Barry McNamara  |   Published July 06, 2020

No Piano? No Problem

At World Piano Conference, piano instructor Solee Lee-Clark discusses ‘How to Practice without a Piano.’

Solee Lee-Clark spoke at the 12th World Piano Conference about how to teach piano without a piano...

Solee Lee-Clark spoke at the 12th World Piano Conference about how to teach piano without a piano.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Moving to remote learning last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed some Monmouth College faculty the opportunity to explore other teaching methods, some of which they’ll carry forward into their post-pandemic classes.

For Monmouth piano instructor Solee Lee-Clark, COVID-19 made her take a return-to-basics approach. It also led to a presentation she gave at the 12th World Piano Conference, which was held from June 27-July 3 online.

Lee-Clark titled her 45-minute presentation “Piano Teaching Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Practice without a Piano.”

Because of the pandemic, Monmouth students did not return to campus following spring break, which was the second week of March. About half of Lee-Clark’s students already had keyboard instruments at home. But “securing a keyboard for the rest of my students created a unique challenge,” she said. “To ensure learning continued while instruments were obtained, finger exercises on a table were introduced.”

In addition to weekly piano lessons with her students via Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, Lee-Clark made and posted weekly YouTube finger exercise videos designed to gradually increase in difficulty during the semester’s final six weeks.

“In the beginning videos, I focused on the basic technique of proper hand position, what it feels like as the fingertips touch the table, and different types of tapping sounds produced by each finger movement,” she said. “This attention to the feel and sound would then be transferred to the piano. Many piano students only pay attention to playing notes accurately with great speed and neglect the basic concepts such as round hand position, using fingertips and independent movement of fingers. This return-to-basics technique is key when building effective practice habits.”

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Lee-Clark studied piano in her native country, as well as in the United States and in Paris. She performed at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 2014 and was invited to return for a performance in 2018.

She has received awards from the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, the French Piano International Grant, and the Global Education Opportunities Award.

Lee-Clark holds a doctor of musical arts degree in piano performance from West Virginia University. She received her master of music degree from the University of Southern California and her bachelor’s degree from Kangnam University in South Korea.

All 12 videos from the past semester can be viewed on Lee-Clark’s YouTube channel under “Remote Learning Piano Instruction.”

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