I believe all students can learn to read music and play the piano; all students can improve their musical and creative skills to play increasingly difficult and interesting music; all students can learn about the dedication and discipline necessary to accomplish the difficult task of playing the piano.
My goals for each piano student are:
- Students will gain an appreciation and understanding of music.
- Students will be able to read music.
- Students will be able to read and play increasingly difficult rhythms.
- Students will be able to use their hands and body in a way that promotes successful sound production at the piano.
- Students will learn about the discipline required for regular practice and improvement.
- Students will learn about how they can interpret music and express themselves.
- Students will explore creativity at the piano.
- Students will learn about standard classical piano repertoire.
- Students will explore jazz and popular music
- Students will learn about music theory and the structure of music.
- Students will explore composing music.
Materials: I use the Faber Piano Adventures method books and supplement them with pop, jazz and classical repertoire as appropriate to each student. Because each individual student comes to lessons with a different set of innate skills, I use supplementary books, worksheets and sheet music to help them increase their abilities in specific areas and to motivate them to practice.
Instrument: I insist that students have an acoustic piano or an electronic piano with weighted keys at home. An acoustic piano is strongly preferred, even an older piano, over an electronic one. Young people today have many electronic devices in their lives, and I think having a musical instrument that is mechanical gives them a different attitude about music lessons. I will not teach students who only have an inexpensive keyboard that is not touch sensitive, as their fingers and hands will not develop the strength and touch necessary to play the piano.
Commitment: I applaud parents’ decision to include music education for their child. I strong urge parents to commit to two years of study; to let their child know that music education is an important part of life; and to insist that they will not learn without regular practice. The approach of “I’ll give him/her a couple of months of lessons and see if they like it” is setting your child up for failure. Students will resist practicing at some point. One of the benefits of piano lessons is giving a young person the opportunity to learn about discipline and hard work.
Repertoire: I bring standard classical repertoire into the student’s lessons as soon as possible. Music that is still played and enjoyed 300-400 years after it was written clearly has stood the test of time and is worthwhile, even in the 21stcentury. And there is a lot of great music being written today by living composers that young pianists enjoy. Many students will want to learn to play pop or jazz music, and if that is the case, I will add music from these styles into lessons.
Technique: The development of piano technique is very important, and all of my students are required to play technical exercises, including scales and arpeggios. I expect students to practice these exercises each time they practice.
Performance: I have a number of performing opportunities for students at all levels. I hold two recitals per year and ask all students participate. In addition, students can play in formal recitals held by a local Minneapolis teacher organization. Some of my students participate in the Minnesota Music Teachers Association piano exam program, which includes a rigorous curriculum of technical exercises, performances, and theory tests. If you are interested in either of these programs, please let me know.