Great Repertoire Collections: Beginner to Advanced

Posted by on July 23, 2010

Elissa Milne gave us an inspiring presentation on Repertoire Collections.  She went through a few of her favourites and had to do away with her ‘yellow notes’ because we ended up heading down a completely different path to what she had initially planned for us.

Elissa pointed out that the back of a book is a great place to begin your search for new repertoire.  Books today often list other related books by the same publisher and she said she had found some real gems that way.

If your students mainly do AMEB exams, have a look at some of the other examining boards exam books for more repertoire.  It is helpful that they are graded.

Elissa has blogged on her site her main points and reasons for broadening your repertoire range, and that of your students.  For more information in Elissa’s words, click here: Repertoire Rules for Teachers and a little more insight here into WHY so much repertoire, click here: The Surprising Power of Quantity.

A little look into ‘Repertoire Rules for Teachers’ that Elissa brought up in her presentation that I have heard many years ago but had forgotten (and it was GREAT to be reminded of again) quoted from Elissa’s blog:

So my ‘rationale for repertoire’ began with this idea that our students need to own many books of print music – at least two or three books for each year they have been learning, and preferably [many]  more. Not only does the student gain the aforementioned ‘access’ advantage, which is a demonstrated effective means of improving literacy, but the student has access to more musical ideas – enabling better contextual understanding of the pieces they learn and piquing an interest in music they don’t yet know.

And the same principle applies to piano teachers – you just can’t set a good example to the families engaging your services if your music library consists of 20 odd volumes sitting in a pile beside the piano. Your library should be dynamic, and your interest in musical ideas that are new to you will have an extraordinarily positive impact on your teaching life.

My repertoire rules of thumb for piano teachers are simple, and they are as follows:

You should be spending 2% of your fees income per annum on repertoire and resources. So if your gross takings are $40,000 you should be spending $800 a year on print music and other resources. In Australia it costs just under $300 to purchase the entire set of AMEB Series 16 books, and a minimum of $500 to purchase a full set of books in a method series such as Alfred Premier or Hal Leonard Student Piano Library or Piano Adventures (depending on how many of the supplementary books you wish to incorporate into your teaching program).

So $800 buys a reasonable amount – but by no means can you set up a full teaching library with that kind of money! It would take over $1000 to set up a skeleton library of the basics (Bach’s 48, Bartok’s For Children and Mikrokosmos, Beethoven’s Sontas, Chopin’s Waltzes, Mazurkas, Preludes and Nocturnes, selected Handel Suites, selected Haydn Sonatas, and so forth), and that’s without purchasing repertoire compilations, theory resources, sightreading and aural skills resources, technical materials, and so on.

The second repertoire rule for teachers is that you should be spending, in addition to your teaching hours, a minimum of 8% of those teaching hours playing through repertoire (learning it, sight reading it, preparing for teaching it). So if you teach 22 hours of lessons each week (somewhere between 34 and 44 students in a typical suburban studio) you need to spend another hour and three quarters working on repertoire. This is an absolute minimum. Every week, all year (even the weeks you don’t teach).

So hopefully the 8% of your teaching time will be adequate for you to acquaint yourself with the repertoire you’ve spent 2% of your gross income acquiring!

Now I have to look into purchasing that extra bookshelf and filing cabinet for my studio…

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