School of Music

Keyboard Department

Piano Pedagogy at East Carolina University

Piano Pedagogy at East Carolina University

The Piano Pedagogy Program at East Carolina University offers performance concentrations at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduate study leads to a BM in performance with a concentration in piano pedagogy, and graduate study leads to a MM in performance with a concentration in piano pedagogy. In addition, students may enroll in piano pedagogy either as elective courses or as non-degree studies.

-- Dr. Kerry Carlin, director of piano pedagogy studies

Why study piano pedagogy?

Most piano teachers who do not study piano pedagogy simply continue to teach the way that they were taught. While many aspects of their our own piano study might have been quite good and should be retained, teaching the way we were taught simply perpetuates traditions while ignoring new understandings and research-based information. Piano teachers need to be thinking, creative, flexible and dynamic people who continue to study and grow in their own playing and teaching approach. Piano pedagogy study helps the piano teacher develop the habits of intellectual growth in piano teaching.

Why study piano pedagogy at East Carolina University?

The primary goal of the East Carolina University Piano Pedagogy Program is to create thoughtful piano teachers who are well versed in critical analytical techniques in regard to piano methods, teaching approaches, piano technique, child and adult development, and the many other aspects that are relevant to the real world of piano teaching. It is not the goal of the program to promote one teaching philosophy, but to give the student teacher the tools and knowledge to make an educated decision in choosing the best from all possible approaches.

A primary aspect of the East Carolina University Piano Pedagogy Program is its inclusion of the most current research and understandings about piano teaching. The ECU piano pedagogy student is encouraged to keep abreast of current research in music education, music learning, educational and developmental psychology, and piano education, and incorporate these understandings into their teaching philosophy and teaching approach. The piano pedagogy student develops perspective in regard to piano teaching traditions and retains the best of that teaching, but is flexible and willing to change ideas and approaches if the research either doesn't' support those traditions or suggests something even better.

While the primary focus of the program is the promotion of the independent piano teacher of pre-college age students, an important objective is to help each student teacher develop personal career goals, which may also include college teaching, teaching adult leisure students, or group piano teaching.

Guiding all of these goals is a desire to develop professionals who are searching for and attaining the best in piano teaching, who are actively involved in the profession, and who may influence piano teacher organizations at the local, state, national and international levels.

Piano Teaching in the 21st century-Is piano teaching a viable career?

In spite of the high tech age in which we live, or sometimes because of it, parents are still interested in having their children study the piano, and adults are beginning piano study or returning to study in record numbers. It is apparent that people still love the sound of the piano. In addition to the aesthetic aspects of piano study, the public is aware of the research that shows a strong connection between music study, and piano study in particular, to academics and the development of spatial processing in the brain.

At the beginning of the 21st century, good piano teachers still have waiting lists of students who want to study with them. Excellent piano teachers are needed everyone, and the qualified piano teacher can go almost anywhere and establish a successful piano teaching studio. It is a very portable career.

The Bachelor of Music in Music, Piano Pedagogy

The undergraduate piano pedagogy degree is a four year program that leads to the awarding of the bachelor of music degree in performance concentration in piano pedagogy.

Admissions: Admission to the university does not guarantee admission to the School of Music. Prospective music majors and minors must be admitted both to the university and to the School of Music. Admission to the School of Music is determined by an acceptable level of performance as demonstrated through a personal audition or a recent taped recording. A satisfactory audition is required of all entering freshmen, transfer students, and students being readmitted. Acceptance of the audition is based upon an affirmative vote by a majority of the auditioning committee, which comprises a minimum of three faculty members. Admission is limited in some applied disciplines in the School of Music. For detailed information, students should contact Dr. Jeffrey Ward, associate director for undergraduate admissions of the School of Music.

The piano pedagogy major must audition in piano, and applied instruction in piano is required throughout the four-year program of study. Detailed information regarding auditions and audition dates will be supplied upon request by Dr. Jeffrey Ward.

Basic audition requirements in piano/piano pedagogy at the undergraduate level include the ability to perform acceptably major and minor scales and arpeggios and compositions representative of piano literature from three of the four style periods (baroque, classic, romantic, contemporary). Audition repertoire must be performed from memory. In addition, the applicant will be asked to sight-read a short piece of music.

For a complete listing of courses required for the bachelor of music degree in piano pedagogy see the undergraduate catalog.

The Graduate Degree in Performance Concentration in Piano Pedagogy

The graduate program in piano pedagogy leads to the awarding of the master of music degree concentration in piano pedagogy.

The following information is taken from the East Carolina University graduate catalog. It is abridged in order to highlight particular reference to piano pedagogy.

Admissions: Applicants must meet the requirements established by the Graduate School and complete its admission process. Applicants must have the equivalent of a bachelor of music degree from an accredited institution, a minimum average grade of B in all previous course work, and demonstrate an acceptable level of musical accomplishment through an audition.

As part of the admission process, all applicants must demonstrate a basic knowledge of music history and theory with an acceptable evaluation on an examination administered at the time of the audition or interview. Students with identified deficiencies may be required to remediate with appropriate courses.

For additional information about application for admission to the graduate degree program in piano pedagogy, contact the School of Music Director of Graduate Studies Dr. Rachel Copeland,

Graduate curriculum in piano pedagogy

For a complete listing of courses required for the master of music in piano pedagogy see the catalog.

The master of music degree shall be awarded only after candidates pass a comprehensive examination that includes the presentation and defense of a final project. Additional information detailing specific requirements for the various degree programs can be found in the admission requirements section of the School of Music Graduate Handbook.

Candidates for the master of music in piano pedagogy must fulfill one of the following recital options while in residence at East Carolina University: full solo recital or lecture recital. The performance of recital works and the lecture portion of the lecture recital must be approved by departmental audition. The nature of the lecture recital must be approved by the graduate committee.

Workshop Presentations by Kerry Carlin

To schedule a workshop presentation by Dr. Kerry Carlin, e-mail or phone (252) 752-4749.

Workshop Topics:

Teaching Effectiveness in the Elementary Level Piano Lesson: What the Research has to Say

  • Today's piano teacher needs to keep abreast of current thinking about piano teaching, especially when those understandings can be verified by research. This presentation focuses on what current research tells us about how we should be teaching the piano to elementary level students.

Right from the Start-Developing a Natural Keyboard Technique

  • This topic discusses the development of keyboard technique from the first lesson to early advanced level playing.

What's New?-Hot Off the Press Piano Teaching Materials

  • Don't have access to a good music store where you can take a look at the latest piano teaching materials? Or maybe you have access but not the time to browse through the overwhelming amount of piano instruction publications being marketed. This presentation will present some of the best of the most current piano teaching materials from several publishers. The focus is primarily on repertoire-both sheet music and collections--although other materials may be discussed as well.

A Piano Teacher's Round Table

  • One of the best ways to gain more knowledge about piano teaching is to glean ideas from our colleagues. With Dr. Carlin acting as moderator, the piano teacher's round table presents topical questions and promotes group discussion-ranging from practical studio ideas to how to teaching the most complicated rhythms. After all, the research shows that what piano teachers do more than anything is talk-so let's get together and do it. No need to raise your hand!

Guiding Your Students to Careers in Music

  • This workshop will discuss the career possibilities for the student who has a degree in music with a major in piano. Included will be a discussion of preparing your high school student for admission to music degree programs.

Dr. Carlin is also available for master classes for piano students of all levels.

Questions and Answers

Do you have a question about piano teaching (and who doesn't)?  E-mail your question to, and a team of “experts” will ponder your question and come up with some ideas and suggestions.  These answers will then be synthesized and a response sent back to you.  Please allow a reasonable amount of time for this response to be formulated.