Fostering the Development of Expressive Performance Skills: A Gestural Approach within the Reflective, One-to-One Piano Studio
Emmerson, Stephen; Carey, Gemma
MetadataShow full item record
This study reflects on my professional practice in the one-to-one piano teaching studio through the analysis of four case studies at a pre-tertiary music school attached to a major Australian university. Each research participant’s weekly lessons were recorded over a calendar year (30–40 lessons per student). Recordings of the 130–140 lessons were viewed retrospectively, with synopses, observations and reflections diarised. A reflective journal of lessons with the initial six case studies was kept throughout the 12-month period of data collection, and two rounds of semi-structured interviews were conducted with the research participants and their parents. Two additional cases provided pilot material. The research hopes to identify strategies that fostered the development of the research participants’ expressive performance skills. It also describes the kind of learning environment(s) that may encourage expressive sensibility in pianists of late elementary and early intermediate levels. Specifically, this research seeks confirmation that the working knowledge of tone production, articulation and phrasing through the adoption of expressive gesture can help young students learn to intrinsically link how they move at the piano with how they sound. The aim was that research participants would learn, with support and guidance, to expressively characterise their pieces, but still have the ability to build their own transferable knowledge base that could be applied to multi-genred repertoire in the future. The thematic analysis of my Reflective Journal, the lesson synopses and 12 semi-structured research interviews all provide rich and complex representations of the central research question: In what ways could expressive gesture be used to foster the expressive performance skills of late elementary and early intermediate level pre-tertiary pianists? The data indicates that this may not be appropriate as a single teaching approach with every individual; rather, it will need modification, especially where motor skill, kinaesthetic awareness, technique, practice habits and learning how to learn may be of greater priority. More widely, the study also demonstrates the need to think beyond a one-size-fits-all approach in one-to-one studio teaching, a context that has historically been quick to defend pedagogical lineage, thereby leading to a sometimes exclusive adoption of the teach-as-taught approach within a master–apprentice framework. Although generalisations are problematic, this project serves as a reminder that while the long-standing pedagogies of expressive gesture and physical movement are useful in improving a student’s sense of expressive playing, there is a need for increased awareness of the unique profile that each student presents. To seek pedagogy that is individualised in its very broadest sense is one of the greatest potential assets of the one-to-one context. The research provides a window into what is happening in the lives of the students, demonstrates how they grow with the research aims in their own way and time, and articulates their’s and their parent’s perception of the effectiveness of expressive gesture and ‘whole body’ playing. The project bridges theory and practice, providing adjunct methods for expressive performance instruction that may be of use to other piano pedagogues. The process provided an opportunity for me to reflect on my teaching in a real and sustained way. It has helped to continue the process of my teaching transformation, and provides a detailed look into the one-to-one environment, a context that is not well represented in the research literature. From my own perspective, the research journey has afforded an opportunity to be reminded of what it is like to be in the role of the less experienced learner, and has influenced the type of pedagogy that I employ in my everyday practice.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.