The College of Arts and Architecture

Piano Teacher Workshop Topics presented by Dr. Timothy Shafer, pianist

Dr. Timothy Shafer
Professor of Piano
Penn State University School of Music                       

Your Students First Virtuoso Pieces: Developing Comfort

Using time-tested chestnuts, as well as a few lesser known but valuable works, we will explore strategies for helping students build facility in advancing level pieces. What are the common mistakes students make in approaching these increasingly difficult works, and how can we help them navigate through these difficulties?  The workshop includes repertoire from a variety of composers, with a focus on technical development.


The Heart and Head Genius of Dmitri Kabalevsky

In this session we will examine the wealth of great teaching and performance repertoire of Dmitri Kabalevsky using a variety of levels from beginning-advanced. How does Kabalevsky so successfully capture the imaginations of children and adults alike while maintaining intellectual integrity in his compositions?  Our focus will be on the compositions themselves, exploring how their compositional structures impart the musical meaning that so many students find fascinating.

How Does the Music Sound?

Here, in this interactive workshop, we will investigate how music composers use the elements of sound to evoke feelings in their listeners. Is music the universal language, or is it limited in its communication by time and culture? The complexities and interactions between emotions and sounds are investigated using a variety of intermediate level repertoire from various composers.

Developing a Healthy Physical Approach in Our Beginning Level Students

What are the components of a healthy physical approach and when should we begin to impart these principles to our students? In this session, we will investigate aspects of the physical approach to the piano that help our students avoid injury and develop technical habits that not only help them advance through the repertoire, but also generate artistically musical sounds in the most efficient manner.

The Intermediate Piano Music of Franz Liszt

The intermediate music of Franz Liszt? Is there such a thing? Though not specifically writing for students, Liszt composed many excellent works across his compositional span that are accessible at earlier levels than most of us suspect. We will investigate this wealth of repertoire that helps students become acquainted with the giant of the piano. 

The Intermediate Piano Music of Edward MacDowell

One of America’s finest early composers, Edward MacDowell’s legacy is here explored for its lyricism and virtuosity.  Many excellent programmatic and student-accessible works are reviewed for their ability to help retain the waining students and stimulate the over-achievers. 

The Value of Sacred Piano Music in the Piano Lesson

Four-part chorales (hymns) are the basis for much of the Western canon of piano repertoire.  We will explore strategies and chorales for introducing students to this wealth of great music, as well as their many pragmatic uses further into student development.  Additionally, we will look at the output of composers who have contributed specific sacred repertoire to the pianist’s literature.

Principles of Interpretation

In this session we will look at useful, overarching musical principles that, with regular application, can help our students become independent learners and interpreters of their music.  Using a variety of intermediate repertoire, we will explore how to choose voicings, phrase shapes, inflections, rubati, and architectural dynamic plans to help students learn early on how to make wise musical decisions.

The Riches of Bela Bartok’s Microkosmos

Using the complete volumes (1-6) of Bartok’s Microkosmos, we will explore the compositional genius of representative works and their lasting value for students and teachers of the piano.  Tenderly written for his 8-year old son Peter, these enduring works have great intellectual, pedagogical and emotional power for children. 

Intermediate Music of the 20th and 21st centuries

Repertoire from a wide variety of great composers and cultures from the last 100 years will serve as our entry into a wealth of compositional techniques that, once understood, help students and listeners alike appreciate the genius that is still among us. Helping students understand the sounds of modernism is critical for the survival of literary art music.  Our survey begins with the neoclassicism of Shostakovich and his peers and takes us through the experimental techniques of living composers for young pianists of today.