MUSIC 207b, Topics in Piano, Spring ‘09

Professor Curt Cacioppo

“American Roots”

music reflecting African American, Native American and Latin American traditions,
from piano rags to chromatic tangos to Navajo evocations

This is a full credit applied music course for intermediate and advanced pianists, which fulfills a humanities requirement and may be used as a music major or minor elective.

Pre-requisite: audition and consent of instructor

Course structure

Primary unit.  Weekly one-hour long private lessons* with the professor, and the student’s two-hour-per-day practice commitment, make for an intensive musical experience leading to end of semester performance on the class recital.  Supplemental coachings and rehearsals may be called at the professor’s discretion.
* There is no lesson fee for this course.

Subordinate unit.  In addition, reading and listening/viewing assignments relating to the overall topic and to each student’s particular repertoire will be required.  Participation in at least three studio classes in which students play for each other and comment on each other’s performance is required.  Students may perform in masterclasses by visiting artists William Appling* and Althea Waites**, based on their progress and readiness.   Attendance at performances and masterclasses/colloquia on the “American Roots Concert Series” is required.

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Audition process

To audition, sign up for an audition time with Prof. Cacioppo during the first week of the semester. You will find the sign up sheet posted on the bulletin board opposite his office, Rm. 221, Union Building. You may contact the Music Department administrative assistant, Amy Rouse, at 610 896 1012, or by email at for information on available audition times or to help sign you in.  Be prepared to demonstrate scales/arpeggios/technical studies, do some sight reading, and play one or two pieces that you have learned previously (for instance, a sonata movement, an etude, or a character piece).  Auditions will be held in Rm. 221 Union. 


This semester’s course will be devoted to concert repertoire by African American, Latin American, and Native American composers, and by others inspired by these cultural traditions. Women composers will be well represented. The inspiration for the course stems from the professor’s participation in a recent festival of the same title organized by the prominent musical author Joseph Horowitz and produced by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in conjunction with the Newark Museum.  Here is a working list of composers and titles from which we will draw our music for study and performance:

Representative of the African American tradition

Scott Joplin – selected piano rags
James P. Johnson - April in Harlem; Yamekraw
William Grant Still - Three Visions; Seven Traceries
Florence Price - Dances in the Canebrakes; Cotton dance; The Old Boatman
Elinor Warren – Dark Hills; The Fountain; Sea Rhapsody
Margaret Bonds - Troubled Water
George Walker (Pulitzer Prize winner) – Spatials; Spektra
Halim el-Dabh - Osmo-Symbiosis (Duo-Tahmeel no.1) for 2 pianos; Felucca (The Celestial Journey); Arabiyaats; Ifrikiyaats,  & Misriyaats; Mekta’  in the Art of Kita’
Ulysses Kay - 2 Impromptus; Short Pieces for piano 4 hands
Alvin Singleton - Argoru I; Changing Faces; Inside-Out for 4 hands
Jeffrey Mumford - Barbaglio del manca
Gyimah Labi - Earthbeats, Op. 22 from Six Dialects in African Pianism

Representative of the Latin American tradition

Tania León - Ensayos sobre una Toccata; Momentum; Rituál
Arturo Márquez - En clave; Zacamandú en la yierba
Luis Jorge González – Calles de Buenos Aires
Alejandro Cardona - Xikiyeua in Xochitl
Heitor Villa-Lobos - Danças características africanas; Bachianas brasileiras no.4
Gabriela Ortiz – Danza for prepared piano; Patios serenos
Carlos Chavez - Jarabe; Xochimilco Dance; Danza de la pluma; Poligonos; Foxtrot; Blues; Paisaje; Unidad
Alberto Ginastera - Danzas argentines; Malambo; Preludios americanos; Suite de danzas criollas
Frederic Rzewski – Un pueblo unido

Representative of the Native American tradition

Louis Ballard - The Spider Rock; Gado Dajvyadvhneli Jisa; Mi Cinski, Hec'ela T'ankalake K'uniyaye; Mez
The Indianists – music by Busoni, Cadman, Farwell, Loomis
Judith Sainte Croix (Pulitzer Prize nominee) – Kachina Preludes: Pakwabi (Tadpole); Poli Mana (Butterfly); Hahai-I-Wuhti (Mother of the Kachinas); Nangasohu (Star Chaser); Tukwinong (Cumulus Cloud) featured on the CD "Visions of Light and Mystery" as performed by the composer
Ruth Lomon - Five Ceremonial Masks: from the Navajo Yeibichai night chants
Paul Humphreys - Toccata Walatowa
Curt Cacioppo - Pawnee Preludes
Sean Heim - In the Between

Piano Topics offered in previous semesters


Masterclasses and recitals presented by guest pianists in the past

Garrick Ohlsson, Claude Frank, Frederic Rzewski, Gilbert Kalish, Dalton Baldwin, Tatiana Nicolayeva, Enrica Cavallo, Charles Abramovic, Alessandra Ammara, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Richard Goode, Roberto Prosseda, Anne Marie MacDermott, Marc Antonio Barone, Deborah Gilwood, Jennifer Tao, Elitza Harbova, Jeanne Stark, Margaret Baxtresser, Linda de Pasquale, Alyssa Leiser, William Appling, Althea Waites, Roger Muraro, Awadagin Pratt, Alison Brewster, Lisa Weiss, Diane Walsh, Riccardo Piacentini, Linda Laurent, Mary Ann Brown, Kenneth Fearn, Charles Gangemi, William Huckaby, Marina Grin, Paul Orgel, Matthew Bengtson, David Allen Wehr, Debra Lew Harder, George Walker, and jazz artists Marian McPartland, Cecil Taylor, Bert Seager, Renee Rosnes, Orrin Evans; harpsichordists Colin Tilney, Kenneth Gilbert, and Adam Pearl, organists Giuseppe Zanaboni, Jeffrey Brillhart, and Robert Gallagher; special lectures by Harvey Sachs (Rubinstein biographer), Dr. Irene Danek (arts medicine, Interlochen Arts Academy), Robert Taylor (owner of the Aeolian Duo-Art player piano company), Richard Freedman (musicologist – on “rubato”), Ingo Hofmann (European trained master piano technician).