Ask the Teacher - Kurt Sassmanshaus


The Cincinnati-based teacher compares learning a piece of music with an actor preparing a role

What is the first thing you do with a new student?

I listen to them play a whole movement of a piece and try to analyse what their strengths are and which areas need to develop. I look mainly at their rhythm, sound, intonation and musical ideas. I’ll decide which one needs most work and give them a way to practise. It takes a few weeks to get to know someone.

How do you structure their development?

When they’re new I make sure I go through the technical language so that it all gets covered, and then my assistants do the technical work. We create a practice schedule that includes an hour of basics and scales. The second hour is etudes, caprices or technically difficult pieces. The rest of their practice time – two to three hours – is spent on repertoire. I plan that carefully. If they are entering competitions we build in performances at school and in retirement homes.

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