Summer Sightreading Challenge!

Tonight I want to let you all in on a little challenge I have given myself for the summer, and invite you to join me!

First, a little background. I recently have been reading a fabulous book called The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. While this book is not piano-related, I couldn’t help but relate so many things in it to piano teaching. The book is written by a sixth grade reading teacher who decided that by requiring students to only read 3 or 4 books (chosen by the teacher and read as a class with tons and tons of supplementary materials) over the course of the school year, students were not only not enjoying it, but were not becoming better readers. The only way, the author says, to help students become good readers is to require them to READ BOOKS – and a lot of them. She requires her students to read 40 books (of their own choice) over the course of the school year. It really is an intriguing concept, and it instantly made me think of piano. Of course we want our students to perfect their pieces, spend lots of time practicing each line, each hand, each nuance – but what has a student gained if they have a handful of pieces polished to perfection, yet they do not spend much time actually “playing” the piano, or “reading” through pieces? Or worse, they are not able to sightread a piece, and therefore are not able to just sit down at the piano and PLAY a piece for pleasure.

Anyway, it’s food for thought! I do think that sightreading is a vital skill that one should have to truly be considered a fine pianist. A good sightreader is someone who has a solid understanding of music theory and has the skills needed to apply that theory to make music. Plus, a pianist should be able to sit down and play for enjoyment. (I’d love to hear your take on sightreading…its importance, its place in piano lessons, etc.)

Now on to my challenge – as a busy mama, wife, and piano teacher, I have unfortunately too often set aside my pianist self (for lack of time and motivation – mostly time!) and not put my piano fingers to good use! This summer, I have challenged myself to sightread 100 pieces of piano literature. I want to get myself playing again. And playing a lot. I want to dive back into the joy of actually making music! I have set aside the evenings after I tuck in my children to do this, and am keeping track of which pieces I read through and how many pages I have sightread each day. I randomly decided to begin with Debussy (I grabbed this wonderful collection from my shelf and started playing! Claude Debussy: Piano Music (1888-1905)), and in the past week have played through twelve of his piano works (I am counting individual movements of larger suites, sonatas, etc. as one piece).

So, who’s with me?? I would LOVE to see many of my readers join me in this challenge, and enjoy playing some great music this summer! You can choose any composer and any pieces that you want. Maybe you’re dying to play through ALL of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier? Maybe some Chopin preludes? Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to try, now is the time to go for it! I am super excited about this challenge. Now, I have had a week’s head-start, so I will try to finish my 100 pieces by August 24. For the rest of you, let’s try to complete the challenge by August 31.

So, in conclusion –

THE CHALLENGE: Sightread 100 pieces of piano literature this summer!
DEADLINE: August 31, 2012
LET US KNOW: If you want to be in on the challenge, leave a comment on this post! Feel free to grab a Summer Sightreading Challenge button from my sidebar to stick on your blog to help remind you. Plus, it never hurts to let others know you’re working on a goal to help give you some extra motivation 🙂

I will occasionally check in and let you know how I’m doing on the challenge (how it’s going, what I’ve been playing, some great pieces I’ve discovered) and I’d love to hear updates on your progress as well! Thanks for joining me, and happy music-making!

Jennifer Boster

11 Responses to “Summer Sightreading Challenge!

  • Great challenge… I think I might do this with my violin.

  • Love the idea. I'll do it.

  • Have fun with this! I've got a couple things going – the 50 Piece Challenge for my students – and a Sight Reading Challenge for myself – I've blogged about both of these a fair bit in recent weeks. Feel free to visit.
    I guarantee your sight-reading will improve ENORMOUSLY through all this.

  • Love this idea Jenny! Are you going to have your students do this too?

  • I am going to do this!!! I am so excited for the challenge. I am also going to extend it to my violin as well…(i am a student of the violin:)

  • I'm with you. Love it. I'll do it. I think I might have my students do something similar too. Thanks for continually inspiring me! (:

  • Sweet Blog. Thanks for your work.

  • What a fun goal! I'm working with my parents to make sure their kids get time to "play" at the piano this summer–not just strictly making sure they do their lessons. I give sight reading to do each week. I didn't have a teacher who even used that word until high school and I'm determined my students won't be as handicapped as I was!

  • I definitely agree it is important to give yourself time to sight-read music! I'm no amazing pianist, but a year ago I could only "kind of" play a few hymns. I decided to just play straight through the hymn book, then straight through the Children's Songbook, then did the hymn book a second time (that time I played each song twice though – once to sight read, then to give myself a 2nd chance). I'm starting to go through it again, a little more thoroughly on each piece this time, correcting mistakes until I'm satisfied I can play it full speed pretty well. Over the past year pretty much Just doing this, my piano skills have improved DRAMATICALLY. I think a lot of that was just familiarizing my hands with the feel of the piano so I don't have to look down as much and becoming more familiar with key signatures and reading the music more quickly.

    There were a couple hymns I had written out fingering for a year and a half ago and now the numbers are just clutter on the page for me. I know how you're "supposed" to practice and I know there is a LOT of value in that as well. But there is also value in just playing! (I think I've just needed a break to free myself to "enjoy" playing for a while!)I'm glad I didn't waste the time writing out fingering for every hymn because I don't need them anymore. 🙂

    Anyway, all that to say, I'm going to take the challenge too! Then I'll buckle down and focus on specific pieces to really flesh through the "right way." 🙂

  • This is a great idea for those who don't sight read often and for students. I admit that I am a very good sight reader – most of my work as a pianist relies heavily on my sight reading skills. But a couple of years ago, I realized that I hadn't perfected a sonata, nocturne or fugue in quite some time, so I challenged myself to perfect one piece from each major musical period during a 10 week period. My good sight reading skills mean that I am often bored with perfecting the details of music! But in that 10 week period, I learned Goldberg Var No 10, Der Mullers Blumen and Mit dem grunen lautenbande from Die Schone Mullerin, Chopin Nocturne in B Op32, and the Rondo on Argentine Children's Songs by Ginestera. I know none of the pieces are particularly expansive, but it definitely got me back in the habit of perfecting music and made me more empathetic to my students who are always learning and memorizing new music.

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