Linette A. Popoff-Parks
Like so many pianists, I began my love affair with music at an early age, learning quickly and negotiating my way around the keyboard with a rather natural technique. And also like so many pianists, I began to experience difficulties when I moved into the advanced repertoire. The holding/stretching/finger independence exercises required by my college training proved disastrous to my hands, exacerbating the compensatory movements I acquired to handle the advanced literature, resulting in extreme tension and fatigue in my forearms, plus tendonitis in my right thumb and wrist. The symptoms were so extreme that I felt pain even listening to someone else play the pieces that hurt my hands and arms.
The end of my college training seemed to be the end of my career as a pianist, so I went to plan B and studied theory in graduate school. Theory was fun, but it was a severe disappointment to give up playing difficult solo and chamber pieces. I also hated the very idea of teaching piano (I now know that it was because I had no idea how), so I worked toward a teaching career in theory and humanities.
Fast forward several years to my discovery of the Taubman Approach: an intriguing pedagogy of coordinate movement that provided some hope for my pained hands and aching heart. The door to this fascinating world was opened for me by Joseph Gurt at Eastern Michigan University, and as it turned out, my hope grew as my technique improved. Several years later I began working with Edna Golandsky in New York. My course of improvement was slowed somewhat by the distance between Livonia, Michigan and New York City, but I would not have had it any other way. Without a doubt, I am playing again because of Edna’s insights and talents as a Taubman teacher. But I am not just playing again – I am performing much more difficult music than I had imagined was possible for me.
Edna has taught me to play without fatigue, pain, and tension, but . . . with an ease and proficiency that is a delight to my hands and heart. I have also discovered my tone growing in strength and color. I now see that the Taubman approach is not just a technique for healing the body – it is a proven pedagogical method that has something for every pianist: increased facility, ease at the keyboard, an infinite variety of tone, and more.
I am impressed by the constantly evolving methodology of this technique – somewhat of a rarity among piano pedagogies. The principles have remained the same but the pedagogy has changed with time – and that is a hallmark of knowledge and wisdom. My journey began in 1976, and I am still committed to this approach to piano technique. I discovered a love for teaching along the way, too, so I share this with my students who now benefit from the Taubman approach.
I will always be deeply grateful to Dorothy Taubman and Edna Golandsky for their gifts of perseverance, intelligence, and passion for music. It is not an empty superlative to say that they changed my life – they truly have provided a path to joy.
Linette A. Popoff-Parks
Professor and Chair, Music Department