Eight years ago, before moving
County, Dr. Karen Bernard was introduced to a
new piano method while teaching home-schooled children at a commercial music studio. Bernard was impressed with the students
who were instructed in the Mayron Cole Piano Method. There was something special about this method--the students were more
proficient at sight-reading, counting rhythms, and keeping a steady beat than most of the privately taught students. There
was a high level of energy in the studio, the classes were fast-paced, fun, and informative, and students eagerly practiced
their ensemble pieces to play together every week.
Having been privately
taught as a child, and having taught private piano lessons for years, Bernard decided to further investigate group piano instruction
versus traditional private lessons. Anne Haacke, a Masters Degree candidate in piano pedagogy, had published results of her
in-depth analysis and comparison of the 15 most widely used piano instruction methods. She concluded that a group setting
is a stronger approach to learning staff note reading, theory concepts, and accurate rhythm counting. After testing all 15
piano curricula on her students, Haacke found the Mayron Cole method to be best for presenting new material and reviewing
theory concepts; the material is sequential, so there were no learning gaps between students.
Haacke also pointed out
that students of the Mayron Cole method advanced at a faster pace and seemed to be developing a life-long love of playing
the piano. The group method differs from other popular methods in that children are taught note reading rather than finger-pattern
reading, rote playing, or memorization. According to Mayron Cole, "finger position reading may give quick results, but the
child is too often musically illiterate and hits a 'brick wall' without the hand positions." She explains that that is why
you hear so many adults say they took piano years ago, but don't read music now. The
research convinced Bernard to pursue training to teach piano in a group environment.
Bernard recalled that
during her college years, most undergraduate college music majors were required to complete a year or two of a piano minor
in a group piano lab before taking private lessons. There were numerous college-level methods available for adult group piano,
but few written for children. Mayron Cole decided to write a curriculum for group piano instruction using the latest keyboard
After training to teach
the Mayron Cole piano method, Dr. Bernard began teaching her first piano group. She found that when students had friends their
own age in a class, they were more motivated to learn, they formed a cohesive group, and had a lower dropout rate. Practice
and performance levels were raised due to each student vying for greater correctness on scales and pieces. Students seemed
to work harder at pleasing their friends in group piano lessons than they would work for a teacher at a private lesson. The
method worked best for new beginning students, as privately trained students were not used to keeping beats steady enough
to play in an ensemble.
Bernard found that the
ensemble experience turned out better band and orchestra students, as well as church musicians. The author of this group method
finds it interesting that "often pianists are trained privately, but are expected to accompany choirs on Wednesdays, and play
along with church organists on Sundays." Ms. Cole believes that part of each pianist's training should be playing piano with
other musicians, and following a conductor. As a singer and voice/piano teacher, Bernard would also stress the importance
of being able to accurately accompany vocal soloists and ensembles. She contacted Ms. Cole and found that only two other studios
in Georgia currently offered the Mayron Cole group method.
Bernard wondered if there were students for whom group lessons would not be a good fit. She learned that two types
of students would do better in private instruction: musical prodigies (rare) and below-average students.
decided to offer the Mayron Cole piano method in Barrow County,
and purchased a new set of Yamaha electric grand pianos for her piano lab. The pianos have full-size, touch-sensitive keys,
excellent stereo sound, and are portable for performing recitals and Christmas programs in various locations.