Barbara Fast serves on the piano faculty at the University of Oklahoma as Director of Piano Pedagogy and Piano Area Chair, where she coordinates the group piano programme as well as teaches graduate and undergraduate piano pedagogy. Dr Fast was the 2020 recipient of OU’s prestigious David Ross Boyd Professor Award for excellence in teaching, and in 2014 OU’s Regents Award for Superior Teaching.

Her lifelong interest in effective teaching eventually led her to researching and discussing the practical applications of educational research for teaching in the private lesson and group class. A culmination of her interest in effective learning and practicing, and their integration with current and future technology, resulted in the book iPractice: Technology in the 21st Century Music Practice Room (Oxford, 2018). Recently, Dr Fast has presented at numerous webinars and online town halls focused on practicing, teaching group piano, and issues in higher education related to the pandemic and teaching post-pandemic.

An active clinician and adjudicator, Dr Fast has presented at Music Teachers National Conferences, International and National College Music Society Conferences, ISME International Conference, The Classical Music Festival Eisenstadt, Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, NCKP National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, EPTA International Conference, and MTA state conferences. Dr Fast’s articles and reviews have been published in Music Performance Research, American Music Teacher, The Piano Magazine, and the New School for Music Study blog. Additionally, she has performed in chamber settings in England, Russia, Japan, and India as well as presented lecture recitals and master classes throughout the United States.

A devoted teacher, Dr Fast’s students have won numerous awards and secured teaching positions nationally and internationally, including in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. The OU collegiate chapter won the MTNA national Chapter of the Year award in 2017, 2009, and 2007. In recognition of her guidance and mentoring of students, Dr Fast was the recipient of the Oklahoma Music Teacher of the Year award and OU’s Irene and Julian Rothbaum Presidential Professor of Excellence in the Arts.

Dr Fast co-founded the National Group Piano and Piano Pedagogy Forum (GP3) in 2000, a biannual conference affiliated with MTNA that focuses on group piano and piano pedagogy teaching. GP3 will be holding its next conference in 2024. Currently she serves as Vice President for Membership on the Board of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). She also serves as Past-President of the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association. Additionally, she serves in numerous national and state MTNA and NCKP piano pedagogy related positions, including the Editorial Board of the Piano Magazine, MTNA E-Journal, and as Associate Editor of Piano Pedagogy Forum.

Former faculty appointments include the University of Northern Iowa, Hesston College, and Woodstock International School in India. Her broad interests are represented in her undergrad degree with a double-major in piano and flute, paired with a minor in English. When she is not teaching, presenting workshops, or engaging in research, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and interacting with family and friends.

Practice Tips Our Brains Like But We Avoid

Our brains learn most efficiently with specific practice habits, but research shows we naturally avoid some of them. How to help students practice in effective ways that really work, are explored in this keynote speech.

The author has successfully utilised the ‘Hardest First’ practice strategy, in group and private lessons. Grounded in sports research, the author-created strategy is based on ice skaters practising many easier moves rather than the intended, difficult moves. Surprisingly, the ice skaters remembered practising more repetitions of difficult moves (Deakon, 2003). Do musicians fall into the same trap: believing they spend more time on difficult areas but in reality spend more time on easier sections?

Cognitive and sports psychologists also recommend learning most efficiently via interleaved practice – returning frequently to an activity rather than extended, blocked practice. Most musicians intuitively use blocked practice. Recent music research indicates that Interleaved practice schedules are more effective than blocked practice (Carter & Grahn 2016). Surprisingly, research demonstrated that performers, even after giving their higher marks with interleaved practice, preferred blocked practice.

Why do musicians avoid doing what really works? Our own natural resistance (Pressfield, 2002) will be explored as explanations for the avoidance of what is most effective.

Useful tips for incorporating practice ideas that really work because our brains find them most efficient, such as ‘Hardest First’, and interleaved practice, will be shared. The presenter has actively employed these practice strategies in teaching both private lessons and group piano classes.

"Pet the Lizard"- Calming our Brain in Performance, Teaching and Life

Biologically our brain, sometimes called the lizard brain, is hardwired to be fearful and alert. While this fundamental aspect of our brain allowed us to survive, the fight-flight-freeze response remains an unconscious reaction to daily events: preparing to perform, getting to practice, or listening to the daily news. Exacerbated by the pandemic, finding ways to calm our lizard brain becomes an essential coping skill for teachers and students in our 21st century lives.

This workshop presents easy-to-use skills for students and teachers to help calm the background of vigilant anxiety that allowed us to survive. Sometimes referenced as "Pet the Lizard" (Hanson, 2018), suggestions from experts in the fields of sports psychology, neuropsychology, and positive psychology will be shared.

"Pet the Lizard" activities, easy to include in our daily lives, are explored in the workshop. They include:

  • Breathing technics (Tara Brach, Psychology)
  • Name the Stress, followed with …by at least (Commander, Sports Psychology)
  • Name the Support, Grateful for (Seligman, Positive Psychology)

"Pet the Lizard" activities related to helping students and teachers "Get To It" – starting to practice, studying for exams, or creating lessons plans, will be shared:

  • Pomodoro Technic and current adaptations
  • Focusmate
  • Tada Lists

Apps and websites that can be useful to "Pet the Lizard," will also be suggested during the workshop.

The presenter will explore the "Pet the Lizard" activities within the workshop with students, both in groups and applied piano teaching. Workshop participants will leave the workshop with technics that are easily applied in their daily lives.

All information stated in the website is correct at press time and subject to change without notice.