The Ann Arbor Area Piano Teachers Guild was founded in 1961 as an outgrowth of the Ann Arbor Music Teachers Club. It was formed at the encouragement of Ava Comin Case, faculty and piano instructor at the University of Michigan, and through the energy and effort of its first president, Frances Danforth. Dedicated to “progress, creativity in teaching, impeccable integrity, high standards, and democratic attitudes,” twelve charter members began what the Guild continues today: striving for excellence in musicianship and teaching while mentoring new instructors to pursue the same goals.
The first official presentation of the Guild was a lecture-demonstration master class presented by Ava Case, who remained an inspirational leader for the charter members. Indeed, it was the desire to hold this event that led to the official formation of the Guild. Twenty-five piano teachers showed up for the Guild’s inaugural meeting, where the requirements for membership, duties of officers and committees, and the draft Constitution were discussed and delineated. Soon after, they held the master class with Ava Case, the Guild’s first public event. Other master classes soon followed, by notable teachers from Michigan and neighboring states. And since that time, lecture-demonstrations have remained a common format for presentations sponsored by the Guild.
Immediately, the group began to meet regularly at members’ homes. A central purpose of these meetings was to exchange ideas and teaching materials. Reports, for instance, were given regularly by members who had attended pedagogy workshops at various schools of music. And as the 1960s saw new members continually added, the Guild grew while keeping pace with modern teaching methods. As part of the effort to cultivate musical tastes, a series of monthly workshops was established for students to perform publicly before parents, other students and their teachers. This was in addition to regular student recitals, with the goal being to build good listening audiences who were knowledgeable about performance practices.
In June of 1962, the U. of M. School of Music held an audition for Teacher Certification in the Michigan Music Teachers Association (MMTA). To qualify for certification, each teacher was required to present three of her/his students, each of whom would play a short program of music. Antoinette Kehoe, Marjorie Leach and Frances Danforth became the first local teachers to be certified by the MMTA. Gradually, more teachers became state certified until there were enough to have all the officers of the AAAPTG certified, this being a new requirement for chapter affiliation with MMTA. In 1966 Frances took the next step and became nationally certified through the Music Teachers’ National Association (MTNA). Others soon followed, and the Guild continues to encourage its teachers to take this significant career step.
By the 1970s, the Guild was firmly established within Michigan’s musical community, participating in workshops near and far: Oakland University, Wayne State University, Michigan State University, the University of Maryland, the Frances Clark School at Princeton, N.J. and many more. In turn, well-known pedagogues – like Marvin Blickenstaff, Edna Golansky and Elvina Truman Pearce – gave workshops or lectures in Ann Arbor with the participation of our members. The seventies also saw the inception of many of the Guild’s continuing programs. This includes repertoire groups which meet regularly to discuss composers and masterworks and to explore the issues related to the performance or teaching of these works. Repertoire groups have taken different forms over the years, including a Performers’ Group (who usually present recitals), Intermediate Repertoire Group and Four-Handed Repertoire Groups. Also begun in the seventies was our monthly Seminar program.
As members have looked for increased professional involvement and opportunities for students, the Guild has supported many complementary activities through the years. These take diverse forms, like the Beethoven Conference in 1995 that was jointly presented by the Guild, the Academy for the Study and Performance of Early Music, the University of Michigan School of Music, and the Midwestern Historical Keyboard Society. In 1961, the very year in which the Guild was founded, Frances Danforth also helped to form the first local chapter of the National Guild of Piano Teachers. This allowed students to participate in that organization’s audition program without having to travel out of town. 40 students took part in that first year, growing to between 200 and 300 in later years. In 1970, Guild members also helped to launch the Ann Arbor Bach Association’s Bach and Sonata/Sonatina Festival. These continue to be popular yearly events.
As an affiliate of MMTA, the Guild began to sponsor its Student Achievement Testing program in 1975. This annual, comprehensive examination has been a tremendous success, helping students and teachers to set goals and measure progress. Originally held in members’ studios, the SAT has grown into a huge event requiring two days for the testing of as many as 600 students. It now requires space provided by the music department of Eastern Michigan University (and the University of Michigan in past years). The SAT has become the Guilds’ largest annual undertaking.
Another important activity of the Guild has been to offer monetary assistance to students for studying music. This began in 1980, when summer study scholarships began to be awarded through auditions each year. Eventually, it was decided to expand these activities. In1993 the Ann Arbor Area Piano Teachers Guild Foundation was founded to create an off-shoot, not-for-profit organization that could assume the responsibility for fund-raising and award granting. The Foundation runs various events and recitals which help to fund student awards plus other grants that support teacher enrichment and special projects. In the summer of 1995, the Foundation began the annual Mostly Music Camp, a fund-raiser and an opportunity for students to experience various music related activities in classes such as “Renaissance Music and Art” and “Creative Music Exploration.” Guest performers have also presented programs for the campers.
The AAAPTG has been serving the music profession and the community for over 50 years. With nearly 100 members, it continues the goals of its founders, striving for excellence in teaching as it evolves with the times. Recent formal meetings have discussed meditation and relaxation techniques, managing the business of a piano studio in the 21st Century, and the benefits and uses of technology in the classroom. Through offerings of continuing education, professional involvement, and growth experiences for students, the Guild has helped enrich the lives of teachers plus their many thousands of students. In performance or instruction, it continues to help shape the musical life of southeastern Michigan.
The preceding text includes summary from two sources which can be downloaded below:
An article by Mary Bates and Lynne Waggoner, submitted in The Michigan Music Teacher in December, 2003.
And Memoires of the Ann Arbor Area Piano Teachers Guild: Its History and Evolution, by Francis A. Danforth. Supplemented and edited by Noreen Ferris Wolcott and Sara Briggs Carriere.