Once again, the Nebraska Music Teachers’ Association will feature wonderful musicians and educators at its annual conference next week. In past years, some of the stunning clinicians, composers, and performers have included Barbara Lister-Sink, Libby Larsen, Tony Caramia, Kurt Knecht, Dmitri Vorobiev, and Polina Khatsko, just to name a few.
The insights and sharing of ideas that these artists bring to the NMTA conferences each year have a far-reaching impact in the state. It’s not just the attendees that benefit but also their students for many years to come. To celebrate 100 years of bringing teachers and ideas together, NMTA will host Phyllis Lehrer in concert on Thursday, October 13, 2016 at the Strauss Performing Arts Center at UNO with tickets available for just $5. Besides talks and sessions with teaching and performing tips and tools, commissioned composer, Anthony Donofrio, of UNK will present and premier his composition, “Canto II,” for soprano and percussion featuring Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and Scott Shinbara, both of Omaha.
Phyllis Lehrer, guest artist and clinician for the conference, and fellow clinician, Ingrid Clarfield, have been friends and colleagues since 1982 and have collaborated on a series called Classics for the Developing Pianist (Books 1-5). Lehrer describes these books as containing “20 pieces each (the 100 pieces ranging from early intermediate through early advanced) that we believe every pianist will enjoy and should learn to play.”
Lehrer and Clarfield both have a passion for teaching. In a LincolnCMN interview, Lehrer shared that she “pretended to be a teacher even before kindergarten; I remember setting up chairs in my basement playroom and talking to my ‘class.’" By 16-years-old, she was teaching her first piano lesson.
Clarfield has stories about good teachers and bad teachers that helped form her into the educator that she is today a teacher at Julliard taught her “how not to motivate students” and she learned that helping her students love music, feel motivated, and be prepared was of the utmost importance. She always finds something positive to say to her students while still holding the bar very high.
Their work on intermediate repertoire by no means suggests that they overlook the importance of beginner piano students. As Lehrer stated:
“The beginner is probably our most important student. This is when we have the opportunity to share our love of music, to motivate students to discover how extraordinary our instrument is, it's many colors, it's ability to imitate moods, characters, be an orchestra, to keep us company through our own practicing, improvising, composing, to make music with our teacher, parent or friend. Beginning teachers who have just graduated with performance degrees naturally want to share their recent knowledge and expertise with more advanced students. But with good pedagogy courses that enable interested teachers to learn about the sequences and processes of music learning, the variety of literature available, the possibilities,of group and private instruction, piano parties, chamber music, the rewards and importance of teaching beginners can convince those who are hesitant. In our pedagogy programs at Westminster Choir College, …students… have special opportunities to intern with our faculty, choosing to learn about subjects such as the gifted student, the adult beginner, pre-school music, teaching college students, and to explore all levels of repertoire, technical approaches, learning styles, and more!”
Clarfield’s love of teaching and music is proved beyond a doubt by the perseverance and determination needed to continue teaching and sometimes performing following the loss of the use of her left hand due to a stroke in 2007. Not even a stroke could keep her from sharing her love of music—and she’ll be spreading her passion and knowledge with Nebraska’s music teachers during the course of the conference.
When asked if there was one thing she wishes every music educator or piano teacher could learn and put into practice, Lehrer shared: “I would urge teachers to constantly check that we are teaching skills, musicianship, practice habits, but above all sharing and bringing a love of music to our students. That is the gift of a lifetime."