The use of functional piano skills by selected professional musicians and their implications for group piano curricula
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The purpose of this study was to gather information about professional musicians’ development and use of functional piano skills in their careers. An online questionnaire was distributed to (N = 393) faculty members, professional performers, and private music instructors from different regions and institutions. The survey gathered information about their careers, piano training, use of functional piano skills, and proposals for the piano training of undergraduate music majors in their field. In total, 109 musicians completed the study: faculty members (n = 43), performers (n = 38), and teachers (n = 28). The results of this study showed that faculty members, performers and teachers generally performed similar musical activities, had comparable piano training, used similar piano skills, and agreed with each other about their suggestions for undergraduate piano training. There were, however, subtle differences among the three groups in the frequency with which they used functional piano skills. Professional musicians regularly transposed melodies, sight-read accompaniments, and played scales. They never improvised accompaniments, practiced and memorized piano solos, devised modulations, composed, and accompanied groups. In addition to the three skills that all professional musicians used, faculty members also played by ear, played chord progressions, and accompanied soloists regularly, performers regularly transposed accompaniments, harmonized melodies, and accompanied soloists, and teachers read open scores and transposed accompaniments frequently. Generally, professional musicians thought that piano skills were important to their careers, and many would have liked additional training on accompanying. Although most piano skills were learned outside of collegiate piano classes, participants in this study, regardless of the frequency with which they used these skills, thought that music majors should receive piano training on five skills: playing chord progressions, playing scales, sight-reading, harmonizing melodies, and reading open scores. Many participants indicated that practicing and memorizing piano solos were skills that should receive little training in collegiate piano classes. It is suggested that creating a group piano curriculum that effectively develops the functional piano skills valued and used by professional musicians becomes a priority for group piano teachers and researchers working on the preparation of professional musicians.
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