Piano teachers have long recognized the potential of teaching in groups. Group teaching began in Dublin, Ireland around 1815. The German musician Johann Bernhardt Logier (1780 - 1846) began instrucing piano classes. These classes were large, sometimes including up to 30 students. The class ranged from beginners, who played simple melodies, to the more advanced, who played variations on these tunes.
Educators from America and Europe attended Logier's classes. They returned home to introduce group teaching in their own countries. The first classes in America traced to girls' school in the south around 1860. It is interesting to note that famous European pianists of the 19th century, such as Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, and Clara Schumann taught their pupils in a group or a master class setting.
At the end of the 19th century, a leading educator and advocate of group piano in the U.S., Calvin Cady, endorsed class piano as an effective means of instruction. Other individuals who contributed to this effort included T.P. Giddings, Hazel Kinscella, Otto Miesner, Helen Curtis and Gail M. Haake.
At the same time, the U.S. lead the world in the production of pianos. As a result, the piano was a very popular instrument in many homes. The elementary school group programs grew tremendously from 1918 through 1930. However, due to the financial depression, World War II, and the lack of teacher training, piano classes suffered a serious decline.
Raymond Burrows began to incorporate group piano into the colleges regular course offerings. He advocated piano classes across the U. S. During the 1950's and 1960's he sought not only to educate the beginning student, but students of all levels.
The electronic piano had a profound impact on the future and direction of group piano teaching. Because of its small size, the ability to teach both individuals and groups and its low cost, it becamed very popular and the college and university involvement increased dramatically.
Since then people such as Robert Pace, James Bastien, and Frances Clark ( to name a few),have advocated group instruction. They have written many books with lessons for repertoire and technique.
In recent years, we have seen a proliferation of new resources for the group piano teacher. Workshops and conferences are held to share teaching strategies and related research for shaping the direction of group teaching in the future.
Candy Peare teaches Piano Lessons and Group Keyboard Classes at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts.