Award-Winning Founding Teacher Reflects on Sixty Years of Teaching

Bob Pajer

Bob Pajer is a music teacher in Snoqualmie, Washington, and a Founding Teacher of The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. Earlier this year Bob won a national teaching prize from the Music Teachers National Association. We chatted with Bob who looked back on 60 years of teaching and his experiences performing for Boeing.

How has the practice of piano teaching changed over the last 60 years? How have you changed your approach to teaching over that time?

Students today bring to their lessons a fundamentally different learning experience, learned from playing computer games. As I understand it, in the game they are presented with a challenge they solve through trial and error, then simply go on to the next challenge and go on with the game. They perhaps will never see those particular challenges again. In learning a score, the challenge is quite different. There are layers upon layers of learning that can and should take place for a student to fully understand and eventually perform a piece of music.

Tell us a bit about your history with The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. What inspired you to become affiliated with it?

It is the consistency of a broad standardized total musical approach that drew me to The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program: performance, theory, and history. I live in a small logging town in the northwest. I promote the program by telling students and parents that the student is being measured by the same standards that students in New York City, Dallas, and Jackson, Mississippi are being measured. The well-trained adjudicators ensure students are being assessed by the same standards throughout North America.

Also, the program allows us to communicate learning goals among parents, students, and teachers. Parents become more involved in this program than any other I have encountered. I find parents become very interested when we start setting the goals for pieces and other program requirements and they in turn communicate their interest to their children, playing a critical role in students’ progress.

What advice would you give parents interested in enrolling their children?

The advice I would give parents in enrolling their students is to really understand the extent of the program. I have them read all the material and they usually talk to other parents in my studio as well. I tell them they need to understand the goals we are setting and the time required to achieve these goals.

You’ve performed at a wide variety of venues in the Seattle area. Can you share a particularly memorable experience?

One in particular remains special:  a Boeing banquet for Austrian Airlines, attended by Boeing’s CEO and the CEO of Austrian Airlines. I was asked to play Mozart piano transcriptions of Eine kleine Nachtmusik and as much Johann Strauss as I wished. I love the Strauss waltzes, having grown up on them as great sight reading material. Everyone seemed to enjoy the rendition including the Austrian Airlines CEO who said on that evening in Seattle, he thought he was in Vienna.

What music would you recommend to calm people before a flight?

I would listen to the Beethoven Symphony No. 3. That symphony seems to me a kind of out-of-this-world experience. For me this effect is calming before, during, and after any flight. Great art fosters peace, for it is love at a fundamental level. That is, if the flight isn’t too choppy.

On May 21 registration opens for the August 2013 assessment session.

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