Newspaper articles in The French School of Music archives report that Sergey Rachmaninoff sent a formal letter to the US State Department advising them that Mlle. Yvonne Combe should be allowed to emigrate from Montreux, Switzerland to the US to bring solfege to this country. She then founded the French School of Music in 1927.
Because I am a former student of Mlle. Combe and close to her last generation of students and witnesses to her methodology, I was tapped to reboot solfege classes at French School. Solfege is a surprisingly approachable system for understanding music involving singing on-pitch, sightreading, conducting time, ear training, and music dictation.
Losing Mlle. Combe in 1990 at the age of 97, and her student Stephen Waters in 2014, was a profound loss to the French School community. Therefore, we have a three-fold mission:
1. Pass on the legacy we were given, instilling within students a solid foundation of musicality and helping them become self-sufficient
2. Build on that foundation, creating a bridge to the world as it is today.
3. Give everyone the means to become us in the future, passing that legacy to the next generation, along with new advances. Because I have a background in software development, technical training, and engineering management, I will also work to cultivate within advanced students their mentoring and leadership skills
I am amenable to traveling in the NJ area to teach solfege classes if there is a need.
French School of Music Facebook page - We have memorabilia, recital recordings, and even video from Carnegie Recital Hall trophy ceremonies from the 1970s.
This is also valuable for those wanting to join the French School community by finding alumni who teach and pass on our musical legacy.
Fundamentals of Piano Practice - My father wrote this, capturing Mlle. Combe's wildly efficient piano practice methods. He was a parent who sometimes attended our lessons, and he recorded over 10 years worth of French School recitals. He is probably the best person to have written the book: he has a scientific background (retired physicist) and could approach this task with an objective mindset. He took 7 years of piano lessons but his teacher wasn't French School quality, so he became an intermediate level player but struggled to achieve more than that. While my sister and I took so much for granted (all we knew was French School), he recognized immediately how valuable Mlle. Combe's teachings were because he knew a lot about how to learn about music the wrong way. While my sister and I were witnesses as children, he was an adult parent witness. Many times something clicked in my head finally when he explained what really happened back then.
This book, together with the solfege teaching guide, are meant to be companion books.
The one-two combination of solfege lessons and efficient piano practice methods empowered many of my fellow classmates from the 1970s to perform in Carnegie Recital Hall as children and have extraordinary lives. I am the eighth of the alumni from around my time that I know of who studied at Juilliard or pre-Juilliard. At least five others studied at Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, Ottawa, etc. And when we were students, Mlle. Combe was already in her 80s and slowing down.
Digitized accompaniment book in Dropbox - Because the accompaniment books at French School are very fragile, I digitized them and added them to Dropbox.