Welcome back for the fourth and final installment of this “Rock Your Socks Off” composer series. I’m so glad you stopped by, and I hope you like what I’ve put together for this week’s amazing female composer!
Delving into the world of fantastic composers throughout history, it was actually difficult to narrow it down to just four for a month’s worth of blogs. I’m excited for the next time I get to throw in a composer series, because there really are many more composers worth mentioning and listening to.
This week, I’m covering an Austrian composer born in 1759 named Maria Theresa von Paradis. Throughout her life, she wrote two piano concertos, two piano sonatas, five operas, and many, many more pieces. A large portion of her works have unfortunately been lost, though while alive she was one of the only female composers who was able to gain popularity across Europe. Unlike many female composers born in the eighteenth century, Paradis had the opportunity to tour France, England and Germany. She even caught the attention of Amadeus Mozart, who is rumored to have written his Piano Concerto no. 18 in her honor. Maria was also permitted to study with renowned piano teachers of the time in order to further her musical education. Pretty incredible, considering that the level of opportunity afforded her was virtually unheard of for women at the time.
Paradis was not without struggles, however. Around two years old, she began losing her eyesight and was completely blind by the age of five. Even at such a young age and without being able to see, Paradis was a musical prodigy, well-known by the age of seventeen. At the time, transcribing original compositions while blind was a very difficult task. With the help of a man named Johann Reidinger, Paradis could use a special composition board which was tailored to her needs, and she was able to record her musical genius.
Later in life, Maria founded a music school for girls in Vienna, Austria where she taught voice, piano and music theory.
If you like what you learned about Maria Theresa von Paradis, make sure to check out one of her most famous pieces - Sicilienne, (my favorite is the arrangement written for cello and piano).
Thanks for stopping by! Since this is the last of my composer posts for a while, I’d love to hear your ideas on what you may like to see for the next composer series, (any specific genres or groups that you’re interested in).
See you next week!
Welcome back for week three of the “Rock Your Socks” composer series! In case this is your first week on my blog, make sure to check out my previous blog posts about Amy Beach and Fanny Mendelssohn. Both were truly incredible composers that few have heard about. Throughout the course of my blog, I’ll be inserting the occasional four-week series about different composers you should know about. This month, I’ve been writing about female composers in history in honor of Women’s History month.
To introduce the next composer of this series, I have to do a little bit of a preface. Without trying to diminish neither Fanny Mendelssohn’s nor Amy Beach’s incredible compositions, I have to admit that their particular styles are not my first choice when I want to listen to classical music. For the most part, I have a few favorite pieces from each that are on my classical music playlist. Cecile Chaminade, however, makes the top five in my list of favorite composers. Her flute and piano compositions are not only impressive when it comes to the technical elements of the music, but each piece feels like it takes the listener on an emotional journey or tells a story. (And, in fact, much of what she wrote was for ballets and operas, so I guess I’m not far off). They have almost a cinematic quality to them that keeps me riveted through the whole piece, and leaves me wanting more at the end! So, basically, Cecile Chaminade knows how to use magic. There’s no other explanation.
Now for the facts: Cecile Chaminade was born in France in 1857. She received her first music lessons from her mother, who was an accomplished pianist and singer. Cecile began composing at seven years old. When she was of age, her father would not allow her to study at the Paris Conservatory of Music, but she was allowed to study privately with Conservatory professors. She later toured the United States, (including performances at the historic Carnegie Hall) and Europe, frequently performing for Queen Victoria. She was the first female to be awarded a position in the the Legion of Honor, and even inspired women across the United States to form musical societies called “Chaminade Clubs.” Throughout her life, Chaminade is speculated to have written approximately 400 pieces, publishing around 200 of them during her lifetime. Cecile died on April 13, 1944
If you’re looking for a fantastic piece from the late Romantic period, I would recommend Chaminade’s Arabesque no. 1, Opus 61. You will not regret it. The motive and sequences she uses throughout elicited an emotional response when I first heard it, (my eyes fogged up ok? It happens. I'm sure it was just allergies or something....) Really though, it is so, so beautiful. For any piano families reading this blog, I strongly encourage you to check out more of Chaminade’s work, maybe share some facts you learned about her with your family, and spread the word! There really are very few who know about these accomplished composers, and I would love to do my part in helping others discover their amazing contributions to classical music!
Thanks so much for joining me as I geek out about these stunning composers. I hope you can join me next week for the fourth and final installment of this little series. See you next time!
Welcome back to my blog for week two of this four week composer series! For my first time through this series, (I’ll be throwing in four weeks of great composers a couple of times throughout the year) I’m focusing on female composers in honor of Women’s History Month. I’m so excited you’re back and I’m thrilled to be able to write to you today about a composer who will completely rock your socks off. Seriously, this is one lady you’ll never want to forget.
Many music enthusiasts have heard of a man named Felix Mendelssohn, famous for many pieces during the Romantic Era including A Midsummer Night’s Dream Scherzo and the traditional Wedding March. Far fewer have heard of Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix’s older sister.
Like many of the composers I’m including in this series, Fanny was a talented musician from a very young age. She was first taught by her mother, (who was taught by a student of J.S. Bach) and by the age of thirteen she could play all twenty-three of the preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. Despite her natural talent and love for music, Fanny had a difficult start with very little support from her father. He told her, “Music will perhaps become his [Felix’s] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament.”
Fortunately, Fanny’s mother, her brother Felix, (and later her husband Wilhelm Hensel) encouraged her to pursue music, and she didn’t disappoint.
Fanny often composed privately, publishing some of her pieces under Felix’s name. One of which, Italien, was chosen by Queen Victoria as her favorite. When the queen made this announcement, Felix disclosed that it was one of his sister’s compositions. In addition, Fanny Mendelssohn is now speculated to be the creator of the musical genre dubbed Songs Without Words, a category in which she and her brother both composed a number of beautiful pieces.
Throughout her lifetime, Fanny Mendelssohn composed over 460 of her own songs, as well as composed collaboratively with her brother. She did eventually perform publically at the age of thirty-three, finally published a piece under her own name in 1846, and passed away in 1847.
If you haven’t heard any of Fanny’s music just yet, I would encourage you to check out some of my favorites: Capriccio in A-Flat and Piano Trio in D minor. No, I didn’t have those titles memorized. But they have made it to my favorite classical playlist;). Don’t you just love those people who can spout off titles of obscure classical pieces? I’m not one of them. Yet.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Fanny Mendelssohn! We’re already halfway through the first composer series of this blog. Make sure to hop on next week for the third composer of the month, and feel free to post any comments, like or share. See you next week!
Welcome music teachers and parents! I’m so excited you stopped by. As a piano teacher, I get really enthusiastic about music blogs, lessons, and other teaching aids. There are so many online resources that I reap the benefits from on the daily. This blog, however, is primarily for the parents with kids in piano. My goal is to instill in every home a more comprehensive music knowledge-base, a deeper understanding of what your kid is doing every week in lessons, the benefits they reap beyond the bench, and more. Many of these posts will be applicable to adults in lessons as well - so stay tuned for some great tips and information!
First Thing’s First: I’m not a child psychologist, and I’m definitely not a parenting expert. My opinions on many of these topics are based off of my experience as a teacher thus far. Occasionally, I’m going to throw suggestions to you as the parents in order to help you have more success with the little musicians in your home. Ultimately, this is your home we’re talking about. You’re the boss. I’m just getting your professional parental juices flowing and offering some ideas you might like.
Thank you for bringing me along on your music-learning journey!
I’ll see you on Monday!
This week marks the start of a four part series I’m calling the “Rock your Socks” weeks. Each week, I’ll be sharing a little bit of information about four composers in history that you probably didn’t know about and you’ll wish you heard about earlier! Following the four weeks of composers, I’ll be moving on to different topics. Throughout the course of this blog, I’ll occasionally throw in another four-week composer series, so stay tuned to get your healthy dose of music history!
This week, I’m highlighting a composer I didn’t know about as a kid and have grown to absolutely love as an adult. Her name was Amy Beach.
Born in New Hampshire in 1867, Amy Marcy Cheney was born in a unique time for music. Romantic music was at its peak, but a new era was just around the corner. Much of her original compositions reflect the beautiful juxtaposition of romanticism and modern music. While she was not recognized for it publically at the time, Amy could now be considered a key player in ushering in the modern era of music.
Born a prodigy, Amy quickly developed an impressive track record of musical feats. Some of her most impressive include having at least forty vocal pieces memorized by the age of one, harmonizing those melodies with her voice by the age of two, and began composing music shortly after beginning her classical training on the piano. One account even explains how during a summer with her grandfather, (who did not own a piano) she composed three fully-developed waltzes, only to play them when she returned home in the fall.
It’s worth noting that male musical prodigies born in the United States who had the money, (and Amy’s family were quite wealthy) were often sent to Europe for classical music training. Because she was a woman, Amy was not afforded this opportunity and had to make due with tutors at home and her own thirst for musical knowledge. Despite the challenges of the time and the discouragement she received due to her gender, (a little later in life, her husband had a condition for their marriage that she could no longer perform or teach the piano) Amy went on to become the first American woman to compose a symphony, was the first woman in history to publically compose for choral music, and altogether composed approximately 300 original works. Some of her most widely-known include Gaelic Symphony, Theme and Variations for flute and string quartets, and Cabildo.
Following her husband’s death, Amy finally had the chance to tour Europe for two years performing hers and other renowned works, but had to return to the United States due to the onset of World War I.
Music History in Lessons and at Home
As part of music lessons, I obtained a great stack of composer flashcards from www.classicsforkids.com, (check out the video description on my media page). When I bring the flashcards to lessons, I lay them out and let the students choose who they want to learn about. I have no idea why, but almost all twenty of my current students have chosen Amy Beach within their first two choices. And she’s not even the only woman composer in the stack. I guess she’s just awesome that way.
I have believed for a long time that early exposure to classical music has a hugely beneficial effect on the kids of today, (and even more so when they get this exposure at home, not just once a week during lessons). Why not throw in a little information along with it? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a little tidbit or two about the composer of a song you happen to have playing in the house.
A Challenge for Parents
Here’s my challenge for the next four weeks: each week, after reading my snippet about the highlighted composer, find some time to have one of their pieces playing in your home. At some point while the music is playing, mention something interesting about the composer, such as: “Hey, did you know that the person who wrote this wrote over 300 other songs? She was pretty cool.” A little bit of musical brainwashing, if you will;)
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Join me next week for another great composer who will rock your socks!
Over the last couple of weeks, this blog has covered some of the common concerns for parents with kids in piano lessons. While I hope that some of my perspectives have put your mind at ease, (and maybe even helped you choose to stick with lessons a little longer) I also understand that sometimes it really is appropriate to quit piano lessons. I trust that you will be a good judge for when it’s okay to quit. In this blog, I want to address one of the most uncomfortable things for parents when they have to pull out of lessons: telling the teacher.
If you ever have to approach a teacher about quitting, here are a few suggestions compiled from my own and other teacher’s experiences:
1. Give Plenty of Advance Notice
In discussion with other teachers, this was easily the most prominent answer when I asked what they would like to see happen when a student has to quit. Across the board, teachers I spoke with seem to agree that 30 days is an appropriate notice to give for quitting lessons. Whether your teacher makes a little money on the side by teaching lessons or it’s their primary source of income, always assume they’ll need enough paid time to find a student to replace the one they’re losing. If this is not the case and the teacher has families on a waiting list, they will let you know. Advance notice also gives the teacher the chance to restructure some of the student’s last few lessons so they can set the student up for success should they continue playing the piano on their own.
2. Let the teacher know why you are quitting
Admittedly, this one is tough. The older I get, the more I tend towards feeling like I don’t have to explain myself to others when it comes to my personal life decisions. However in the case of music lessons, I believe that being open with the teacher can help them move forward and improve their policies and procedures. I firmly believe that a good teacher stays in a student mentality to some extent throughout the course of their career. If I notice that my students are quitting and they all have similar reasons, I might be guided to something I need to change. Even if the reason doesn’t have to do with your teacher directly, I would encourage letting them in on it anyway. You never know what they might find beneficial.
3. Honor previous commitments
Wherever possible, try to stick to commitments such as finishing up through the term, (I have my studio scheduled in quarters; your teacher might have a different arrangement). Other commitments could involve reaching a certain level, or being able to play a certain song. Barring family emergencies or personal catastrophes, sticking to a commitment is great for the student and helpful to the teacher. (Most of us prefer giving the student a great send-off!)
4. Throw a kind gesture their way
Alright, this one might be a little selfish. I just know from personal experience that sometimes losing a student you love is really tough. Besides teaching your child piano, your teacher has likely developed a relationship with them and loves them a lot! In a couple of instances, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really sweet families who sent me a kind note of thanks after teaching them for some time. I know, I know. I’m being a little sappy here. And certainly, your teacher is a professional who would never require this. That would be weird. I’m just throwing it out there in case you otherwise would not have thought about it. I don’t know one music teacher who wouldn’t love this.
Thank you so much for reading. Join me next week for the first of a four-part series that will absolutely rock your socks!! Spread the word, because your friends with kids in music lessons, (not just piano) are going to want to tune in! See you there!
About a week ago, (on February 16, 2019) our studio had a piano recital! It was a major success, and a lot of nerve-wracking fun for all of us. I'm pretty sure one of my students even caught me trying to dry off my sweaty palms before I went up to play. The kids did an incredible job, and I couldn't be more proud.
This year, the recital's theme was Growth at the Piano. I chose this title because with so many recital first-timers, I really wanted to instill this idea that a recital is for sharing the music and the progress we've made throughout the year. It's not a competition, it's not a judged event, it's just for sharing the music. For this recital, most of us chose a song from our lesson books which we felt would best represent the musical concepts we've been working on. And the kids weren't alone - I prepared and played my piece to finish off the recital!
I learned a few things throughout the process, (such as where to position the camera for the video, to make sure to get pictures with every student and a group shot of all of us, etc.) But hey, we're all learners here. Below I've posted a few of the pictures that me and some of the parents were able to get at the event. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of all fifteen of the performers, (lesson learned) but at least we have a few! Also keep an eye on my Media page for next Wednesday when I post our recital video.
Lesson #1 for Mindee: make sure your post actually appeared when you thought you published it to the site. Oh well, you guys will get a double-dose of piano posts this week!
Last week we covered a lot of the concerns for parents with kids who don’t practice piano at home during the week. In that post, we discussed the benefits of piano lessons all on their own, (be sure to check it out if you didn’t get the chance!). This week, I’m going to outline three main suggestions for motivating students to practice at home. All three can be introduced by the teacher, but ultimately the parents are the ones who can help incorporate these habits throughout the week. Let’s get started!
1. Repetition doesn’t have to be dull.
It’s inevitable. Throughout the week, your student will be working on the same song(s) every day. If we know that we have to do the same thing over and over, why not change it up a little every time?
I first saw this idea through Teach Piano Today, (one of favorite piano blogs). In fact, that blog is chalked full of great ideas for parents and teachers alike, so I will post a link below. In the post, Andrea and Trevor Dow outlined a fun activity for teachers to use for song repetition during lessons. Basically, you put a bunch of variations on slips of paper to draw out of a hat. So instead of playing the song the same way over and over again, the student gets the chance to, (for example) play with only one eye open, as properly as the queen of England, with a clap after every eight beats, etc. This is such a fun way to shake things up a bit during lessons and during practice-time at home.
Check out their blog post with a list of practice variations below:
2. Piano Games Aren’t Just for Teachers.
Personally, I believe that the best kind of education does not just take place at school or during lessons. The most effective way to teach a concept is to reinforce that concept at home! Feel free to look over any of the online resources I have listed below for great piano games to keep in your home. If you have any questions regarding a game you found and how it works, (not all piano parents are musicians and that’s ok!) please feel free to send me a message and I’ll be happy to help! In the list below, you’ll find a wide variety of activities intended for all ages with a wide span of difficulty levels.
I believe that with enough reinforcement of musical concepts at home, students become more familiar with the material and are often less intimidated to practice. For more specific suggestions, feel free to message me about the lesson book and level your child is currently in, and I will respond with some ideas that are personalized for your child.
3. Kids who are exposed to piano repertoire early will have a stronger affinity for it.
We’ve all heard about the little “baby Mozart” albums, with theories about babies listening to classical music from infancy and therefore becoming geniuses! Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. I’m not an expert on child psychology and development. What I do know is that kids who are familiar with certain styles of music will not find it to be nearly as much of a foreign language when they try to create it themselves. Much like bilingual children and families, kids who hear the “language” of the music they’re learning from an early age are much more ready for it when it appears in front of them at the piano.
The best way to start this early exposure is to find ways to incorporate music into your home, and not with your typical Spotify playlist (although those are probably wonderful!) Try to find some time to play classical, ragtime, jazz, new age, and other piano repertoire in your home. The more styles you’re able to expose your child to, the more they have the chance to get a little excited about it when they get to it during music lessons. In my experience, students who recognize the songs they have to play feel more excited about learning them, and feel more accomplished when they pass them off.
I hope you found this post helpful. Join me in about five minutes when I post about our studio recital held at Summerhays Music in Murray Utah. It was an absolute blast!
“No matter how hard I try, my child hates practice. I have to fight so many other battles throughout the week and I don’t have the energy to make piano one of them.”
I’m calling this chapter one, because there is honestly so much to talk about on this topic. I have other blog posts planned to cover more angles of this problem. The issue of why some kids won’t practice and what we can do as teachers and parents is probably the first and foremost issue discussed in the music teaching community, and there are many points of merit that I could dive into.
In future posts, I’m going to write more specifically about ways to keep your child motivated to practice, but today I’m actually going to talk about the kids who refuse to practice. This does not apply to the parents who have a practice requirement in their home, or the teachers who have practice expectations specified in their policies. In a way, this post is for the more casual teachers, parents and students. Believe it or not – I’m not actually going to tell you to change anything. I have my own personal beliefs about what should be required in the home, but I’m not going to go there. In the end, you know the appropriate expectations and limits to put on your child in order to best serve the dynamic in your home.
What I do believe will be helpful is a post specifically for the casual-learners, and how they will still glean excellent benefits from weekly music lessons. There are a lot of teachers who will butt heads with this, and I completely understand. Obviously, practicing frequently and consistently is optimal. However, in this blog I submit that there is still a lot of good to be had from weekly music lessons all on their own. Radical, I know.
For the worried parents:
Every teacher has a different outlook on this issue, so it’s important to ask the right questions and communicate openly with your teacher, (check out a previous blog post: 5 Essential Things to Tell your Piano Teacher). What I’m going to share is a unique position and definitely up for debate in the music teacher community. These opinions might not work for every teaching-style out there, so don’t take it as a given with your own teacher.
Finally, let’s get to it. Let’s say you have that kid who just doesn’t practice. You only want to pay for lessons if your child is self-motivated, you are not interested in fighting with your kid every day about it or forcing them to practice. After all, they already have to go to school every day, probably do household chores, not to mention their other extracurricular activities. In this case, I believe that your child can still have an exceptional music-learning experience on a weekly basis.
Studies have shown that students who learn to play the piano are actually learning to activate both sides of the brain simultaneously. For more information, check out one of my favorite articles at https://pianu.com/blog/learning-piano-benefits-your-brain. In this blog, the author explains how musicians increase their ability to multi-task, “strength[en] the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain,” decrease effects of depression and anxiety, exhibit divergent thinking skills, and much more. Seriously, this post is gold and definitely worth taking a look at.
A Note for Teachers:
By no means do I think we shouldn’t encourage consistent practice. I am constantly telling my students that with more practice time the piano will be a lot more enjoyable and they will feel proud of their accomplishments. I even encourage parents to instill a practice schedule and routine in the home, and with the help of the parents, I set practice expectations and commitments with each student individually. But no matter what the teacher does, sometimes practice just doesn’t happen. When you have parents who will not enforce practice-time and students who are not self-motivated, I believe it’s important to let that parent know that their child’s progress will not be as obvious when it comes to their ability to play, but the benefits of weekly music-learning are still worth their valuable time.
In my teaching, I have learned that I actually do a much better job and the student makes more progress if I don’t adhere too strictly to the standard “formula” for lesson-time, and instead adjust my approach according to that student’s patterns and behaviors. If I have a student who is extremely on-task, practices a ton and enjoys the process, then we knock out those lesson, theory, performance and scales books as efficiently as we can. We delve into the “why” behind everything and even take it a little further if I can tell that they’re ready for more complicated musical concepts.
On the flip-side, there are students who do not fall in love with this process right away. One example from my own experience was a student who wanted to learn, but within the first few lessons I could tell she was bored out of her mind. I was surprised that someone who seemed to excited to start was struggling with her enjoyment in the lessons and practicing at home. In this case, it wasn’t due to lack of challenging material. Much of it was easy for her, but we were still covering concepts she hadn’t encountered before. Little by little, I was able to find out that she had a real passion for writing her own melodies. In her case, the songs she wrote actually made musical “sense.” They weren’t just notes mashed together on the piano with no sense of timing or hitting random keys. She was actually writing beautiful little melodies which fit perfectly into C Major and ¾ or 4/4 time. It was awesome! The songs weren’t extremely complicated, but they were beautiful little things! Finally, I came to and realized that I could get her some manuscript paper and teach her the music theory she needed to cover for her level by writing the melodies down with all of the correct music theory elements. We still work on her theory book, but we can often take the concepts from her theory book and include them in an assignment to write her own piece. Since we started this kind of learning, this student’s practice time and motivation has increased quite a bit. There are countless other examples of ways to allow the student’s natural interests to guide the lesson format.
Even when a child is not interested in pretty much any musical topic, I believe that productive lesson time can still be spent on dissecting their songs together, learning music theory and history, and using other musical topics and resources to guide their learning. I believe that it is better to let go of our expectations about what the student “should” be able to play at their age or level of learning than it is to lose the student completely. I know many teachers who honestly believe that they’re wasting their time every week if the student doesn’t practice outside of their lesson time. Let the hate-mail begin, but I believe that we as teachers are there for more than just increasing the student’s playing-ability. In many cases, we are that child’s only exposure to any kind of music learning. We ought to take the opportunity to teach instead of act like that student’s lack of dedication is somehow going to hinder their ability to learn anything. We all know that they will not be able to play the piano as well as the kid who practices every day, but they’ll certainly be able to do more than the child who has never taken a lesson.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment below, and join me next week for my thoughts on spicing up piano practice time throughout the week!
Ok, so that title is a little rude and honestly sounds pretty ageist. There are dozens and dozens of amazing, grandmother-aged piano teachers out there. My point is, the culture around piano teaching is changing fast!
It’s a tale that’s almost as old as time. In almost every one of my piano families, (and many others through the years) at least one of the parents says some variation of the following:
“I was taught piano for a couple of years as a kid, but I quit. Now I really regret it.”
Believe it or not, this is a topic that is constantly abuzz in the piano teacher community. There are actually piano teacher podcasts, websites, and workshops where experts in the field of teaching music discuss this issue in-depth and try to come up with solutions. They discuss what went wrong with the old piano teaching formulas, what is different and the same about the children we taught fifty years ago and today, and what we can do as teachers to help keep kids motivated to practice at home. In this post, I am going to convey some of the common threads that seem to link each source I have learned from, including some great ideas on how to keep your child motivated at the piano.
#1: Modern teachers are no longer afraid of piano games
You might find it funny to think that an educational game is something someone could ever be afraid of, (especially a teacher!) but this really is a culture that has changed exponentially over the last 30-50 years. Even just sixteen years ago, (around 2002 when I started my own lessons) games were not a predominant part of the typical piano experience. In my case, that was fine. I was the weirdo kid who loved to play anyway. But in the case of most young learners, a piano game is a great way to break down difficult concepts, offer variety within their lesson routine, review information, offer additional music knowledge that they don’t get from just playing the piano, (such as music history and culture) and keep your kids coming back to piano lessons. We are fortunate enough to live in a time where there are hundreds of piano games and teacher resources online, so the games chosen should be ones specifically tailored to your child and what concepts they need to learn.
I would encourage anyone to incorporate music games into their game collection at home. At the end of this post, I will include links to some of my favorite resources for printable games, online fun for kids, and links to descriptions of ways you can use other games, (such as Candyland) in a musical context. The more the kids are able to reinforce the information they learn in a fun way, the better they’ll become at playing the piano. Not to mention, a game could be a great way for your child to teach you about what they have learned!
#2 Hallelujah! We have updated the method books!
For quite some time, piano teaching followed a fairly stringent lesson formula, and few teachers strayed from the older method books and routines. I used to work at a music store in Murray, Utah, and I can tell you that one method book series still sold has been around since the 1950s! Honestly, while some of the fundamentals might be the same, kids today just need different things in order to learn. I don’t have to tell you that your kid is unique in their learning-style. Fortunately, there are a myriad of lesson book methods for your teacher to choose from. Believe it or not, not every piano method book just teaches the student to memorize the notes on the staff and then play them. Some teach note-reading through intervals first, (which is great for those visual-learners) some teach with pneumonic devices, (generally good for kids who are good at reading and language) and there is even a way to teach the piano through chords and lead-sheets, (a perfect fit for teenagers who want to play that one song they heard on the radio). Usually, I choose the appropriate book for the student, and along the way use some combination of all three of these methods in order to give them a well-rounded experience. If you’re just starting out or your child is struggling in piano, it might help to know that there are many methods out there and it may just take a little time to find the right fit. It’s more than likely that your teacher now will be aware of different methods they can use to keep your child coming back to the bench!
#3 Not every student wants to be a concert pianist, and that’s ok.
There are so many incredible ways to excel at the piano. Some become wonderful improvisational pianists, (jazz, ragtime, and even pop music) some are concert pianists, some just use piano as a fun thing on the side throughout their lives. Some might experience a little bit of all of that depending on their phase in life. It is our job as the piano teachers to give you or your student the skills they’ll need to accomplish any one of these or other wonderful positions at the piano. While I personally enjoy learning through classical music, I will absolutely teach a child pop music and lead-sheet if that’s what is keeping them coming back to the bench for the time-being. As kids grow and learn, their preferences often change and mature. Instead of discouraging whatever your student likes the most, I believe in using the things they’re interested in to keep them learning as much as possible. This, to me, is better than losing the student completely.
#4 A good teacher is always a student of their trade.
If you have a teacher who is stuck in their ways, refuses to try something different, and your child is hating piano – let me take this opportunity to tell you that there are other, more flexible teachers out there. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are some things to be inflexible about as a professional in your trade, but the way you approach a child in a lesson shouldn’t be one of them. Obviously, the end goal is essentially the same. Piano teachers are teaching a very specific skill-set. But if your teacher is not willing to explore other methods and approaches for your child, you might not be in the right situation. Teachers like this do still run rampant in the piano teaching community. In the end, it’s just something to be aware of as you go along so that you can make an informed decision for your child.
#5 How can I keep my child interested in the piano?
This will honestly get a blog post all on its own, but I believe that it is a relevant subject when it comes to the changing culture of piano lessons. While it’s important to know that the piano teacher your hire today is probably not like the one you used to have, it’s also important to know that practice-time will also look a little different than what you may have grown up with.
In an episode of the podcast Teach Piano Today, creator and hostess Andrea Dow interviewed and discussed the research of a graduate student named Karen King, who conducted her Master’s thesis by doing an in-depth study regarding the issue of why piano students quit. In the study, they looked at the specific reasons why piano students discontinued their lessons, and compared them with students of other instruments and extracurricular activities. There was a lot of gold in there and I would absolutely recommend listening, (I’ll post details about where to find it below) but for now I will just sum up their conclusion.
Ultimately, the students who stay motivated have to be provided with a good learning environment from their parents. The teacher is incredibly important, but the support from home is even more so. Of course, you can do everything within your power to encourage your child, give them a good piano, make lesson goals and requirements with them, and they might still not like it. If they don’t have the intrinsic desire, you might be a bit out of luck. But the best way to set them up for success really is by creating that learning space in the home, setting clear goals and expectations with the child and teacher, and allowing them to play songs they enjoy in addition to their required material.
If you have provided everything listed above and your child is still not loving the piano, please remember that you’re not alone. I believe that there is still a lot of value in creating a time-bound commitment with the student. If they make a commitment to stick with their lessons, they may just develop that intrinsic motivation as they grow and mature.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope this gave you a more in-depth look on the modern piano-lesson environment. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or insults.
See you next Monday when I dive a little deeper into an issue almost every piano parent struggles with in their home: Here’s to the Kids Who Don’t Practice!
As promised, here are some of the links to my favorite piano games and podcasts:
Teach Piano Today website with games and free printables: www.teachpianotoday.com/
Musical Candyland: laytonmusic.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/candyland-music-sytle/
Teach Piano Today podcast: itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-teach-piano-today-podcast/id705700730?mt=2
The Creative Piano Teaching Podcast: timtopham.com/piano-teaching-podcast/