Learning the piano can be a highly rewarding experience for kids, but it can also be a rather lonely affair mainly concentrated on weekly private one-on-one lessons and at-home practice. Piano Teaching Artist Michelle Richardson has created summer piano programs that not only augment students’ piano education, but also provide opportunities for group learning and fun, social activities!
Ms. Richardson has been teaching private piano lessons, group piano classes and summer camps at the Academy for several years. As a Doctoral student at Mason’s School of Music, she also teaches piano/ keyboard classes to university students. She has built the framework for the current children’s group class curriculum at the Academy based on what she has learned about piano pedagogy at Mason. She has also created the Piano Adventures summer camp series for young beginners ages 6-9 and last year introduced the Mason Summer Piano Academy for ages 8-18, a week-long intensive for students above beginner level. You can read some insights to both of these summer programs from Ms. Richardson below.
Mason Summer Piano Academy
August 7-11, 2017
“This is a fantastic program that I ran last summer with my good friends and colleagues in my DMA program at George Mason,” said Ms. Richardson. “Along with using the beautiful facilities in the Mason School of Music (equipped with Steinway pianos!), students have lots of opportunities to expand their musical learning outside of their normal weekly private piano lessons. Students typically receive one to two hours of individual and guided practice time during each day, and they also play duo pieces with partners. We have music classes in history and theory, along with chances to perform at the end of each day. Along with the in-depth musical part of the intensive, we keep the atmosphere fun, having games and opportunities for students to mingle and make friends. Although it is a wide age difference (ages 8-18), we separate the students into groups according to age and level to provide the best experience for each student. It was a wonderful first summer last year! I know year #2 will be even better and I hope to see you there!” (Note: Participants should have a minimum of 1 to 2 years of private piano lesson experience to be prepared for this program.)
Summer Piano Adventures/ Discoveries
Weekly Options in June/ July
“These camps are geared more toward beginners and younger ages (under 9 years),” explained Ms. Richardson. “It is a half-day camp and centers around the Piano Lab at the Academy Building [near the Mason campus], which houses a group of 8 full-sized, high quality digital pianos that are electronically synced to my ‘instructor’ keyboard. Students will have a fun experience, integrating their piano skills in a group setting with the use of technology at the keyboard. Part of the program takes place in a large room free from the pianos, where students can spread out for musical games and a snack break.”
The specialized “Discoveries Week” is formatted for students who have taken Adventures before and/or have taken less than a year of private piano lessons. “We will expand on topics covered in piano lessons, improve on basic note reading skills, and have opportunities for group and partner playing and individual performances,” clarified Ms. Richardson. “Along with the piano emphasis, we cover some music theory and history, too. I highly encourage this for young beginners who would like to have a fun musical camp experience!”
Because we require that each student has his/her own piano to work with during these programs, space is limited. We encourage you to plan your schedule and register as early as possible. It’s time to get piano-tized!