Things certainly have changed since I first published this post in 2018. I never dreamed I would be spending most of my time teaching online and social distancing when teaching in person. But I still want my students to look forward to their lessons. In fact, I want the piano to be something wonderful , fun, and peaceful.
I have one, most all important wish for every person (adult or child) who comes into my studio to begin piano lessons. That is, that they fall in love with the piano. Why? Because I know only that if they truly love the piano will they be able to persevere through the tremendous amount of work and sacrifice it takes to learn to play the piano well and discover they joy playing will bring them.
Loving the Lesson
I strive to make piano lessons the highlight of each student’s week. I want my students to look forward to their piano lessons. I want each student and their parents to enjoy the lesson so much that they literally don’t want to miss. How do I try to accomplish this?
As much as possible don’t to be physically and mentally ready for teaching. I know I need to be well rested, fed, and be ready to be fully present with each student. I make it a point to say I am really excited to see each student as they come through the door. One thing that really helps with this is to take notice something about them. I’ll say “Look at the flowers on your dress”, “You have a new backpack”. This almost always wins me a smile, people love to be acknowledged.
I try to make the lessons fun by varying activities. For younger beginners, this means lots of hands-on activities in addition to learning from the book. For older beginners, we do some ear training, and improvisation along with working through Method books, Scales, and Theory. I play a for my students at every lesson. I show them how much fun it is and how much I love it. I am hoping that my enthusiasm for the piano rubs off on them. I hope the will learn to love the piano!
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“If playing the piano was easy…”
All of my students can finish that sentence. “Everyone would do it!” I never tell my students that learning to play the piano is easy. It isn’t. In fact, I believe it’s one of the most difficult projects that one can take on. How does this help them fall in love with the piano? First of all, I think it’s important not to set them up for false expectations. I want them to know that because learning the piano is a ton of work they are not doing something wrong. Second, doing something that is difficult is rewarding. Try to make my students feel like they are part of an elite club, the piano players club.
The First Year
I believe establishing a love for the piano in the first year of lessons is super important. For this reason, I concentrate on teaching my students to get playing. For most students, this means learning to read and count proficiently and playing with both hands. We work on lots of ear training and improvisation as well. My goal is to have them see and feel that they are making good progress. I hold off on scales and arpeggios until year two, after my students learn to enjoy playing music.
People need inspiration. People need a dream. They need to see and hear how amazing it will be when they begin to reach their goals. As teachers, we are our students first example of someone who can play. It helps our students to see and hear us play, in the lesson, at recitals, in concerts, at church, school or wherever else we perform. It is also really inspiring for students (and parents) to see more advanced students playing. This proves that they can reach the goal of learning to play well. Having studio recitals really helps with this, I also keep some videos of my best students handy to show the newer students.
Where love is deep much can be accomplished” Shinichi Suzuki.
I love this quote from Dr. Suzuki. It is so true. I love the piano, I love teaching people to play the piano and most of all I love my students. All of this love goes a long way toward helping them discover the love that will keep them going through the many hours and years it takes to learn to play the piano.
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