Practical Application: Sight Reading

This has been the summer of sight reading for both myself and my students.  I will be the first to admit that my sight reading skills leave something to be desired, and I have been working diligently to improve upon that this summer.  When you live in a city where summers mean 104 degree heat indexes and constant thunderstorms, summers are a great time to take on all of those things that you have put off for the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, in the music industry, many people believe that you are only as good as the gig that you get.  While I don’t necessarily subscribe to that belief, getting A GIG would really be nice now that I have this fancy piece of paper that proclaims my “master” status.  In the meantime, I am working to improve what needs improving upon, so I can start feeling a little more comfortable in the “gigging” world.

As all of this has been on my mind lately, I have begun to reflect upon my own students’ possibilities for the future.  It’s fantastic that I have such a great group of kids who practice diligently, perform regularly in local competitions, and take on Classical literature, despite its decreasing popularity; however, am I preparing them to be functioning, gigging musicians in the future?  I am comfortable with the fact that my own specialty lies in my teaching experience and ability.  I have always recognized this and done my best to capitalize on my experiences, in order to become the best teacher possible.  I have also spent the last two years in school honing my technique and performance chops (something I have never been entirely comfortable with), but two years of formal education does not necessarily prepare you for the day-to-day grind of being a working musician.  As my mom recently commented to me, “Isn’t it nice that you spent two years in school getting a masters degree so you could get paid to play hymns?”  Time to get better at playing hymns.  Moreover, as much as I love teaching, my students may choose a different path, and it’s my job to prepare them for whichever path they choose.

In light of all of this, I have started paying more attention to lessons I am giving, making sure that I am providing the well-rounded education that is necessary in order to become a functioning musician.  If I am incorporating sight reading into my daily practice sessions, there is no reason why I should not be doing the same for my students.  For the benefit of my students and anyone who may be interested on a professional or personal basis, I have put together a short list of sight reading materials that are great for both teacher and student.  I hope you find it useful, and I may expound upon some of these at a later date.

Bach – Inventions, Anna Magdalena Notebook
Bartok – Mikrokosmos
Beethoven – short pieces (Ecossaises, Sonatinas, etc.)
Chopin – Mazurkas, Polonaises, Preludes, Waltzes
Clementi – Sonatinas
Grieg – Lyric Pieces
Kabalevsky – Chilren’s Pieces
Liszt – Consolations
Mozart – Sonatas, short pieces for children
Schubert – Waltzes
Hymns (any denomination)
Technical Exercises – Czerny, Burgmuller, Lecouppey, etc.

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