Alexander Scriabin, Preludes Op. 11 #10 and #13

Here are 2 Preludes that my student is working on. She didn’t particularly like the way Horowitz played them — ha, everybody’s a critic!  Of course there are wonderful performances on Youtube, but I decided to try them myself.  I channeled my beloved teacher George Sementovsky, who has long since passed away. He and my other teacher Marian Filar were polar opposites (though they respected each other).  While Filar was the no-nonsense classicist with dazzling clear passagework,  Sementovsky was the colorist who, in his own words, “lived for blur.” His flutter-pedal technique could never be duplicated; it was his own.

As I was playing these Preludes this morning, I imagined his voice over my shoulder, with his thick Eastern European accent saying, “God gave you pedal. Use it!” and “Don’t break the line. Never break the line!” and one of my favorites, “Every finger must be diamond needle. You must inject the key.”

I never had the chance to study Scriabin or Debussy with Sementovsky — one of the great regrets of my life.  But with my imagination working overtime, I recorded these Preludes this morning as if Sementovsky were coaching me. I hope you like them.

PS. It’s the next day, and my student heard my original recordings. She said, “Those opening chords should be bells from the distant mountains. Didn’t you say that?”

“Did I say that?”

“Yes, so why are you clobbering them? And shouldn’t that middle part be more playful?”

“OK, Ok, I’ll do it over,”

So here is Take 2 of the  Prelude in c sharp minor.


Alexander Scriabin, Prelude Op. 11, #10 in c sharp minor


Alexander Scriabin, Prelude Op. 11, #13 in G flat major


Professional Statement #7

List and describe two (2) core teaching strategies you most utilized in your classroom.

In my classroom, each child individually sings tonal patterns and chants rhythm patterns. Needless to say, this happens only after I have established a sense of trust with my students, and after I have created a classroom climate of sensitive, positive encouragement. There are two teaching strategies I use to help students overcome shyness and work through their performance discomfort.

First, I perform everything for students myself. Never do I ask students to do something that I don’t model first. (Usually this involves my stepping out from behind the piano and singing a cappella, or performing the folk dance that I expect students to learn that day.)

Second, and perhaps more important, I ask the more accomplished students to perform in solo for the others. When 5 or 6 students calmly sing a tonal pattern (or a short fragment of a song) in tune, one after the other, the rest of the class sees and hears how natural music making is. And then those hesitant students are much more willing to try singing themselves.

Professional Statement #6

When you think about your students, in what major ways do you most want to influence their lives?

Many years ago, I wrote a book about music education. I ended the book with the following passage in which I addressed the reader:

“Imagine a whole class of second graders saying ‘Triple Meter’ when you play a piece in class that they’ve never heard before. Imagine your third graders understanding music better than your second graders. Imagine fourth graders who are ready to begin studying a musical instrument. Imagine each class sounding like a choir. And imagine your choir sounding like heaven! Of course none of these things will happen overnight. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t happen at all. Imagine one more thing: Someday your students will grow musically to the point where they won’t be your students anymore. They will be your colleagues. And that will be the greatest tribute to your success as a teacher.”

I’m still committed to this ideal. I will know I’ve influenced the lives of my students when they no longer need me to be their teacher. In short, I want to instill in them the confidence that comes with being independent musicians and musical thinkers.

Professional Statement #5

What four (4) key components do you believe you must include in your plan?

Virtually every lesson includes the following components (though not necessarily in this order):
1) songs that students sing, either in unison or harmony;
2) a tonal exercise (usually in the same key and tonality as the song students just sang);
3) a rhythm exercise (usually in the same meter as the song students just sang);
4) a folk dance;
5) an element of music that students focus on through listening or performance (such as timbre, genre, dynamics, form, tempo, etc.)

Professional Statement #4

What do you need to know in order to begin your lesson planning for a class?

Many years ago, when I first started teaching general music, a former professor of mine gave me this piece of invaluable advice: “Never find yourself wandering aimlessly from lesson to lesson.” In other words, no lesson exists in a vacuum. Taking my professor’s advice to heart, I write and plan units—series of lessons—rather than individual lessons. In this way, students learn musical skills and content over time in a sequential and cumulative manner. For a detailed example of how I plan a unit of study, please see the following blog post I have written:

Professional Statement #3

What three (3) things do you most want to know about your students?

As a classroom music teacher, I want to know about my students’ tonal and rhythm abilities. Are they able to sing in tune (and in head voice) consistently? Are they able to perform rhythm patterns accurately in duple and triple meters? If they have these 3 skills–singing in tune, performing accurately in duple meter, and performing accurately in triple meter–then I put the words “tonal,” “duple,” and “triple” under their names on my seating chart. If students lack these skills, I patiently work with them to help them grow in their musicianship. (Incidentally, I never cluster the high achieving students in one place; rather, I judiciously place them around the room so that they may act as performance models for the lower achieving students sitting next to them.) For a more detailed account of how I keep track of each student’s musical growth, please see the following blog post I have written:

Professional Statement #2

How much do you want to know about your students in order to be helpful to them?

Certainly it helps me to meet the needs of students by learning certain facts about them: What are their musical preferences? Do they study an instrument privately? When asked to perform, do they lean toward being shy or outgoing?

But if I am to be helpful to my students, then I must do more than learn these facts. I must foster a climate of trust by conveying to students that my classroom is a place where they can freely express themselves artistically, without embarrassment or ridicule.