The 40-piece challenge: A composer’s opportunity

This morning I read a fascinating article by Elissa Milne about a challenge issued by music publisher Hal Leonard Australia: the challenge is to music teachers, for each of their pupils to learn 40 new pieces over the course of the year.

My first reaction was “WTF???” but Elissa’s blog post neatly outlines the value and purpose of the challenge, as well as offering sound tips for teachers as to how to approach the challenge and how to present it to their students.

The challenge, it seems, is aimed at preparing students with the skills they need which will help them to carry on playing once they stop taking lessons, at whatever level. Working through more pieces and faster will expose them to more variety of repertoire, get them thinking more about musical issues, improve their musicality and change their thinking about what ‘starting’ and ‘finishing’ a piece might mean – it doesn’t have to be an academic year’s worth of slog. It could mean 1 week of intense work.

This seems to me a simply fantastic opportunity for composers. Where a composer has short pieces (of which I personally have loads) of varying difficulty, these could be a brilliant resource for teachers who are daunted by the prospect of finding 40 pieces for their students, while keeping them interested with a range of sounds. It’s also a great chance for teachers to explore the work of composers who may be appropriate for, say, students who have their HSC coming up and need to fulfil the requirements of including a contemporary Australian piece.

From my own work, the following pieces could very well be appropriate for teachers looking to take on the 40-piece challenge:

  • Pieces of Eight (solo piano or solo pedal harp – eight movements in just over a minute)
  • the series of piano Eggs (11 so far – all for solo piano, varying levels of difficulty)
  • Nest (for solo oboe or flute)
  • Flit (for solo oboe or flute)
  • Diabolus (for solo violin)
  • Solitary Fanfare (for solo trombone)

Now to work out the best way to find teachers who want to do the challenge and are looking for repertoire…

6 Replies to “The 40-piece challenge: A composer’s opportunity”

  1. I love it too! We have had interest from teachers of instruments other than piano, so we will definately see if we can connect them to you and your music! Big yay from me too!!!

    1.  Thanks, Gina! And marvellous to hear that teachers of other instruments are giving it a go too – I’m really looking forward to hearing how the project works out – such an exciting challenge!

  2. Hi Caitlin, I’m in! This year I taught an adult beginners’ piano class and they managed learning 20 short arrangements in one term. Would love to give the continuing class some new Australian compositions next year! Cheers, Rasa

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