A Warm Atmosphere

I try to have a warm, welcoming atmosphere when I give my lessons. I have students who come and bring all their problems with them. This doesn’t make for a good lesson. I had one boy who used to have problems in school. I had him go out and come in again. I told him he left his problems OUTSIDE my doorstep. It seemed to work. After a couple of times of doing that he got the message. Attitude is so important and lessons should be pleasurable.

I have a boy with me now who has a glorious smile. It makes me happy just to see him. He has been studying with me for about 5 years. The early years weren’t that easy, but the smile was always there .. Until one week when it wasn’t. I knew something was wrong but it took a while for me to understand what the problem was. It turned out that he was afraid to put his hands together. At home, he could practice them separately, but he knew I would make him play them together and he seemed to be dreading it. When I saw his fear, I started to work with him very slowly on the problem. By the end of the lesson he felt better, but not great. It took about 2 weeks for him to get over the fear and I have not had that problem with him again and the smile returned.

Patience Gained

One of the great side effects of playing the piano is the gaining of patience. As one gets into the complexities of study one learns that it takes time to perfect ones performance. You can’t force the issue, but you have to work and be patient. This is a great lesson in life. I love plants. I recently purchased an amaryllis. I love to watch these plants grow. They grow about an inch a day. It takes several weeks before the flower finally opens up and blooms, but it is such fun to watch the progress. And that is how it is with playing the piano. You make progress. Each day you get a little better. That is the importance of having patience … it doesn’t happen all at once.

I always play a piece for my students before it is assigned for them to learn, because I want them to enjoy the process and if they don’t like the work to begin with then the journey will not be pleasurable. And it is the journey that is so important. Life is a journey and we need patience for so much of it.

Instant Gratification

I was looking for the Rio Olympics on my TV and just scanning the stations when I came across a program with a new method for learning to play the piano almost instantly. Being curious as to the method, I watched the program. In my opinion, the method was only good for instant gratification, because it took away the value of learning. Everything was watered down. You didn’t even have to learn the names of the notes on the piano because you taped the names on the keys. I recently made a film of what I considered to be a first lesson. Most of the time in my video is spent in learning the names of the notes and what they look like.

Yes, each note has a special look and that is what I want the student to remember. In my teaching I want to lay a strong foundation. To me, learning to play one piece is not as important as learning to be able to play many. He then went on to give the names of the lines and spaces in the treble clef. But you didn’t need to learn that wither, because in his books, the names of the lines or spaces were written into the middle of the notes. I would say that once this is done the student will not learn the names of the notes but rather read by the crutch.

It is very difficult to get a new student to have the patience to learn slowly, but correctly. I try to make it as easy as I can and within a short period of time they are reading music, a skill they will have for the rest of their life.

I just got back from a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass. We went to several demonstrations on making items of glass. One of the things we learned was that those working in glass worked for three years and then were considered beginners. My son in law and I both made something, he a flower and I a pendant. I do NOT consider myself a glass artist having made one piece nor do I think you can consider yourself a pianist by being able to play one piece.

Is Playing the Piano a Priority?

Playing the piano is NOT a priority in todays’  world. It used to be that the piano was considered to be a subject of learning, the same as school subjects. One used to see pictures of people gathered around a piano and singing. This was their entertainment for the evening. Now we have so much entertainment everywhere we look that we no longer entertain ourselves.

I just heard that Keyboard Concepts in Agoura Hills is closing. That store is in an affluent community, but obviously the piano business wasn’t coming in – by the way, if you are in the market for a piano, this would be a great time to buy. They will still have other stores, so your purchase will be protected.

Learning to play the piano has many side rewards, not only right and left side brain stimulation. I taught my grandchildren for about 3 years using SKYPE. When they went into middle school they had the opportunity to learn another instrument. They both chose the trumpet. Their music teacher told them that they were way ahead because they were able to play the piano. At this time, they are working at both trumpet and piano and my granddaughter has added the oboe. She loves and works at all three instruments.

Learning to play the piano teaches people to focus. One has to concentrate on what you are doing. It teaches you how to study and most of all it teaches patience. There are few instant rewards. One of my young students told me (with a beautiful smile on his face) that he could now play a chord which he couldn’t do 10 weeks ago. To me, I could see that he felt gratification as he was learning that it takes effort to get good.