The Piano Primer transition to early repertoire selection

Creative music mentors know innately that NO Primer Package with its sequence of red, blue, and purple levels, A, B, C etc. will meet the needs of most piano students. That’s because each pupil is an individual with unique talents, abilities, strengths and weaknesses which demand a flexible, singularized plan of study.

By example, my student, Liz, age 8, having had about 4 or so months of study, is at the crossroads: from her Primer Method book, (Clark’s Time to Begin) to early repertoire study, and unfortunately, I’ve not found any one collection amidst the vastly published pedagogical materials, that embodies music with ear-catching
melodic/harmonic/structural and synthesized technical value.

This is why I’ll continue to OUT-source this post-Primer journey drawing on pieces from various collections that have been carefully evaluated.

Repertoire transition

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Flashback REFERENCE: Liz’s music-learning journey in its earliest stages

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/an-8-year-old-begins-piano-lessons/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/liz-age-8-has-her-second-piano-lesson-with-my-interspersed-thoughts-about-materials-and-teaching-philosophy/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/liz-age-8-composes-a-piece-at-her-third-piano-lesson/

***

In the following two videos (Part 1 and 2), I begin by summarizing my pupil’s journey to the present, describing the creative excursions we’ve made, since I refuse to be regimented by any piano METHOD, but instead I use the basic material as a SPRINGBOARD to self-realizing CREATIVE activities.

Composing, transposing, etc. have been well-integrated into lessons, along with theory and harmonic analysis on a very fundamental level. Since this student has unusual cognitive and affective abilities that are combined with her natural musical instincts, her path might be carved differently from those of other students with an altered set of gifts and capacities.

Finally, in my TWO Part tutorial or overview, I’ve drawn on the works of Kabalevksy, Gillock, Tansman, Paciorkiewicz, Lubarsky, Poole, Beyer, but also recommend a host of composers for this early bridge to repertoire study. The list includes Turk, Gurlitt, Reinagle, Peskanov, Randall and Nancy Faber, Rebikov, Bartok, et al.

***

Gillock is a particular favorite!

Here are further Gillock samples played by various Beginner level piano students, including infusions of my instruction: (I think Level 2 is misapplied to ACCENT on Gillock–Blue, as many of the pieces in this collection can be taught to students not rigidly categorized)

GillockAccent2

My Gillock inspired concert for Aiden cat:

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Many teachers will add to the mix, a big serving of modern, jazz style works by contemporary LIVING composers that add a spicy dimension to an enriched musical adventure.

In this example, Fritz plays a well-known Boogie, and then plays his own composition!

***
DUET playing

The teacher/student duet playing experience is also invaluable in this post Primer transition as evidenced by some of these older videos with relevant samples. (This particular student, Fritz, age 8, had a potpourri of repertoire experiences)

A Primer flashback sample duet from Faber Piano Adventures:

The Repertoire-based journey should be fun, enlightening and packed with enticing musical adventures if selected pieces are the right fit for the student.

Posted in piano, piano blog, piano lessons, piano teaching, repertoire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scenes from MTAC Los Angeles! What you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask!

I’m safely nestled, if not sequestered, “Under Surveillance,” in my all-purpose, webcam-wired piano room following a two way Mega-BUST ride between West Oakland and Union Station, L.A.

me under overhead cam

Quite unexpectedly, my daughter and I were stranded on the Freeway, 20 minutes from destination, with our bulging baggage, roadside, after a double decker demise. (Transmission shutdown) And from the dust-ridden, smog zone, (following a dung heap passage through the Central Valley)dung zone it was a pricey $50 cab ride to the Airport Hilton in rush hour traffic!

Seven hours earlier, I’d texted my piano students that I was seated in the LAP of LUXURY with Wi-Fi perks and push back seats.wi-fi bus

Go figure!

***

The journey south was sparked by my scheduled appearance at the MTAC State Convention in a High-Tech, break-the-barriers, ONLINE music lesson framing. I was slated to “BRAVE” the cyber-energized SKYPE and FACE-TIME MUSIC-learning cosmos with its techno-bundled trimmings, in an encapsulated ONE HOUR. This demanded significant NIP and TUCK in the illustrious MAKE-OVER capital.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 8.08.40 PM

Once settled into the Airport-based Hotel room with its amazing 9th floor panoramic view of plane landings and take-offs, I headed to the LOWER LOBBY for a gym workout in prep for my 12-hour intense program review.

Airport

me at gym

***

As it turned out, the set-up in the Carmel Room was perfect: The computer podium, Steinway piano and Big Screen were nicely arranged, with outstanding access to tech support. I couldn’t have asked for more!

setup in Carmel room

Aviva, my traveling companion and assistant (daughter), scoped out the space for nifty hand-held Camcorder angles before she stopped off at the Steinway piano for a test run.

Aviva at the piano

The Hotel glittered with colorful exhibits: a repository of sheet music displays, YAG RECITAL POSTERS, PROGRAM highlights, instrument galleries, and hands-on electronic keyboard stations to drive sight-reading improvement.

Exhibit Hall

I made sure to whiz over to the Frederick Harris exhibit to peruse its new Preparatory samplers, while I chatted amiably with Editor, Nancy Rusk.

Frederick Harris

I couldn’t skip the Steinway Pianos display in the adjacent room. After breezing over the keyboard of a resonant Steinway ‘B,’ I collected the business card of Beverly Hills Sales Rep, Nancy Dovan. She was an over easy connection to Justin Levitt at the Walnut Creek Steinway Gallery. (It’s a small musical world!)

***

Following an early Friday morning spree through the Exhibit Hall, I made final preparations for my 4 p.m. presentation! (It had been about 24 hours since the grueling MEGA-bus calamity with its lingering after effect.)

For the trip to L.A., I had encased my big iMAC 21 computer in a newly bought hard shelled, Chinese-imported BRIGHT RED expandable piece of luggage, and with its revolving wheels, I schlepped the monster to the second floor for unloading. (Don’t ask how many elephant-size elevator excursions I took, and why the heck the room key card was not working?!) Repeated staccato strokes in the narrow slots skinned my fingers!

red luggage

After TWO intensely concentrated PROGRAM DRESS REHEARSALS, I placed dozens of hand-out packets on a music stand by the Carmel Room entranceway, hoping these would be taken by Program attendees. A few people ran off with them, before being apprehended. I guess they were trying to be at more than one event at a time.

Still, despite competing program offerings, we had a GOOD turnout with the inharmonious drone of two blasting pianos seeping through thin walls.

What emerged in the aftermath of my event was an abridged 15-minute filmed overview without many of the sample lessons-in progress that I’d inserted. Just the same, the footage well-summarized the effort.

**NOTE: For reference, these two blogs below contain an outline of what played out during my presentation.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/multi-cam-views-during-skype-or-facetime-piano-lessons/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/multiple-skype-call-recorder-playback-views-for-a-piano-lesson-j-c-bach-prelude-in-a-minor/

***

….Finally, it was nice to meet up with Facebook Friend Sophie, from Australia, who was my Online cheerleader. We posed together for this wonderful OFFLINE photo!

Crop Sophie and I

Such a warm and fuzzy musical connection ushered in a Social Hour in the Hotel Courtyard that was the evening finale to a long, but satisfying day.

courtyard reception

reception panorama

reception filled

Thank you, MTAC for great hospitality, planning, and inspired events!

Convention booklet

Post Script:

I was sad to leave before the Convention’s end, but the Mega-Bus ride back home trumped my attention, and as feared, the journey North was anything but smooth.

As foreboding, the bus driver announced:
“I have nothing to do with the A/C or Wi-Fi.”

Good thing I brought my winter coat, mittens, and a muffler or I would have froze to death!

***

It’s always great to be back home!

Shirley Kirsten guest artist

Posted in Los Angeles California, MTAC State Convention, online piano lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lights, Camera, Action in Los Angeles!

In a few days, I’ll find myself at the MTAC Statewide Convention in L.A. sharing my Online Music Lesson journey in a LIVE high-tech universe exploration. (I gave a comparable program to the Alameda Branch last May 2015, but I was not hemmed into the impending ONE HOUR space.)

The scope of this event begs for TWO FULL HOURS!

As PREP, I’ve been UP-dating my blogs on the subject; embedding the latest photo technology: overhead and side angled keyboard views made possible with an Alzo Horizontal mount (adding a tutorial on how to install); checking perspicaciously on LIGHTING as it affects visual key clarity; and interviewing students about their ONLINE lesson setups.

It might as well be an Entertainment Tonight feature with students giving Testimonials, (not INFOMERCIALS) RE: their Skype and Face Time romps.

Alameda Branch presentation

This North Carolina student’s offering below will steal the show by her comparison of LIVE and CYBER-driven instruction. She made a touchdown visit to Berkeley last February that was recorded in my living room with a second LIVE pupil on hand to join the exchange. It was riveting!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/when-a-virtual-piano-student-becomes-a-reality/

After the teaser, I’ll CROSS FADE into the Call Recorder cosmos, showing the TEACHER, FULL SCREEN, shooting back a Summary Lesson video with three different camera view options (REMOTE: the Pupil, LOCAL: the Teacher; and Split Screen: Shared keyboards)–A resounding TRI–umph of eye/ hand coordination!

Skype Call Recorder

Next, I’ll CLICK the Asterisk as three webcam angles are set in motion:

Skype Call Recorder Settings

WARNING: CALL RECORDER technology is not to be CONFUSED with the basic AUDIO/VIDEO SETTINGS that relate to the initial SKYPE SIGN ON where the teacher chooses the basic keyboard camera view that’s altered with a savvy, staccato-centered mouse click.

PLEASE KEEP TRACK OF THE CLICKS and OPTIONS!

Audio Video Settings

Did I lose my audience after I shuffled through the webcam views?  Will my colleagues be drowning in a sea of confusion?

Put it this way, a VIRTUAL INSTRUCTOR has to have supple wrists, relaxed arms, nimble fingers and shifty eyes, with GOOD MEMORY RECALL at COMMAND CONTROL.

MULTI-TASKING without skipping a beat or losing a priceless teaching moment, takes PRACTICE!

(REMINDER: DON’T USE THE FULL SCREEN if you want to enable CALL RECORDER during a lesson. It will otherwise disappear until you click the VIEW tab and bring it back down. And Beware of activating the WEBCAM mic that has a low HOT ZONE threshold! Choose the INTERNAL mic, or YETI Blue USB!)

Yeti Mic crop

Through myriads of do’s and don’ts, I hope Convention registrants will not get snowed under by the weighty details of ONLINE transmission, even as temps are rising in the region!

And PLEASE: NO POWER outages during my program that will cause it to go up in smoke as So. CAL wild fires rage out of control.

To cut tension, I might choose a stand-up comedy framing.

Maybe humor will be the best segue way to the presentation itself.

How about this opener to break the ice: (Did I say ice, when L.A. natives will be shedding layers and running to malls for A/C)

“I want everyone to know that I’m under constant surveillance with three webcams monitoring me 24/7. That means I’m a security risk, placed on the NO FLY/HOME LIST.”

Oops! The audience might evacuate!

Perhaps my intro will elicit a sprinkle of chuckles, or dead silence?

***

THE SETUP: I’m holding a mic, squeezed between two tripod mounted cams, careful to avoid a catastrophic wire-tangled, slip-up. Can you imagine the sirens approaching, with paramedics unraveling USB cable extensions and webcam wires around my neck!

Perhaps I’ll project an OLD Piano Room/Living Room/Kitchen/Bedroom photo on the Big Screen before I deliver my LATEST wham-mo image of the tech-burdened, wired-up, unlivable cubicle in the PRESENT.

BEFORE TECHNOLOGY blossomed

piano room, spacier

NOW–My piano room latest

A mid-range music stand mounted webcam, inserted between grand pianos, gives a third keyboard view. If you add the INTERNAL CAM of a PC or MAC, that amounts to FOUR confusing possibilities!

music stand cam mount between pianos

Let’s just say my Program might be a sky-rocketing success, though I’m NOT scheduled for PRIME TIME.

They’ve assigned me the 4 p.m.to 5 p.m. slot on Friday, July 1, Day ONE of REGISTRATION, as I’m encapsulated in the Carmel Room with three competing presentations vying for attention.

L.A. Convention coming up in July

Well, FACE it, ONLINE lessons are not yet in the mainstream and too many TRADITIONAL TEACHERS are rolling over in their graves at the very notion of displacing the “LIVE” MENTOR with a multi-cam image of one.

I can’t change consciousness overnight, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Oops…Remember to evade those surveillance cams and DON’T PANIC at the sight of 3 Logitechs staring you down!

Logitech best face forward

***

IMPORTANT BLOG LINKS upon which my PRESENTATION will be centered:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/multi-cam-views-during-skype-or-facetime-piano-lessons/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/multiple-skype-call-recorder-playback-views-for-a-piano-lesson-j-c-bach-prelude-in-a-minor/

Posted in Face Time, Online piano lessons, piano, Skype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“I don’t care” means letting go to bigger physical energies

While most traditional piano lessons include a tedious focus on CONTROL with premeditated, prescribed planning in a layered learning sequence, a hyper-methodical approach that aims for note-perfection, will often impede a liberated, whole arm gesture that can emancipate boxed-in, tight-squeezed playing. (Once activation of uninhibited physical energy is harnessed, then centering is easier to achieve while preserving projection and accuracy.)

To this effect, the very idea of LETTING GO and NOT CARING, framed simply as a self-directed, “I don’t care,” is enough of an auto-suggestion to prod a student to loosen up and throw fate to the wind.

One of my most influential teachers, Ena Bronstein, demonstrated the unthinkable when I briefly studied with her in Central California.

Here’s what she recommended in order to unshackle my playing of its inordinate constraints that naturally trickled down in an advice-giving format to one of my students. (Incidentally, Maestra Bronstein was a protege of Claudio Arrau and his assistant, Rafael De Silva)

Video sample:

In summary, stretching pedagogical boundaries to allow for the funneling of spontaneous epiphanies into the learning environment, (though sometimes defying convention), can positively increase freedom of motion and musical expression. And what might seem to be in opposition to sound teaching, is frequently quite the opposite.

LINK:

Shaking out Bach Ornaments and the Influence of Claudio Arrau

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/piano-technique-shaking-out-bach-ornaments-and-the-influence-of-claudio-arrau/

Posted in adult piano instruction, piano, piano blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Don’t Choke through peak sections of a Chopin Nocturne

Many adult students get bent out of shape when a piece of “night music” blooms with “improvised,” decorative passagework at peak expressive levels. Add in prolonged trills with lower notes tied (held down) leading to a decisive crescendo through a tricky chromatic scale, and many players will shrink from the challenge. They’ll prefer to skip over what appears to be never-ending land mines.

I’m very sympathetic, because I’ve been in the thick of Chopin’s impassioned outpourings trapped by a frenzy that inevitably interrupts a smooth journey to full blown expression. As remedy, I’ve learned how to stay centered, relaxed, and in touch with my breath as my primary musical underpinning while I try to create an effortless “improvisation” that intensifies without a struggle.

This is why I selected Chopin’s Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72, No. 1 as my point of departure in the Keeping Your Cool universe of playing.

Measures 31 to 38 meander in improvised fashion to a resonating chromatic ascent to B minor. And while there are many Forte level measures in this section, one NEVER stays at a fixed dynamic given the ebb and flow of harmonic rhythm. The player has to poetically shape the ornaments, trills, and fancy filigreed passages with an understanding of harmonic dissonances and resolutions, and how various melodic meanderings invite nuanced, dips in phrases.

Chopin Nocturne, 31-

In particular, one of my pertinent epiphanies surrounds the lengthy trill spanning measures 36 and 37 in the E minor Nocturne. The first part of the trill is a suspension (Harmonic 2nd) that relaxes into a Harmonic third, even as the repercussions spill into a heightened chromatic ascent. By “relaxing” into the trill as it has resolved into a minor third, the player can take a new breath to impede CHOKING into the decisive B minor CADENCE.

Posted in Chopin, Chopin Nocturnes, Frederic Chopin, piano, piano blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a seamless, singing tone legato through arpeggios and scales

My students are often amused by my prompts that frequently include “oohs,” “ahhs,” and “wah’s,” among other spaced out sounds, to prevent consonant sounding notes or hard-liners from interrupting a smooth, “sighing” stepwise descent to the tonic. And from this universe of impromptu effusions, I’ve created a self-styled language, that, at times, has incorporated barnyard vocabulary to the smiles of impressionable pupils (The “cluck, clucks” of Black note passage in staccato arpeggios, for instance, will assist students who tend to give the thumb more assertion than it deserves: i.e F# minor, Eb Major, etc.)

But for a seamless legato, (smooth and connected playing), the clucks are replaced by a soft and responsive cushion of keyboard support that precludes finger-poking or incongruous accents.

To think “slower” into notes by “dragging” them are a few of my favorites. Naturally these suggestions are meant to acquire “density” in the playing and to discourage a hard turf beneath the hands. They’re also employed to inhibit anticipation and note crowding. In this vein, a note coming a “hairbreadth too soon” can imbalance a phrase. (Mildred Portney Chase, author of Just Being at the Piano, poetically frames a singing tone legato through pages of inviting prose.)

Listening for the “decay” from the previous note to the next is another effective prompt. It invites a particularly riveted attention to sound as it “floats seamlessly” from one note to the next. (Singing, of course, is of great assistance in producing the imagined sequence of notes with shape and beauty) Often when a student sings, he can better imagine the sound image before playing the very first note.

All the aforementioned suggestions are, naturally, not enough. If a student is tense in the wrists, arms, fingers, he/she has to be made aware of barriers to a free-flowing, stream of scales and arpeggios that should transfer fluidly to compositions. If tension is tied to faulty breathing, then the BREATH must be explored as a partner to musical expression. Breathing deep, but natural breaths should infuse all music-making while weight transfer, or energy coming down relaxed, “buoyant” arms into supple wrists must be synthesized into fluid playing.

***

During recent piano lessons, two of my adult students separately explored the challenge of playing arpeggios and scales in a smooth, legato stream. (One of them “snipped” her improved legato arpeggio into a “horizontally” pleasing staccato.) Some of these prompts and suggestions seemed to be a springboard to a deeper imparted vocabulary that nourished limpidly played phrases. And the “memory” of these prompts partnered with a physical sense of the legato has continued to advance musical growth and development.

Posted in adult piano instruction, piano, piano blog, piano teaching, singing tone legato | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Transit among adult piano students and teachers

Many in the piano teaching universe KEEP a special sanctuary for adult pupils who rekindle an interest in music study. These pupils, of diverse ages and levels, often come with an initial spurt of enthusiasm to learn, grow and develop. Yet, like any demographic or body of new learners, their length of stay or commitment to practicing and taking lessons are not always predictable.

To deal with a stash of unknowns associated with a newly launched musical journey, a preliminary set of questions might be invaluable.

These would encompass a pupil’s expressed goals, aspirations, repertoire interests, and how much time he can realistically allot to the piano.

Still, lurking beneath the surface is the more important inquiry about a student’s self-regard, self-acceptance, and patience threshold for spurts of progress and periodic setbacks. Will he/she be willing to bear periodic frustrations that are part of the learning process or will the pupil be a harsh, unforgiving self-critic.

In my experience, most premature drop-out rates relate to self-invalidation. A student believes he/she is just not the perfect player and won’t go further despite the best confidence dispensing infusions of the teacher. A downward spiral of hyper-self-criticism nips a musical partnership in the bud.

Some adult students expect a smooth, and unencumbered journey without a hitch. If pieces require an incremental approach within a layered learning paradigm, they might not choose to form a longterm, deep relationship with a composition. What amounts to touching bases music study, as a top layer sightread with a big turnover of pieces is the pupil’s preference. Boredom otherwise characterizes his/her pursuit of one or two compositions.

A top layer, espresso learning paradigm might be agreeable to some teachers, especially those willing to bend with the breeze and go with the flow. But others will feel the match-up is not one that will harvest the full potential of the student and essentially goes against the grain of his/her teaching philosophy. (It’s therefore incumbent upon the teacher to describe her overall philosophy and approach before lessons get underway. In fact, some students will make this inquiry in a written or telephone communication that precedes the first lesson.)

In my own teaching practice, I’ve come to the realization that if a student at the outset prefers a superficial spin through Bach, Mozart, Chopin and any number of masterworks, I will immediately suggest another teacher.

A complementary issue relates to repertoire choices. While some teachers will only adhere to the mainstream Classical repertoire, others are more flexible and will work with a student in popular music genres including jazz and musical theater, etc.

If a student is intent on studying jazz only, then a Classically oriented teacher is clearly a mismatch, and any attempt to forge a musical partnership under these conditions is doomed from the start.

***

As lessons take their course

Over time, a mentor can acquire a more detailed picture of a student’s attitude toward learning; assess his strengths, weaknesses, and discover the nature of his commitment to practicing. He can then more effectively address a pupil’s technical/musical needs while getting a feel for the chemistry between learning partners.

(In the long run, piano lessons will have a built-in embryonic development unique to each individual that require sensitive adjustments as needed.)

The most important ingredient, however, to the success of a musical partnership will be a mutual devotion to the music without built-in deadlines of achievement and harsh criticism. The respect accorded a teacher and student must be mutual and ongoing.

***

Once both partners are fully embarked on a shared musical journey, the question will remain whether lessons are a long-term engagement or a passing through encounter. (This can be one of the questions posed in a general sense before instruction gets underway but it might yield a premature answer if the student is not sure about how the lessons will play out with a particular teacher.)

A student’s musical background shared before the commencement of music study, should include a history of prior lesson experiences.

While I don’t like RED FLAG-driven conclusions or prejudices, there’s some degree of truth embedded in the student’s past associations with previous teachers if there were any. (The same applies to RED FLAG warnings about teacher behaviors and practices as they have impacted students.)

Question: If a pupil is making a mentor change, what was it about the previous instructor that did not work out for him. Here a set of answers I’ve collected over the years.

1) “She didn’t teach me the right hand position.”

2) “He took telephone calls during my lesson.”
(I had more than one transfer student who verified this behavior about a particular instructor)

3) “The teacher canceled my lessons too often.”

4) “I was charged for lessons I had to cancel because of sport events.” (It turns out the student sometimes gave the teacher 30 minutes notice)

5) “I was going nowhere after 3 months of instruction.”

6) “I didn’t like the pieces I was given.”

7) “The teacher’s piano was unplayable.”

8) “Everyone in the studio played better than me.”

9) “I couldn’t afford the lessons.”

10) “I wasn’t able to take weekly instruction, so I wanted to pare down to every other week. My teacher couldn’t accommodate the change.”

11) “We could never agree on the right day or right time for lessons.”

12) “The teacher never played once for me or demonstrated the whole time.”

13) “The teacher gave up all her adult students, providing a list of those taking transfers.”

(Sometimes a student will be at the mercy of consecutive mentors who release a slew of older pupils because they just don’t want to teach adults, sending them scrambling into an intimidating universe of the unknown. These students may have trust issues, so they may start lessons with a new teacher harboring fears of impending abandonment.)

14) “The instructor was overly critical of me on a personal level.”

15)”My last two teachers died.”

Additional situations and reasons why music study is cut short:

1) Family circumstances and changes: the arrival of a new baby that demands increased time and attention to child care needs, impedes practicing. Exhaustion associated with a newborn’s erratic sleep and feeding schedule, stunts mindful, directed practicing if it can occur at all. The flow of life with a new member of the family is drastically altered.

(I had one student who confessed that he lost all motivation to continue lessons given his changed life circumstances. His wife was already off to work, and baby-sitting needs were a challenge. He appeared lethargic and bleary-eyed. Sadly, he would not return to lessons, given his plan to have more children, and yet he had made amazing progress in the two years before his son was born. To some extent it was heartbreaking for both music partners.)

2) Private entrepreneur/Business development as a side bar to lessons that requires road travel and cross country flights, is a deal breaker.

Jet-setting, or on the road students are likely to CANCEL their piano lesson reservations without predictable makeups. Long stints of absence inevitably lead to a point of NO RETURN. (If frequent breaks are not disclosed prior to instruction, they can leave a wave of ill-feeling behind.)

3) Changes in lesson scheduling from weekly to bi-monthly, and sometimes to very much longer intervals between meetings, usually lead to the demise of instruction. It’s a no-win for student and teacher alike particularly if the structure is agreed upon from the outset and is suddenly shifted. While very advanced students might benefit from less frequent lessons, most adult beginners and intermediate level students need weekly lessons to make satisfying gains. A vicious cycle of setbacks associated with absences catapults into lesson dropping due to a crescendo of student frustration.

***

Already mentioned but needing emphasis:

4) Intolerance associated with specific, wishful gains that are not made in a personal deadline capacity, is sometimes a reflection of a student’s self-deprecation and lack of confidence. Unrealistic goal attainment within a fixed, inflexible schedule, infused with a negative attitude impedes if not sabotages movement forward.

Often, during periods of exasperation, a student plagued by insecurities and unrealistic goal-setting, will look over the fence, thinking there’s a better teacher on the horizon. Yet despite hopes for the divinely inspirational nymph from the forest, like Terpsichore, to arrive on the scene as a saving grace, the student will more than likely never be satisfied with any mentor.

5) Teacher student burnout: an eight to ten year instructional relationship can run its course needing a new infusion of energy from another source–meaning that CHANGE is indicated. Both partners should be willing to embrace a healthy transition without remorse.

6) The right fit is just not there, tested over months, so both teacher and student need to recognize the mismatch and move on. A more suitable learning partnership can result in a positive musical journey without adding in a truckload of baggage.

7) Policy conflicts can send students scurrying, so it’s best to clarify fees and cancellation guidelines before lessons are set in motion. This whole arena can be the source of anger and resentment if learning partners are not on the same page and in agreement from day one.

On a personal note, I’ve whittled down my studio to a small number of adult students whom I consider KEEPERS, in the same way, that I hope they regard me to be committed to their musical development in the longterm.

Today, I was especially moved by a student’s words that resonated with special meaning:

“Thank you for taking seriously those of us who begin piano as an adult but who really want to learn. You could easily dismiss us, as I think some other teachers of adult beginners might do.”

The premise of wanting to work with adult students is of paramount importance in making the teacher/student relationship work. A mutual love for music unencumbered by value judgment, harsh criticism, and fixed learning deadlines all synthesize together to create a harmonious learning environment.

Today I enjoyed a particular lesson with an adult student who’s studying the Mendelssohn Venetian Boat Song, Op. 30 No. 6. It was our shared adulation for this composition and our common understanding of what it takes (in slow practice tempo) to deeply absorb the composition that made the experience mutually gratifying.

Finally, we both realize that the creative process embedded in our lessons, will evolve and develop over time with unswerving patience.

***
LINKS:

Are Adult Students Stigmatized
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/are-adult-piano-students-stigmatized/

Adult student Themes and Issues

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/adult-piano-student-themes-and-issues/

Posted in adult piano students, Mendelssohn, piano, piano blog, piano teaching, teaching adults | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments