Richard Tschudy holds a B.A. in English from Yale University , an M.A. in comparative literature from the University of Michigan, and an M.A. in music from Hunter College. Having taught English and choral music in the NYC public schools, and piano and recorder privately and at the Church Street School for Music and Art for twenty years, he happily embraces the presentday reality of teaching children with diverse interests and responsibilities. He always invites students—of all ages—to take a major part in the process of evaluating what has been accomplished, and in committing to the ongoing or upcoming area of focus. “We are teaching music, and living.”
Mr. Tschudy believes in giving students a firm grounding in note-reading, and in simple melody—both hands—leading to dual line counterpoint and chord accompaniment. Improvisation often includes writing down what one has “spun out of the air. Ear-training games and introduction to blues sequences add variety. In music instruction, starting students with too specific a goal as to type of music can limit the outcome, as if one were to learn only one paragraph of a language and nothing more. The individual tastes of a student will come into play—broadening or narrowing—as the student progresses. All different kinds of music engender and reward each other. A gradual but delightful rise to piano power!
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Session with Ivan K.
(In this session, I make use of a musical game I call “Store.” Over the years, being the packrat that I am, I have accumulated a collection of little things, which I call “ditzies,” little animals (pig, frog, kitty, prairie dog), and little things, a tiny metal rose off a hairpin, a cowboy meant to fit on a horse, a clear plastic prism, an opaque plastic leg?, sometimes known as “Mr. Leg,” an old, nonfunctioning watch, and many others The “creatures” go to the store, using the bus, which generally goes along the piano keys. The aim is music, of any sort. The child must musicalize getting the “escalator” up to the music-stand part of the piano where the “store” objects are laid out, and then musicalize—sing—his/her request to see the thing of interest, then musicalize the question of its price, the payment with “play” money, the leave-taking, everything. Given my ability to gauge the age-appropriateness factor (three through six years, maybe seven—there are other piano key games for older children), I have never had a child baulk at playing “Store.” Never.)
Outside the door, he was very positive, standing straight with his young nanny, whose name was Vera. Inside, he became reticent. As usual, I came on too strong, with my ball-rolling on the floor (we sat five feet apart, legs spread so as not to miss it.) So, he resisted, clinging to Vera; not wanting to be left. Not interested in the songbooks. Not wanting to relate at all.
Vera brought her chair over, and sat him on her lap, behind the piano bench. I suggested he sit in the other chair. He wasn’t having it. I decided “Store” was the direction to go in. I brought the paper basket over and started laying things out on the bench in front of them, but generally just relating to the objects visually and tactilely (“…I wonder what this is.) Not all at once; building up an array of little stuff. I lay the “metal money” on the piano music stand area. I put some things up there and some things on the bench.
The first thing he responded to at all was the Superman decal. He said they (Superman and Supergirl) were “standing on” the words—the lower part of the decal. I asked him if he knew any words. No. The next response was re Froggie—two-inch, plastic—getting into the store by my “hopping” him, which prompted him to move off Vera’s chair and to stand and move things around on the bench.
High Points: Definitely liked having the monies involved. Set up stuff in the “back of the store” (his words). Incorporated new things into the store like the nail—a space ship. Most interesting thing was that my hand became a branch where the creatures went to rest and to take their things they’d bought in the store. Later, when we were up to 50 minutes and the “game” had to come to an end , he made the container—the cup and the paper basket –into branches and everything went into them; and he put them onto the bigger piano “so we will have them for the next time’’—even though he had just told me that this was his last time (“My Mom says…”)
Before he put the “branches” onto the (larger) piano, he held them and let them swing, as if he were a tree. So, in a sense, the acquiring and “dealing” (being the owner—at one point he referred to Mr. Ivan’s store—and thus the “buyer”) of the game gave him the power to be the parent, to hold (and cradle) beings and give them up.
I let the game play out, and I was glad I could because I dreaded the whole time (especially as he got so into it) his not being able to end it, but that wasn’t the case. He withdrew from the game on his own terms, and went away happy. At one point when Vera went out to talk, he informed me that she spoke Polish. At the door, we said “Dobrezenia” to each other.
Another thing comes back. At one point, late in the game, he musicalized a response, giving it a rhythm and a pitch pattern of his own—definite, clear. The musicalizing demand is leniently interpreted: rhythm without pitch, sometimes. Everyone does it differently.
The tacks were little Empire State Buildings, he said!
The watch prompted questions about whether you could tell time with it, and then, he was closing the store because it was ten o’clock.
At one point he tried to stack everything on my hand-branch. I said it couldn’t be done, so that may be why the containers became the branches—where things “stayed.” He called the prism the “store light,” the square button “ (a kind of framed mother-of-pearl) “a picture,” and the rainbow-star pin-on button “a planet.”
Other games more specifically piano-focused include 1)”Roadblock,” where a key-sized black and yellow striped detour sign (from somebody’s miniature town) stops the progress of Piggie, Froggie, or whomever; Wait! Verbal instructions interrupt the silence: “To pass this roadblock, Piggie must find the highest C on the piano… play the C-scale with the right hand…whatever” 2) special stairways, escalators, etc., to get up into the store, which include “requirements” 3) Follow the leader: Play, exactly (never too complex or long), what I play, and then I play what you play 4) Find the note that I play while your eyes are closed 4) back-and-forth ball-bounce, while singing a familiar song—not done at the keys, obviously—to reinforce rhythm-sense
When a child needs a game, she/he gets a game. When it seems not to be needed, it falls by the wayside. Two mottos at work at once: “It’s supposed to be fun” and “Some fun demands effort.”
BACK TO SCHOOL
During the lesson, the student is always engaged in a positive experience. Students learn to play and to understand music. I ask what they hear, what has happened in the music, and why. I encourage respect for the body (and oneself) through emphasis on suitable tempo and relaxation. In music making, the physical and the intangible meet. Reasonable rates—your home or my studio. Music readiness activities for tots.
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