Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Time to Select Audition Music for Your Students

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed the benefits of having students participate in music auditions, festivals, and other assessment-type programs. Most of my students participate yearly in the National Piano Guild Auditions, and it is this time of the year that I assign their audition program. The National Piano Guild Auditions offer a very flexible audition experience – students can perform anywhere from 1 – 20 pieces, and the choice of repertoire is entirely up to the teacher! While Bach, Mozart and Beethoven will always be staples, I am a big fan of incorporating music from contemporary composers. I would like to share some of my most recent audition-music-gem finds:

Willard A. Palmer Favorite Solos

Dr. Palmer was a world renowned musician, scholar and music teacher. With 789 published works, his name is familiar to students and teachers alike, most notably associated with Alfred’s Basic Piano Library. This new series contains a nice collection of his original piano solos for students of all ages. There is a variety of styles, sounds and moods, and the music is laid out beautifully, suitable for the youngest students as well as the older beginners. There are no childish pictures to put off the older beginners, and the music engraving is large enough that the younger students may be able to follow easily.

Book 1 Early Elementary/Elementary

The first volume contains 8 solos. They are very accessible for your beginners, yet the music sounds surprisingly sophisticated. I am especially impressed by the following features:

1. Very clear, precise pedal markings – some are understandably optional in this volume.
2. Hand crossing – beginner students love to show this off!
3. Using different registers of the piano keyboard – changing the register is the easiest way to create variation, and this is used a lot in repeats, to create echos, at endings of phrases, or for dramatic effects.
4. Performance instructions are mostly in English – this is very appropriate for beginners. As the music becomes more difficult, more and more Italian terms are introduced.
5. Optional duet part – The first five pieces have optional duet part; they sound great both ways.
6. Melody is sometimes in the left hand, sometimes shared by both hands – great to see this concept introduced in the first volume.
7. Major/minor twist in melody – musical interest and complexity is achieved without making the music overly difficult.

Book 2 Late Elementary/Early Intermediate

This volume contains 9 solos. They introduce many important concepts and terms found in classical music, most appropriate for your developing students:

1. Titles such as Bagatelle, Ballade, Caprice, Theme and Variations
2. Alberti bass accompaniment figure
3. Key change
4. Tempo change

Book 3 Early Intermediate/intermediate

This volume contains 8 solos. All of the features in Book 1 and 2 continue to be explored. There is now almost an exclusive use of Italian terms, and we see titles such as Baroque Bourree, Prelude in D Minor, and Serenade in G. New concepts introduced include use of optional third staff, chromatic scale, whole tone scale, and ornaments. More modern sounds and styles such as syncopation, swing rhythm, and ragtime are also represented.


Alfred also publishes the Favorite Solos series for other composers: Dennis Alexander, David Carr Glover, Martha Mier, and Catherine Rollin. These best-loved piano solos of each composer have been compiled into graded collections for students to enjoy playing and teachers to enjoy teaching! I will have to check them all out in detail.


Signature Series


If you are looking for just that one more piece to compliment your student’s audition program, or would like to try a new contemporary (living) composer, then the Alfred Signature Series is for you! This is modern sheet music at its best. Each piece is printed on one large sheet: page-turn and budget friendly! Numerous composers are featured. If you want to be safe, go with familiar names such as Melody Bober, Dennis Alexander, Martha Mier, Robert Vandall, Catherine Rollin, or Wynn-Anne Rossi, or be pleasantly surprised by Betty Sutton, Ted Cooper, Mike Springer, Mary K. Sallee, or W.T. Skye Garcia. Better yet, on the Alfred website you can view a sample page before purchasing, to make sure you like the particular composer’s style. Oh, and the artwork on the sheet music cover is carefully selected to reflect the level of each solo – “cutesy” for the elementary pieces, and more “artsy” for the more advanced!


How do you select audition music for your students? Do you have a favorite series? Do share in the comments below!

About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]

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