E. Papini presents Music moves for Piano®: "Kids can start learning music even since birth"

by Federica Colucci

Cremona Musica is always giving much room to educational projects, such as masterclasses, seminaries, conferences, and workshops. This year, we will host Elena Papini, to present Music Moves for Piano®, the innovative didactic method for piano based on Edwin E. Gordon’s Music Learning Theory. In this interview, Elena Papini, one of the main personalities of the Associazione Italiana per l’Apprendimento Musicale (AIGAM), and teacher of the method Music Moves for Piano® in Italy is presenting the main features of this innovative method.


Which are the fundamental principles of Music Moves for Piano® and what does make thin method revolutionary?

Music Moves for Piano ® by Marilyn Lowe is a total novelty in the landscape of the works about piano didactic, as it is based on the application of the Music Learning Theory by Edwin E. Gordon to the piano. The main novelty is the overturning of the traditional method, that is based on the reading of the score as the first step in the approach to an instrument. This kind of learning has the aim to develop the “inner instrument” of the kid first, called by Gordon “Audiation”, namely the capacity to think musically, and through this skill you can musically express yourself on the instrument.  


Music Moves for Piano® is based on the Music Learning Theory by Edwin E. Gordon. Could you please explain how do theory and method meet?

Music Moves for Piano® is the only instrumental method the strictly applies Gordon’s theory. According to Gordon’s researches, kids learn music in the same way they learn to speak. So, it is important to develop a rich musical dictionary, to be able to express yourself. The learning of the instrument in Music Moves for Piano ® is based on Gordon’s “learning sequential activities”, a structured work to learn the musical dictionary of the student, that was developed after years of research and experiments. The piano method, conceived by Marilyn Lowe, has the aim to develop not just the technical and performative skill, but mainly to create a wide dictionary of tonal and rhythmic patterns. Though these patterns, he will have the opportunity to read and understand music, playing with the musicality derived by the comprehension of the musical piece, improvising, harmonizing, creating his own pieces, and arranging, communicating and playing in an ensemble.


What would you say to the parents that are wondering if it is too early for a 4-year-old kid to start studying an instrument?

Gordon’s theories speak for themselves! Maybe it is… to late! If you compare the musical language and the spoken language, you can understand that it is dangerous to start the learning of the spoken language too late. For the same reason, it is important to start the learning of music as soon as possible, even from birth. To approach an instrument, it is fundamental for the kid to have the need motor coordination and musical dictionary, and Music Moves for Piano® is conceived precisely to give this initial dictionary and, at the same time, to try it in motion, in group activities, and on the instrument, though play and creative exploration.


How did you discover the Music Learning Theory and what does convince you about its validity?

In 2000, when my first daughter was born, I started looking for some studies on musical learning for kids, and I found prof. Gordon’s books. They were really complicated, but I understood that these researches were extraordinary. His studies on musical attitude, his comparison between the learning of language and music, and on musical thinking (“Audiation”) are so immediate that they convinced me immediately. Then I meet the AIGAM (Gordon Italian Association for musical learning) and I started my formation. I started from scratch, teaching to newborns. Now some of my first students are about 15-20-year-old and are still playing, some of them are also teaching music.  


Did you personally meet Edwin E. Gordon? What can you tell about him?

I had the honor to study with him in many courses. For many years, as honorary president of AIGAM, he held the final courses for musicians and teachers. He was a very easygoing person, he always had fun, he wanted to wrhit on the floor to explain how to work with kids and he loved to stop important conference in front of big audiences to tell a joke.


Did you already know Cremona Musica? What does it mean to you presenting Music Moves for Piano® in this context?

I have attended many times Cremona Musica, since this manifestation started. In collaboration with Curci, that is realizing the publication of my translation of the volumes of the method, we want to present to the audience of Cremona Musica this important didactic work, that could bring many kids to approach music in a more playful and natural way. This will also be an occasion for pianists and piano teachers to discover this work and our national educational event. This year we are organizing in Milano the 7° edition of the national formation course on the piano didactic according to Gordon’s  Music Learning Theory.