the popular classics that everyone (even their perhaps non-musical parents) knows and loves, such as Bach Minuets, Clementi Sonatinas, Mozart Rondo alla Turca, Beethoven Fur Elise, Chopin Fantaisie Impromptu, Debussy Clair de lune, just to name a few. I know as a teacher, sometimes I dread teaching these over-played pieces, but students do love to play them! They get so excited that they finally get to learn something so famous that they can show off to their friends and family. As in the first three books, the last two are extensively edited, with helpful fingering, articulations, phrasing, and pedal marks put in the score. If you are a die-hard fan of the urtext edition, then this will drive you crazy, but honestly for students, this is the most comprehensive series out there, not to mention the most economical way to get to know and own the classics. Later, if the student does go on to become a music major, they can explore different editions, and eventually spend a fortune to build a music library like we all do. But for now, this series is such a time and money saver. Of course from time to time we may disagree with the edited markings, and I use that as a good teaching moment to take out other editions to show the student that it is ok to do something different, as different artists have different interpretations. This series has become the “text book” of my studio. For each student, I also supplement with music by individual composers such as a dedicated Chopin or Bach book, as well as music by my favorite living composers.

2. A Perfect 10 – 10 Winning Solos in 10 Styles, by Melody Bober

19898679So if your student is not yet at intermediate level, what should they play for Guild Auditions? The short answer is there are a thousand or more possibilities! For the Elementary Levels, the “you must balance your program to include all four main stylistic periods” rule does not apply. However, if the teacher does include something from each of the four periods, that is a bonus Commendation check on the report card. For the elementary level students, I use a combination of method books and anthology type books that contain easy classics.

I am so happy to come across this new series of three books by Melody Bober. It is the perfect supplementary series to use before students are ready for the Classics for the Developing Pianist mentioned above. Here is how I see the books correlate with the Guild levels:

Book 1 – Elementary/Late Elementary – Guild Levels Elementary A-B

Book 2 – Late Elementary/Early Intermediate – Guild Levels Elementary C-D

Book 3 – Early Intermediate – Guild Levels Elementary E-F

Each book contains 10 solos. There is one piece from each of the four stylistic periods. The other six pieces are original compositions written by Melody Bober, and here is what makes it unique: each of these six pieces is in a different style, such as jazz, blues, ragtime, Latin, ballad, and showstopper! If you have ever played or taught anything by Melody Bober you will know that her music is very likable and technically accessible for students. These new original solos provide various technical challenges for beginning students as well as opportunities to develop expressive playing and understanding of mood, rhythm, melody, harmony, form, articulation, and dynamics. The fact that there are 10 pieces altogether in one book makes it the perfect choice for the National category of the Guild Auditions. Students can do all 10, or 7 or 8 out of the 10 plus some Musicianship Skills.

3. Famous & Fun Deluxe Collection, by Carol Matz

19893300The Famous & Fun series has been around for a while – Famous & Fun Rock, Famous & Fun Classics, Famous & Fun Christmas, Famous & Fun Pop, Famous & Fun Favorites, Famous & Fun Duets, and Famous & Fun Pop Duets. Now we have Famous & Fun Deluxe! This Deluxe Collection contains selections from all the other Famous &  Fun series (except the Christmas ones), so you basically get the best of the above! There are 24-26 arrangements in each book, and so far Books 1 to 3 (Early Elementary to Late Elementary) are available. These are familiar tunes from Disney, movies and television, as well as arrangements of famous themes from symphonic, operatic and keyboard literature, that beginner students just love to play. It is a great supplement to any method. It is perfectly acceptable to include one or two pieces from this series in an elementary level Guild Audition program,  as arrangements and transcriptions are allowed. I can see my beginner students having a ton of fun with this series, all while preparing for their Guild Auditions!

Do you believe in music assessments? Do you use the National Piano Guild Auditions? What other exams or audition opportunities do you offer your students? I welcome your comments and feedback. I have one book of each of the above featured series to give away, compliments of Alfred. Please post your comments below and I will select the lucky winners on October 1, 2013. Thank you for reading!


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