Piano Lessons

Summary

I teach piano at the Shepherd Music School in Rogers, as well as in-home lessons. I’ve condensed the information in the first three topics, and expanded the FAQ section to include details that may or may not be important to you:

Meet these two multi-talented students in the October 2019 Student of the Month feature.

♫ What I Offer As A Teacher

My Piano Background

I am a pianist and organist, and I can play both pretty well. I’m proud to have two degrees from my home state of New York, including a BFA in Piano from Purchase College and a MM from The Juilliard School. I’ve always had an interest in teaching, developed early in life, though I didn’t do a lot of it during most of my career due to having a full-time business job and part-time organist job. You can read a lot more about my journey in the FAQ below.

In my teaching, I bring the excitement that I have for music, both in solo and collaborative performance, to my students. I’m eager to share the love of music with my students, who are mostly children, though I do also teach adults. If you have the time to practice and want to build skills in piano, please contact me.

Tradition vs Innovation

My lessons are traditional in the sense that my students all eventually learn to read music. However, younger students need a variety of preparatory activities to slowly introduce them to this new language and skill. I’m also focused on educating the full musician by including sight reading, ear training, technique, keyboard harmony, and theory.

One of my passions is learning how to make playing the piano vital to the child in his life. Is he able to play in his school’s jazz band, by reading lead sheets and providing chords on a chart? Does she know how to use her tablet to enhance learning with one of the many apps available? You can read more about these explorations on my blog under the category Piano Teacher.

Professional Affiliations

I am a member of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association (ASMTA), and the local Northwest Arkansas Music Teachers Association (NAMTA). Membership in all of these groups is really expensive, but it provides me with some great continuing education opportunities. It also enables my students to participate in spring and fall festivals listed below.

Festivals

I encourage my students to participate in two annual festivals that are made possible by my professional affiliations listed above:

  • NAMTA Sonatina Festival, November 9, 2019, NWACC in Bentonville
  • ASMTA Regional Festival, April 18, 2020, University of Arkansas in Fayetteville

Recitals

For my Shepherd Music School students, there are group recitals at the conclusion of each semester. For all my students, there are additional opportunities to perform, with events like a piano party, house recital, a retirement home visit, or warm-up recital for an upcoming festival.

Expectations of Students

Set Goals

Younger students may not be ready to actively set goals like a teenager or adult. However, all students should have some goal, whether it’s to get to the end of a particular method book, prepare and succeed at a music festival, or learn Christmas songs to entertain the family.

Achieve Goals with Practice

While we set goals in the studio, they become realized at home through practicing the piano. Sure, a good teacher can help a lot in that process, but even the best teacher can’t do the work for the student. Three days a week practice is an absolute minimum. Otherwise, lessons will be frustrating and unproductive for student and teacher alike.

A good rule of thumb is five days of practice per week in the amount of the lesson time. For beginners taking 30-minute lessons, this would be 20 to 30 minutes per day. As students move to 45-minute lessons, 30 to 45 minutes per day practice is expected.  For very young students, the parent can break up practice time into two short daily practice sessions.

Talent vs Hard Work

Please don’t make the mistake of telling a performer after she performs how talented she is. If she’s kind, she will just say thank you. If she’s honest, she will tell you how many nights she spent in solitude practicing! Pareto’s law is at work – it’s 20% talent and 80% hard work! Talent without practice only goes so far. When students hit this limit, it’s difficult. If they want to continue, they have to consciously make the effort to do so. Many do, but the others wisely move away from music to focus on activities that they’d rather pursue.

Teaching Philosophy

I’ve written a blog post that generically answers this question. Often, I find that prospective students are looking to see if they are a good fit, and that can only be determined by a phone call and/or a trial lesson. I’m glad to offer both. I do charge my normal teaching rate for a trial lesson. There is no obligation to continue after that.

Shepherd Music School vs In-Home Lessons

I prefer to teach at Shepherd Music School because it allows me to teach at a neutral site for lessons in a facility that offers several benefits. There is a spacious waiting area, both outside and inside the rooms where I teach. Also, the school offers built-in recitals each semester, master classes, and workshops in which you can only participate as a student of the school.

However, in-home lessons might be your best option under certain circumstances. They are more expensive, since they involve a lesson plus transit fee. If you contact me through my Website, by phone, or email, we could discuss this as an option. If you make your initial contact through Shepherd Music School, I have no choice but to offer you lessons through the school out of fairness to the school’s director and owner.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the Right Age to Begin?

This is one of those questions that I’d rather not directly answer. It truly depends upon the child, the parent and the teacher! With the right approach from the teacher, a willingness to learn from the child, and support of the parent, the right age could be very young. If one or more of these ingredients are missing, it might be best to wait until all are aligned.

There are some teachers who are blessed with the ability to teach 3-4 year-olds. I no longer discourage lessons for children that young, even though I’m not prepared to teach them. There are a lot of factors to consider. Children that young have not learned to focus for long periods of time, nor can use more than one finger at a time when playing the piano. Yet, they are very ready to respond to music games as well as aural and rhythmic training.

The goal shouldn’t be to “get ahead” of other students, since children can only learn according to their level of cognitive and physical development. Rather, the musical skills that young children learn add to the general development of a child. They can pay off in ways later on at the piano and in life.

For more information about developmental readiness, please read this article from the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA).

Do I Teach Very Young Children?

I accept children as young as 5, in the right situation. It requires doing lots of supplemental activities, which I also do with some of my slightly older beginners. There’s so much that goes into preparing a child for reading a new musical language on the page and connecting it with keys on the keyboard!

Do I Teach Teens and Adults?

Yes, I do!  In fact, I use different materials and am more flexible with my teaching style since teens and adults often have specific goals for taking lessons that are different from younger children.  

Who Is My Ideal Student?

Each student has her own goals, personality, and willingness to practice. A good teacher guides a student through peaks and valleys, and a good student keeps practicing through ups and downs. Progress is not always linear: There sometimes will be a long plateau followed by a sudden breakthrough. I really enjoy teaching a student who is motivated to learn, which means motivated to practice! That helps to ease my stress when participating in music festivals and group recitals.

What is My Piano Background and What Led Me Back to Teaching?

I am a pianist and organist, and I can play both pretty well. My bachelor’s degree from Purchase College was in solo piano, and it’s where I also took my first formal organ lessons. I switched to Collaborative Piano for my master’s degree at The Juilliard School. I recently began playing solo concerts on both instruments.

During my sophomore year at the New England Conservatory of Music, before transferring to Purchase, I studied piano pedagogy with an amazing professor who was a disciple of Frances Clark’s teaching, whose Music Tree method books I still use today. As a bonus, I was assigned a couple of piano students for my first teaching experience.

In my early 20s, I taught a solid part-time load at the Rockland Conservatory of Music, which is located in the northern suburbs of New York City. I continued at that school for a while during my time at Juilliard, but I had to give it up to focus on my studies. After that, I had my plate full with working full-time as a software engineer/data analyst, and part-time as a church organist/music director. I did take on a couple of students here and there upon request.

Several years ago, I left the full-time corporate world and have returned to music to teach and perform, while continuing my church job. I have participated in a local piano teachers’ group for several years, and in Spring 2019 one of my students became the first alternate to the state music festival for her level.

Last Updated 2019-11-12 | Originally Posted 2017-10-01