A new Eight-Grade Piano Curriculum for Students with an Arab Background

Project funded by the University of Jordan 

Like their peers in other Arab countries, a considerable number of Jordanian piano students struggle to learn to play Western Classical music because it is so different from the music of their oriental background. For example, an understanding of polyphony and faithfulness to the score is essential to playing the piano, but Arabic music is primarily monophonic and relies heavily on improvisation. These cultural differences present significant challenges to learning Western repertoire, which prolongs their educational development—hence the need to link piano education to Arabic musical heritage.

The aim of this project is to propose an eighth-grade piano curriculum that is specially targeted to students with an Arabic background because it is influenced by Arabic music (both traditional and contemporary). Furthermore, the curriculum will be comprehensive with respect to performance technique and have structured gradual levels of challenge that are derived from the well reputed British system of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). 

This multifaceted project is a synthesis of many aspects in research including music psychology, neurology, music education, music and memory, and music performance. The biggest challenge was to design coherent and systematic material that bridges the joy of playing familiar & meaningful music and the high standard aspect of the Western piano technique to increase and sustain students’ motivation. 

Maria Al-Momani

Ph.D candidate

Supervisory team

Dr Eduardo Coutinho
Dr Kenneth Forkert Smith
Dr Lee Tsang

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