Saturday, July 16, 2005

Still piano teaching, believe it or not

Although you wouldn't know it from the last few posts here at Piano Teacher Blog, this blog is actually mostly about piano teaching. So I better write about it.

Quintella is letting me practice at her house, because I don't have a piano and I need to prepare for exams this December (four months or so from now) and practice for my own lessons. Trouble is, she has complained of not feeling emotionally well enough to practce or have lessons this whole month (with her husband's mother dying and her granddaughter getting married, it's a lot of stuff). So she isn't practicing. What do I do about that? Well, if she doesn't make sounds like she's going to start practicing, then no matter how nice she is to me letting me practice on her piano, I'm not helping her if I keep taking her lesson money. So I will say that she can't pay me if she's not going to take lessons. This will not be a good month for that to happen,'s hoping it doesn't.

Kyle is on vacation. Basil just came back from vacation and is doing quite well, having mastered (more or less) the Malaguena from Alfred Book Two. He is also making slow but steady progress with the songs in Martha Mier's Jazz Rags and Blues Book One. Another family has returned from vacation in Europe and we must deal with the limited vision thing with one of the kids. Yet another family is on vacation. My best student performed in Sacramento last week at the Music Teachers' Association of California annual convention. With my oldest student I'm discussing a lot of literature, which is of course only peripheral to piano study, but I find it's good for them and it leads to discussion of broad trends in history and art which affect piano directly. She was having trouble liking Dickens (she had to read it for class), and I recommended Hans Christian Andersen, which she says she likes a lot. I gave her a copy of Oliver Twist and told her she would like it better than Great Expectations, which is what all the schools seem to make the students read. (Why not Oliver Twist? anti-Semitism in the portrayal of Fagin, perhaps...)

And yet another family is also on vacation. Isaac and Myrtle weren't home when I showed up last week, and the note they had left on the door wasn't addressed to me. This, coming the week after their cousins had set me up for new lessons and had me buy a whole bunch of new materials, only to cancel by calling on the phone while I was at Isaac and Myrtle's house waiting for the cousins to show up, led me to believe that Isaac and Myrtle were going to quit as well. But they didn't, which is good.

I have been trying to arrange a master class with my own teacher. We just started lessons about a month and a half ago, and she is much younger than me and probably not used to me yet; but this whole week I've been trying to contact her by phone and email, and she's ignoring me. This is not good, not least of why being that I am trying to get her to teach three master classes next month before school starts (it was my idea), and also because we need to arrange next week's lesson time! One of the down sides of me taking from women is that I think I intimidate them or something: this "I'm just not going to talk to you" thing seems to happen quite a lot to me over the last fifteen years or so, and it's always with women. They do it to me; I have never done it to them. The mysteries of the human organism...

When your own teacher won't return your emails, it's hard to find the emotional energy to practice for your lesson with her. But I will anyway. If worst comes to worst, I'll simply get another teacher and start over. Maybe this time it won't be an Asian woman, with all the concomitant communication weirdnesses.

During the last couple of weeks I have been teaching the two children of one of my two ballet bosses. These kids are 4 and 8, and are extremely smart. I tried to teach the 8 year old a couple of years ago, but he was unable to be serious in the lesson and we had to give up. Now he is focused and bringing all his considerable mental abilities to bear on the task. Both he and his younger sister go to Waldorf schools, where they have different ideas about grades and developmental stages of learning and stuff. It is an issue now, for example, with the four year old, that I need her to be able to write the numbers 1 to 5 and the letters A to G. With my other students, even my 3-year-old Asian students, they already knew. But apparently this Waldorf school will not look kindly on anyone other than the school personnel introducing these concepts to the 4 year old. This will make teaching her piano very difficult (although not impossible).

Because they live far from me, and because both kids are heavily involved in ballet and therefore don't hunger for a creative performing outlet for their performing impulses like many of my other piano students do, I am thinking they won't want to continue after the summer (I presented it to them as a "Summer Piano Camp", with a clearly defined endpoint, after which we would see what is to be done). But if the kids are interested and the parents think it's a good idea, I'll keep teaching them as long as they work hard. If these kids really applied themselves in tandem with their parents, like my Asian families do, they would take over the piano world in no time--that's how smart they are. I hope they decide they really like piano and are willing to work as hard as my other students; but if not, I'll still be grateful for being able to work with them for as long as I get to.

More in the next couple of days...


Blogger Roman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Roman said...

This post has been reinstated by the author...

8:30 AM  
Blogger dveej said...

It would be a world dominated by overly educated artistic types who are more obsessed with detail than is healthy. What kind of rebels would arise in this ecosystem? Sazophone players, no doubt.

8:39 AM  
Blogger dveej said...

Yes, I meant "saxophone". Now they'll take my pianist card away...

8:40 AM  
Blogger mark said...

After reading your Blog (and being a professional music educator myself) I have felt the frustrations of children that are too involved with a million different things. This society is creating a generation of generalists. So many of my band students are into everything from sports to line dancing that they have no time to practice music. Just had to vent....Mark Ellis

Piano Lessons

9:50 AM  
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4:27 PM  
Anonymous Suzan Pleva said...

Hello. I see that you say you can't find any other blogs with piano teachers talking about personal experience? That's pretty much what I write about all of the time on my blog! I know what you mean about students being on vacation and everything. It can really get confusing when trying to keep your schedule in order. About your piano situation; Why don't you look on a classified site and find a free one? The only problem with that is if you don't have the resources to get it moved, then it's not worth it. I hope you check out my blog!

let me know what you think!

Suzan Pleva
Melody Piano
"Understanding is Key!"

8:25 AM  
Anonymous music teaching tips said...

I agree with Mark, I have also experienced problems with students who have other things to do rather than attending their music lessons with me. As a result, I have to rearrange my schedules and forget about my other plans.

What I did... I have my students' parents sign a contract before we begin with the lessons and make up classes will be paid half.

Also, I have posted my studio policies on my website, provided for me by Music Teachers Helper, that handles my billing and lesson schedules.

6:25 AM  
Anonymous lee said...

Like using some piano theory to help my budding guitarists.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Arizona Piano Lessons said...

Im glad i came across this blog, this is exactly what I'm doing on my very own online space. I think it's kind of tough to keep kids interested in musical instruments nowadays because of all the new technologies coming out. Shoot, if there was an x-box when I was a kid, I don't think I'd be a piano teacher today...

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Li-San (Piano Teacher from Sydney, Australia) said...

I can relate! Thanks for sharing the experiences. Sometimes we can feel like we're the only ones whose students don't practice or are perpetually on holidays.

4:04 AM  
Blogger harmonymelody said...

Piano Rhythm Techniques

Rhythm is an essential ingredient of music. A musician must know how to create alluring tunes and must possess the

sense of rhythm.

A pianist can play the right keys but if the timing is not right, then music can be meaningless and unpleasant to the


Here are a few ways to keep steady rhythms:

1. Loud counts!
Another way in learning rhythm and keeping track of it is counting out loud. Counting loudly makes our minds

comprehend the rhythm pattern and it is imprinted in our minds. If a pianist begins to count the rhythm in a musical

composition from one to four and then repeats it again and again, then the rhythm begins to flow into the keys of the

piano, as well. A pianist can relate the notes to the beats, in the music scores, easily, when he/she keeps count of the


2. Clap, Tap, catch rhythm!

A person can grasp the intricate musical rhythms by clapping one's hands, clapping on one's laps and by tapping one's

feet. This is an effective way in learning rhythm. Sometimes the rhythm in a song, changes in the middle of the song.

This can be challenging but a pianist or a musician can get back in rhythm by clapping or
tapping. When one plays on complicated music composition, one can take some time to clap and get back one's

rhythm and timing.

3. Imaginary piano!

To get accustomed to the rhythms, playing on an imaginary piano is of immense help. A piano player can select a

song and then play an imaginary piano. The rhythms can be played on an imaginary piano. This exercise allows a

pianist to understand musical rhythm patterns better. A pianist who has learnt the art of playing on an imaginary

piano can grasp the beats, even if the music slows down or speeds up and he can play on time.

4. Rhythm Accompaniment/Metronome
Do you have a keyboard that comes with rhythm accompaniment?
This is no doubt one of the best way to keep a piano player rhythmically straight!
You are probably aware that most piano player are solo player.
We don't get to play in a band or an orchestra. The best way to imitate an ensemble setting is by using a rhythm

accompaniment tool.

Yoke Wong
Take Your Piano Playing To The Next Level

4:26 AM  
Anonymous piano course said...

I am so glad that I read this article. I never thought that you are still going to pursuit piano teaching. I know that you do great in that path.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Innesa said...

Enjoyed reading your article.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

It's hard when the kids you teach don't take things seriously. Sometimes it's a good idea to just decide what kind of student you are looking for and keep advertising on and until you fill your roster. If you're good at motivating new kids, then do it; but if not, move on.

2:56 PM  
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Blogger Conoco Piano Lamps said...

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11:47 AM  
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For exam you should leave your piano lessons

5:40 AM  
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10:55 PM  
Blogger Hannah Page said...

I took piano lessons since the age of eight. Since I have finished piano lessons I have grown a love for the piano. I am considering teaching piano for some extra cash. It is good to hear that you have done it for so long and still love it. I feel like it will be a rewarding job for me.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Hannah Page said...

I took piano lessons since the age of eight. Since I have finished piano lessons I have grown a love for the piano. I am considering teaching piano for some extra cash. It is good to hear that you have done it for so long and still love it. I feel like it will be a rewarding job for me.

10:56 AM  

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