"We Enjoy Most That Which We Master"

Piano Pedagogy Laboratory Program

The Founding School initiative brings together diverse institutions from across the United States in pursuit of excellence in music education. Our flagship founding school is the University of Michigan’s Piano Pedagogy Laboratory Program (PPLP) in Ann Arbor. It provides piano lessons to pre-college age students (pictured) as well as teacher-training for University students working towards a Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance or a Doctor of Musical Arts.

We sat down with Kelley Benson, PPLP Coordinator and a Center Representative for The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program, to learn more about the University of Michigan’s history with The Program as well as its benefits to teachers and students.

Tell us about the University of Michigan’s history with The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program.

We entered our first pilot class of students from The Piano Pedagogy Laboratory Program seven or eight years ago, and the experience was such an excellent one for our students and teaching staff that we continued to enter additional students with each succeeding year. Currently, about 80% of our students participate in performance assessments every year and about half of those also take the academic assessments in music theory.

Why did the University decide to become affiliated with the program?

We want all of our students - the ones who are studying piano for pleasure, as well as those who intend to pursue music as a profession - to have a well-sequenced and rigorous curriculum of study encompassing the key elements of a sound musical education:  repertoire study from a variety of eras and genres; technical elements, including etudes; ear-training; sight-reading; theory and musicology. The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program offers this in a way that enables the teacher to address each student's unique personality, needs, likes, and dislikes. The adjudication is the icing on the cake: our students have consistently received feedback that celebrated the strong points of their performances, while also honestly and kindly suggesting areas for improvement.  

How do you think The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program fosters a lifelong love of music?

One of the things I hear most frequently from parents when they bring their children to us to begin piano lessons is: "I want my child to have fun." I believe deeply that we enjoy most that which we master.  Think about it:  isn't it an absolute rush when you learn to do something and you do it well?  The program allows students of all ages and skill levels to learn music well, in very logically sequenced, achievable steps.  

What advice would you give teachers considering the program?

Don't be afraid to take the plunge! I remember feeling a bit intimidated as I was preparing our first class of students for participation in the assessments. I wasn't sure about how they would measure up against a national standard, I wasn't sure what the adjudication would be like and, to be completely honest, I wasn't sure if I could prepare the students as well as they needed to be prepared. It was a gigantic leap of faith into the unknown. It ended up being much, much easier than I had imagined. Participation in The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program has remained an interesting, challenging, and ultimately rewarding experience.

What advice would you give parents interested in enrolling their children?

There are many competing demands on your time, energy, and financial resources. You need to pick the activities for your child that will be the most fulfilling for him or her. The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program is definitely worth a third, fourth, or fifth look. It fosters creativity, independent learning skills, self-discipline, the ability to organize time and use it wisely, and a host of other tangibles and intangibles that have the potential to provide your child with something that will be with him always—for life.

Registration for the August 2013 assessment session opens May 21. 

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