The Free-Reed Journal
Articles and Essays Featuring Classical Free-Reed Instruments and Performers

The Accordion at Oklahoma City University

An institution of higher education which is doing pioneer work in giving college credits toward a degree for the study of the accordion

by Louis Ronchetto -- Instructor

This article was reprinted in its entirety from the May/June 1937 issue of Accordion World (New York).

The day is not far off, I believe, when all Universities will give the accordion the place it deserves in their curriculum. Oklahoma City University is merely the first to do this. Here the accordion is placed on equal footing with the other instruments and regular college credit is granted to students properly enrolled in the University. Credit earned for work done on the either [sic] in the College of Fine Arts or accordion counts towards a degree in the College of Liberal Arts.

Besides the regular college work, we offer instruction to preparatory pupils--this is, pupils of high school and grade school age--who will eventually enroll in the University and receive regular college credit for their work. Some of the most promising pupils are grade school children.

University Teaching

My teaching work at the University is really not much different from that of the private teacher, as most of my pupils take private lessons and these are handled in much the same way that a private teacher would do. We have two groups who work together in ensemble work and each group meets once a week for rehearsals. About the only thing that is necessary to conduct an ensemble group successfully is a lot of patience; and if one does not have plenty of that, he has no business to be teaching music at all. Ensemble groups should not play in unison, as so many such groups do. The parts should be graduated in difficulty so that the advanced pupils will not be held back by the beginners. The ideal arrangement of course, would be to have groups of equal ability. That, however, is rarely possible.

Our greatest difficulty right now is suitable music for group work. If one is able to arrange music he should do so as much as possible, as he knows better than any one else what his pupils can do. Much of our music I arrange myself, but nothing pleases me better than to find a number suitably arranged and ready to pass out.

Inquiries Invited

So much for our University work: Should any one care to have further information, I will be glad to tell all they wish to know if they will drop me a line. The rest of this article I would like to devote to a few helpful hints to beginning teachers. I'm sure that experienced teachers have learned all that is going to follow for themselves.

Some one once said that Man is simply a bundle of habits. How true that is! With that thought in mind, a great deal of my time is spent, not in teaching a child music, but in developing the right kind of habits of practice and study. I firmly believe that ninety per cent of our music troubles are due, not to insufficient practice, but to practice of the wrong kind.

Take fingering, for instance. An easy selection can be played using almost all fingers that you wish, and it is so easy for a teacher to let a pupil use any fingering he wishes, as long as the music sounds all right. But the idea to keep in mind is that you are not teaching that pupil a particular piece of music, but that you are developing in him the habit of following, or not following, correct fingering. With my beginning pupils I always insist that they follow the fingering as marked, even though at times they may be able to play a passage better by using different fingers. Advanced pupils, of course, can try several fingerings and follow the one best suited to them. However, they should always use the same one, once they have decided.

The same is true of rhythm. The successful teacher will always insist that the rhythm be correct, no matter how slow the piece may have to be played. The idea that should be driven home to the pupils is that accuracy comes before speed. If the pupils takes care of accuracy, speed will take care of itself.

The habit of slow practice is one of the most important to develop in a pupil, and, I will say, one of the hardest. A good teacher will try to make a pupil realize that it isn't how many times a passage is played that counts, but how many times it is played correctly. How useless it is to play a passage over and over incorrectly, say ten times and nine times, and yet the average music student will do exactly that.

The habit of practicing in sections and practicing the difficult places much more than the easy places should be firmly established in pupils. Too many times pupils begin at the beginning and play all the way through a piece before stopping, going over the difficult parts hurriedly to get them out of the way.

Well-Arranged Music Essential

Good material, that is the right kind of music, is one of the best helps that a teacher can have, and the teacher should know the material thoroughly so that he can spend his time watching the pupil instead of the music. The material should be well graduated, so that difficulties will not come up before a pupil is ready for them.

Last, but not least, the teacher should not get discouraged if progress seems slow at the beginning. If he will just see to it that his pupils develop the right kind of habits of practice and study, in due time he will get the results that he is looking for. Carelessness on the part of the teacher will result in carelessness on the part of the pupil. Get rid of carelessness and ninety per cent of your music troubles will disappear.

The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. staff gratefully acknowledges volunteer Patrick Kiley, who assisted in the production of this article, as well as Stanley Darrow and his comprehensive American Accordion Musicological Society library.

Invitation to Contributors / Submission Guidelines
Back to The Free-Reed Journal Contents Page
Back to The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. Home Page