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The Hidden Piano Treasure of Jean Sibelius

Strangely enough, it would be quite easy to attend piano recitals for years and never hear a note of Sibelius. Now Norwegian pianist Leif-Ove Andsnes makes an adventurous raid into Sibelius’ native Finland and want us to change that. It is not surprising that his playing is immaculately detailed and sympathetic Read more >>

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Author Topic: Berlin Summer Courses for physiologically/psychologically healthy pianism  (Read 3020 times)
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« on: June 11, 2013, 09:01:04 PM »

You are cordially invited to the Berlin Summer Courses for Physiologically/Psychologically Healthy Pianism. Please find the brochure available for download http://aboutme.heatherodonnell.info/Berlin-Summer.pdf

About the courses:

Piano pedagogy often relies heavily on teaching traditions developed throughout the 19th century that focus on subjecting a student to a rigorous program of study, requiring endless (and often mindless) repetition, uncritical adherence to a prescribed system of musical values, and the potential of engaging in harmful psychological mechanisms of stifling interdependence between the teacher and student.  Traditional pedagogy can also place excessive strain on the body by engaging in physiologically unhealthy practices.
My pedagogical work seeks to identify more effective methods of helping pianists of varying abilities and levels of commitment develop, in order to achieve a level of competence that helps them realize their musical potential and provides a sense of personal fulfillment through the process of learning music. A central theme of the lessons is the process of translating a musical intention into a corresponding physical gesture, or, in other words, finding the embodiment of a musical idea.  In the lessons, I concentrate on using imagery to identify processes that take place in the mechanics of playing, from the interconnectivity of chains of muscles, tendons, fascia and bones connecting the finger tips through to the arms and back, to cognitive processes of input and feedback.  The learning process can be identified as an ever-increasing and acute psychological and physical self-awareness coupled with an equally expanding strength of imagination for musical expression. This aspect of self-awareness can be developed by a deepened understanding of the mechanics of the mind and body.  The musical imagination can be developed by contact with a wide array of music as well as other types of creative expression. It also grows through an unencumbered empathetic and sympathetic relationship to the emotional content in music. 
I seek to convey these ideas with simple and understandable imagery geared to the individual student.  The summer courses will be taught in group lessons, working with one student while other students observe and provide feedback.  In addition to playing for each other, we will spend some time watching videos of great pianists, identifying aspects of their playing mechanism that may have helped or hindered their musical intentions.  The atmosphere of the summer course will open, productive, and collegial.  The course is intended for young pianists ages 15 to 30 , especially those who are struggling with physical or psychological blockages in their playing.  Piano teachers and amateurs are also welcome to participate in the courses. 

American pianist and pedagogue Heather O'Donnell’s career spans over fifteen years as a performing musician, teacher, and curator.  Recently her focus has shifted from performing to researching new insights into music pedagogy. She is involved in studies in physiology, anatomy, cognition, memory, processes of learning, developmental psychology, historical musical pedagogy, and therapeutic applications of music. Her interdisciplinary work was profiled in a radio documentary for Deutschlandfunk, “Keys, Hands, Neural Networks. The pianist Heather O’Donnell.” She maintains an active teaching studio in Berlin, serves on the jury of international competitions, and is pursuing a degree in psychology at the Freie Universität in Berlin.

Thanks for your interest.

Best regards,
Heather O'Donnell

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