Posts Tagged ‘taking a piano lesson’

The attached article deals with a topic I especially have trouble- making up piano lessons.  Teaching piano is such a joy!  The lessons bring beautiful children and loving families into my home.  Our relationships become very close and I often think of the kids as my own.

But there is a fine line when mixing business with friendships.  My policy clearly states that I offer make up lessons only for sickness.  I also give parents a copy of my schedule so they have the option of trading lesson times with another student.  Even with this, parents are constantly asking me to make up their child’s lesson.

I love the families with whom I work.  I don’t want to have hard feelings or lose their friendships.  But when a parent asks to have their child’s lesson made up it is very uncomfortable.

The Suzuki parent who wrote the article below, I think, says it well.

If you are a piano parents or teacher, please read and pass along.



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I was put in an interesting situation with one of my advanced students.  For the past year, I told him that it was time to move on to a new teacher. Although we had only been together a few years, his progress was like a wild fire.  He would accomplish my weekly goals and then create some of his own.  A piece that would normally take a student months to accomplish he would devour in a month.  But, as with most students, he was reluctant to change to a new teacher.  Devotion develops and personal relationships grow strong.

Last summer there was a clinician in town from a well known music conservatory and we decided to do a master class with her.  It was a good experience for all.  She too took interest in his unique talent.  Although it broke my heart, I encouraged him to pursue lessons with her.  I sat down with the professor and the family and yet his loyalty to me continued.  He was not ready to make a change although his parents knew it would be in his best interest.

After much conversation a decision was made to share lessons, every other week between the two teachers.  I was the most hesitant to agree.  Would the teacher and I see eye to eye?  Would my lessons seem immature to him once he experienced them back to back with the professor?  But most of all, would my teaching look misguided from the point of view of the professor?

The only request the professor made was the she would be choosing the repertoire.  I was more than happy to comply.  We talked about technique, his strengths and weaknesses and began the duel teaching arrangement in September.  I am pleased to report that after 6 months we all feel very good with the plan.  I sat the family down to evaluate  the situation last week and they are extremely pleased.  They felt that the professor and my goals were one, but that in the lessons we approached the goals from different angles.  Another noted difference was that the professor worked with technical details where I looked more at shaping the entire piece.  The family feels that we really compliment each other and that the boy is getting the best of both worlds.

Would I recommend this strategy to others?  The answer is no.  I am very fortunate to have found a professor that is willing to keep communication open with the family and me.  The other fortunate thing is that she has respect for me as an educator.  I show no pretense and would beckon to her teaching, but she puts no pressure on me and does not undermine my work.

At this point, we’ll see where it leads.  It’s nice to have respect among educators, because it really is all about the child.

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When I was a teen the last thing I ever wanted to do was practice piano.  I vowed I would never make any child of mine take piano lessons nor would I ever teach piano and make other kids suffer the purgatory  in which I was trapped.

Many years later………….. teaching piano is the most rewarding part of my life.  I also teach public school general music and enjoy that, but the piano lesson are what I would love to be doing full time.

I left public school teaching while raising my own children and opened a big piano studio.  The only stress in the situation was that I was teaching at night and lost  family time.  Our school district would not allow students to be pulled out for piano so I would start my teaching day when kids were out of school and my husband came  home.  In retrospect, I was with my own children all day and my husband was with them in the evenings so I feel we really gave all we could, but it was hard for us not to be together as a family very often.

During that time, I realized the little professional acclaim the general public had toward piano teaching.  I sometimes felt like I was looked upon as uneducated because I was at home teaching piano rather than being in the work force.  I think many viewed teaching piano as just a hobby one does if one knows how to play rather than a profession that I was able to do because I had a masters degree in music education.  I often found myself explaining that I was taking a break from teaching public school so they would at least know that I went to college.

I am writing with this purpose:  If you are pursuing piano lessons for yourself or for your child, check the credentials of the teacher before beginning.  Many teachers actually believe they are qualified to teach because they took lessons as a kid.  Not only look for a music degree, but the teacher should also have  a concentration in piano.

Another decision to consider is finding a piano teacher who not only has a degree in piano, but also in education.  A music student can attend college as an education major or performance major.   Being a performance major is a very demanding job.  The performance major builds skill and technique to the maximum.  To be a music education major with a concentration in piano is less demanding in practice, however the teaching component  is added.  Which route you choose in deciding on a teacher is a personal decision.  The music education major will know how to work with children, but may have less skills than a performance major.  This by no means implies that a performance major cannot have both piano skills and an understanding of children.

When looking for a piano teacher, look for someone who is doing it as a profession, not as a hobby.  Check the teacher’s credentials, talk to parents and students who work with that teacher, and even ask to sit in on some lessons before agreeing to join their piano studio.  See how the teacher interacts with the students.

When music is approached as a  discipline, one will be successful.  Only a qualified teacher is able to facilitate this goal.

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Piano students, violin students, music teachers and music parents, check out the new site for the Suzuki Kingston music festival. The site has been updated and ready for viewing.

The institute takes place in Kingston, Ontario Canada at Queen’s University. Kingston is a beautiful destination. The city is lively with a harbor that attracts tourists from the U.S. and Canada and is in walking distance from the university.

The Suzuki Kingston site now includes student programs, teacher programs, and enrichment classes that will be offered. The professional staff that have formed this loving program returns with unbridled enthusiasm, driven to ensure the quality will be as strong as ever.

Read about the enrichment programs. There are some tried and true programs returning and many new ones.

Traditional and Suzuki students are welcome.

The registration forms are not yet posted but will be coming soon.

Click on:

Hope to see you this summer!

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cimg4437This may not seem like a innovative idea, but I think it’s very clever. I just bought these little arrow Post-it notes. It was a great deal; hundreds of them in rainbow colors. So I thought they might be useful to show a student what to practice at a glance. These little slips of paper ended up being more useful than I had imagined!

My student was playing Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite and was ready for me to check one movement from memory. As I was listening, I started putting the arrows in sections that I wanted to discuss with her. I suddenly realized that this was a brilliant idea. (So often when a student plays a long piece I forget little things I want to talk about.) When she had finished I had her music “decorated” and we began to look at the spots together. That’s when I realized that the arrows were wide enough for me to write reminder comments on them! I was even more excited. Together, we decided how to practice certain sections, added dynamics, corrected wrong notes, etc. Not only will the arrows remind her to go directly to problem spots, but they will also remind her of my suggestions. When she opens the piece she won’t have to think about where to begin to practice or how. These little arrows act as an immediate visual cue. They will also help her in setting goals for her practice. By the end of the practice my student and I were both giddy over these little slips of paper and the music looked soooo pretty.

If she is successful in practice this week, I will be able to remove the arrows. If a section still needs work, the arrow will remain. Another perk is that when the arrows are removed, her score will be clean. I always hated when my teacher wrote in my music, especially in RED! The marks, to me, symbolized failure. Plus it felt like defacing the book. (As a kid, I was a really neat, not so much anymore .)

My suggestion this week is to stimulate the economy and buy Post it arrows. Think of it as a Valentine gesture. Pretend you are cupid and shoot some arrows into someone’s music.

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Oh, the pain of practicing! I am always surprised when I hear of people who enjoy it. Ok- I’ll admit it; I do enjoy practicing once I get to the piano. But getting there is somewhat a challenge. I can always find a million other things to do instead.

I was one of these kids who asked my mother weekly if I could quit piano lessons. I also took dancing lessons and truly loved it. I loved to sing too. So I didn’t feel I was giving up music- I just wanted to give up on the piano. ( If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you already know why) But her answer was always the same, “No. I quit when I was young and I regretted it. So you keep working and someday you will be able to just sit and play for fun.” She was right; I have never heard an adult say that they were glad they quit music lessons.

So, I kept playing and kept asking to quit. Needless to say, everyone was shocked when I went to college for music education. (Remember, I said I did like music; I just hated to practice) Even in college I would come home on breaks and cry to my mother that I wanted to quit. At that point though, the choice was up to me and she just listened. At graduation from college I vividly remember walking up to the stage to receive my “bachelor’s of music education” diploma and thinking, “I never have to practice again!”.

There you have it! I am now a public school music teacher and a piano teacher. And, with a smile, I am asking my students to practice every day. I tell my students my story and they laugh just thinking that I know how they feel sometimes.

When should a student quit lessons? The answer is never. I truly believe kids need music lessons (once again, read my other blogs to find out why). But I also truly believe that it is the teacher and parent’s job to make the lessons and practices positive, creative, and fun. It is the teacher and parents job to encourage without forcing, celebrate their efforts, and share the learning process so that the child does not feel the burden on his shoulders. Children learn best in a loving environment.

As our children were growing up we told them they had 3 daily responsibilities: brush your teeth, make your bed, practice. When should children be allowed to quit? Now that I am an adult the answer has become “never”.

p.s. Do I practice? The answer is ‘yes’…….. sometimes!

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I think piano people are the only ones who would know the abbreviation H.S. My piano teacher wrote it in my lesson book every week. For those non-piano players, H.S. means hands separate.

Playing hands separate is a valuable exercise that should be emphasized in practicing. I went to a music conference and the clinician asked the teacher audience, “When is it time to stop practicing hands separate?” His answer was, “never”. Although it may seem redundant and boring to practice this way, it has great value.

Mostly, it keeps the brain engaged. It helps to memorize each hand and really know the part, which makes playing H.T. (hands together) so much easier. It is easier to see patterns that the left hand may have, gives each hand a chance to incorporate dynamics and to become competent in tricky passages. Because the left hand is often the accompaniment, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. By plying H.S. one can begin to hear voicing and it makes the harmony more melodic. I like to tell my students that they should be able to sing the left hand as they are laying in bed. I also ask the student to practice the left hand with the pedaling. Layering the tasks proves to be successful.

Playing Bach or Baroque music in general, H.S. playing is very important. I have my students memorize each hand before attempting to play the piece H.T. By doing so, the learning curve is streamlined. I encourage playing hands separately in trouble spots and at all stages of learning a piece.

On the day of a performance, I recommend playing H.S. If each hand knows what it’s doing independently, when the hands play together, the performance will be more secure.

In conclusion, practicing a piece H.S. is important to learning and maintaining the quality of a piece. In doing so, a student will have the world of music at their fingertips!

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