After a holiday break time I return to my blog with a post about a composer that I love, Elissa Milne. Born in Australia, where she developes her professional work, this composer and pedagogue maintains an active commitment in all aspects of teaching piano. Besides composing piano pieces for children, Elissa Milne has a wonderful blog, elissamilne.wordpress.com, where she shares all her ideas about teaching and learning piano. In the blog you can find items like: 10 Things you should do before your child begins piano lessons, Dichotomies in piano pedagogy, 40 Piece challenge and many others. Each item is a gem. It is also administrator of the Facebook group of piano teachers The Art of Piano Pedagogy, group I highly recommend you to join and where teachers from around the world discuss their concerns, tips, questions, suggestions, etc, about teaching piano. In this post I will focus on her two collections of piano works for children: Little Peppers and Pepperbox Jazz.
It is a collection of 5 books with piano pieces for children. The first one came out in 1997, the same year that she published her first book of Pepperbox Jazz. The first book contains more simple pieces, this difficulty will increase over the volumes. The titles of the five books are: “Very Easy Little Peppers”, “Easy Little Peppers”, “Little Peppers”, “More Little Peppers” and, finally, “Even More Little Peppers”. The pieces have very modern sound, many of them on a jazzy style, with a variety of rhythms, harmonies, articulations, dynamics and contain all the different technical difficulties that a child must master in the early years. They are very imaginative and students love them, they can serve as repertoire pieces or studies. So, that you can get an idea of what this collection is, I include three youtube examples.
Square-o is the piece that opens the first book:
Cat and Mouse is written in 5/4 and is included in the second book:
Gold Rush, included in the third book, is one of my favorites:
Little Peppers is a fundamental collection and very useful. Your students are going to love them. You can find the books at: amazon.com
Pepperbox Jazz is a two-volume collection of pieces for students of level more advanced than those that make up the books of Little Peppers, for students in grades 4-7 ABRSM. written in various styles of jazz, some humorous and fun, more expressive and nostalgic pieces. The richness of its rhythms, always fresh and original, full chords and melodies alive engage students. Although the vast majority are pieces for solo piano, also it contains some part to play four hands as Mulga Bill, written in a vibrant 7/8. Here I leave an example of this piece: Mulga Bill
As a composer, as a writer, as a pedagogue and as a teacher Elissa Milne is a figure of great importance in teaching piano. For those who do not know her, I recommend that you follow her work, it is worth it.