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Eight years ago, before moving to Barrow 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 technology.

 

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.

 

Bernard 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.      

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AngelSong Academy of Arts * P. O. Box 393 * Bethlehem * GA * 30620