Kelly Kirby Piano Method
Kelly Kirby Piano Method. Also known as the Kelly Kirby Kindergarten Method and the Kelly Kirby Introductory Piano Program, this method is a system of teaching piano, musical rudiments, and theory to young beginners ages 3 to 5. Using ear training, it was developed in Toronto in the early 1930s by May and John Kirby. Weekly lessons employing pictures, stories, games, and movement, and designed to develop musical interest and knowledge, are given in a two-year course to small groups of children (usually classes of four). Public performance, discipline, and deportment are part of the method. More recently the program has been used in the private lesson setting, stimulating the young beginner in aspects of music education such as ear training, sight-reading, and piano playing.
May Kelly Kirby (b Mary Beatrice Kelly, Milton, Ont, 5 Feb 1886, d Toronto 26 Mar 1981) studied piano with her mother, then with F.H. Torrington at the Toronto College of Music. She began her teaching career in 1900, joining the TCM in 1910. Her husband, John Kirby (piano tuner, b England 1 Sep 1896, d Toronto 21 Apr 1979), assisted her in the development of the workbooks essential to the group approach to piano teaching. He hand-drew the first 1500 books, and the couple tested and refined the system by teaching neighbourhood children. Through observation of her young students, May Kirby developed a simple and attractive approach that followed the psychology of the modern kindergarten method of proceeding from the known to the unknown, and from a thing to its sign. On the recommendation of Sir Ernest MacMillan, the Frederick Harris Music Company published the first Kelly Kirby Kindergarten Method in 1936. Included in the series were the Kelly Kirby Workbooks (six levels of theory), Kelly Kirby Sight Reading (grades 1 and 2), Key to Music Teaching (teachers' manual), and several sets of flashcards. The Kirbys travelled widely, conducting seminars and demonstrations for teachers. May Kirby continued to teach at the Kelly Kirby Kindergarten of the Royal Conservatory of Music until a week before her death at 95.
The Kelly Kirby material is currently being used in Toronto as well as many other centres in Canada, including the Chilliwack Academy of Music in Chilliwack, BC, which has used the Kelly Kirby material since 1979, and the Victoria Conservatory of Music in Victoria, BC, which has used this method since its founding in 1964. There are many other centres across North America which use the Kelly Kirby Method, including Tinkertunes Music Studio in Traverse City, MI, where Tom Kaufmann has incorporated the method into his teaching studio since 1995, and Musical Arts Academy in Boone, NC, and Mountain City, TN, where DeAnna Wilson began teaching this method in the late 1970s. The Kelly Kirby method consists of four piano books, which combine aspects of ear training, sight-reading, technique, and theory. The success of this program is found in the child who wants to play piano; it is a performance training method that includes ear training, sight-reading, and piano playing from the very beginning.
Margaret Holman of Toronto became the national director of the Kelly Kirby Piano Method in 1981. In Vancouver, the Kelly Kirby Teachers' Association was active for many years before forming the non-profit society, the Kelly Kirby Music Society, in 2002, with Linda Shirley as its president. As Deborah Choit, a Vancouver Kelly Kirby teacher, writes, "The Kelly Kirby Kindergarten Piano Method provides an invaluable integration of eye and ear for ease in understanding, enjoyment, and love of music making." Helena Yea, also a Vancouver Kelly Kirby teacher, writes that the Kelly Kirby method introduces students to "the enjoyment of music, developing their individual facility, sight reading, technical development, and laying an excellent foundation for future advanced musical studies."