Playing to Learn – Learning to Play: The Art of Practicing the Organ

Michael Bauer

Tuesday June 21, 9 AM

Franz Liszt once said, “It is not so much the practicing of technique as the technique of practicing that counts.” Learning how to learn is perhaps the most important goal we ever pursue as organists. In the organ world this is often limited to discussions of practice techniques. While this workshop will include some demonstration of practice techniques, its basic intent is to introduce a few over-arching concepts that might help us lay the foundations for a systematic treatment of the subject of practicing. These include principles drawn from the field of learning theory with a focus on educational psychology and brain research as they relate to practicing. This portion of the workshop will examine the implications of these ideas in relation to one specific issue: the role of memory in the formation of learned patterns, or “schemas,” that enable organists to translate notation into performance. (2) In addition, there will be an introduction to the notion of a four-stage approach to learning repertoire at the organ: preparation, learning, practicing, and over-learning, along with suggestions for practice technique that are most appropriate during each stage. These suggestions will integrate the three dimensions of learning: cognitive learning – acquiring new information, affective learning – the formation of musical intuition, and psycho-motor learning – the acquisition of new skills and abilities.

Michael Bauer is Professor of Organ and Church Music at the University of Kansas where he developed the doctoral program in church music. He is the author of the book Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life of God’s People. Currently he is working with Gregory Crowell, Christa Rakich, Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra, Sandra Soderlund and Carole Terry on a book about practicing the organ. Bauer has performed throughout the USA and Europe, adjudicated at international competitions in Russia and Lithuania, and directed six KU European organ study tours. He also founded a non-profit organization: Imago Dei: Friends of Christianity and the Arts. 

You may download the workshop handout for this workshop here.