Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Got a Piano Teacher?
The following is a letter to a friend who was inquiring about how to interview a prospective piano teacher. I thought the information might be useful to others out there in search of a teacher.
Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. I'm a hypocrite because I really, really hate it when people put me on hold like that. I have no excuse except I kept putting it off until I forgot about it. Shawna reminded me today so here I am. One reason I was putting off writing you about it is because it's not an easy question.
First, you need to decide what exactly you want your daughter to get out of the lessons. The ability to read and play music? 'To what level of difficulty? Do you want her to learn to play by ear? Transpose (take a song written in one key and play it in another key)? Sight read? Learn church music? Classical? Jazz? Do you want her to learn for personal enjoyment or be equipped possibly to work professionally? (Yes there are plenty of jobs out there for muscians with the right skills.)
Then I will tell you that most teachers ONLY teach students how to read and play music from method books and the vast majority of kids will quit (or want to) once it starts to get hard and it will take a commitment of practising as a part of life's daily routine. Are you going to let her take until she gets tired of it or make her take until she leaves home?
If you're willing to go into Memphis, you'll probably find a really good teacher who will teach her more than just method books but also keyboard (above mentioned) skills as well. Lest you think all those skills are for advanced students or geniuses, I teach ALL my students those skills from the get go, regardless of age. There's more to the piano than just reading notes. In fact I teach them to play by ear before I teach them to read music.
When interviewing a prospective teacher get their credentials. Where did they go to school, do they have a Master's or just a Bachelor's (Yes, there is a HUGE difference between the two.) What was their degree in? Performance or also a pedagogy degree? Have they ever worked (or are they) working professionally as a musician?
Finally, you need to decide how determined you are. Are you willing to enforce practise times? Are you willing to make her keep taking even after it starts to get hard (which it will sooner or later). My advice is to find a teacher who will make the experience as positive as possible and don't let your daughter quit-even if it means changing teachers. I've never met someone who regretted knowing how to play the piano as an adult and I've met countless people who have regretted quitting as a child.
Shawna tells me that Alyssa is a brilliant little girl. Studies have shown that children who learn how to play the piano develop their intellect to a higher degree than those that don't. There are many cognitive skills that are exercized and developed from learning how to play. From a purely academic perspective you are helping your child succeed by having her take piano lessons.
If you have any more questions, I'll try to answer them in a more timely manner. Good luck!