PIANOWelcome to the HSPVA Piano Department!The HSPVA Piano Department is designed as a classical repertoire and performance curriculum. Our goal is to enhance the technical skills, scholarly knowledge, and musical faculties of each of our students to produce the most nurturing and productive piano performance environment possible.The piano Master Class curriculum is designed as a four-year course during which a different aspect of the piano and/or repertoire is studied, so that our studies are not redundant but cummulative. The HSPVA Piano Department is a close-knit community consisting of anywhere between 20 to 24 pianists. The relatively small size of our department allows for a high degree of individual attention and small class sizes (the average piano-related class has 12 students), which greatly facilitates meaningful learning and instruction.
All piano students at HSPVA are required to have a private instructor. Our program does not displace the role of the private instructor, it reinforces it. The private instructor/piano teacher will be responsible for his/her student’s repertoire and overall pianistic supervision. Our program seeks to elaborate on the work of the private teacher and to fill in whatever educational gaps the one-hour weekly piano lesson necessarily produces. The private instructor’s musical interpretation and methods will be respected at all times.
Many of our students go on to pursue their post-high school studies at the most prestigious music schools and conservatories in the country – schools like The Juilliard School, Oberlin Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory, the Eastman School of Music, the Moores and Shepherd Schools of Music, among others.
Below is a description of some of the different programs, courses, and opportunities that the HSPVA Piano Department has to offer to the serious developing pianist:
All piano students are expected to perform at least four times during the school year for each of our four major piano solo concerts. In addition to piano solo repertoire, one of our concerts will feature piano ensemble repertoire (either one piano-four hands or two pianos music), which will train students to play with and listen to other musicians, in preparation for effective chamber music collaboration and vocal accompanying. We also have four more casual in-school day recitals between our official evening recitals in order to promote consistent and intensive practice.
In preparation for our concerts outside and inside HSPVA, all students play in front of their peers (as well as the teacher, of course) on one of our two 9-foot Steinway grand pianos in the Recital Hall. The listening students are then expected to provide constructive and specific musical criticism for the performing student. This is done to develop the art of discerning listening, effective and articulate communication, and teaching skills so valuable to any musician today. This criticism will always be secondary to the student’s private teacher recommendations.
Literature and Materials
This deals with music, art, and literature history, composers’ biographical information, piano repertoire and vocabulary, performance practices and style from all musical periods, and musical analysis. Students will do projects such as live composer interviews, ornamenting Baroque dances, modern music performance (such as playing examples of aleatoric music), original composition (students compose music for possible concert performance), setting text to music, etc. This aspect of the curriculum seeks to provide the scholarly tools needed to make an intelligent and well-rounded musician/pianist.
This class focuses on the development of technical skills that every pianist needs. All major and minor scales will be played at varying tempos (from easy to challenging). We will sightread every day (hymns, classical music, pop music, fake book reading for chord recognition, transcribed symphonies, lieder, etc.), as well as practicing transposition and duet reading, figured bass, etc.
Guest Performers/Master Classes
Piano students will have the opportunity to hear first-rate guest performers and play for master classes. The inspiration drawn from these in-school concerts is an important reason for the high motivation level of our students. We also organize several group concert-going, school-subsidized opportunities to events by the Houston Symphony, Da Camera Society, the Moores and Shepherd Schools of Music, the Society for the Performing Arts, the Friends of Music, and other quality Houston cultural institutions. Students learn a great deal by being exposed to great talent making great music.
Chamber Music and Vocal Accompanying
Vocal accompanying involves piano students playing/accompanying for different HSPVA vocal groups and singers. All students are expected to do two years of vocal accompanying, which is a necessary skill for any working pianist. This process facilitates sightreading and ensemble playing.