‘The goal in my piano teaching is to enrich the lives of my students and help them achieve a more fulfilled and productive life through the study of music.’
Whole Person Development
Without a doubt, music can build self-esteem, boost confidence, and instil pride, and develop self-identity by giving an outlet for the individuals self-expression, imagination, and maybe even innovation.It can also help with life skills such as adaptability, versatility, and communication. I take this into account in my teaching philosophy.
Playing music is one of the most therapeutic things a human being can do! It can put us in a more receptive, intuitive, positive mental state, increase our self-confidence and its nourishing effect helps us to cope better with the demands of life. It transcends language and unites people of many different cultures and highly disparate backgrounds. It can merge artists and listeners, touch them, and transport them to deeper dimensions of consciousness.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (p21), a national organisation composed of business and education leaders, came to the following conclusion: “there is a profound gap between knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need in typical 21st century communities and workplaces”. P21 argues the most underdeveloped competences crucial to contemporary workplaces are the “4 C’s”:
1. Critical thinking and problem solving
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
A full life requires discovery, engagement, critical and creative thinking, and informed choices. Music is an extraordinary vehicle for developing discipline, attention to detail, work ethic and motivation, and the ability to focus is honed in ways with which few other disciplines can compete. Through music people can learn to identify challenges, set concrete measurable goals, plan strategically, solve problems, reflect and self-assess growth. It can also help in the development of time management and organisational skills.
Communication and Collaboration
Music is not only played but also experienced. I help my students to achieve a more holistic musical existence by encouraging them to attend concerts, listen to recordings, watch videos, take classes, observe rehearsals, play with other people, and share experiences with their friends.
We have entered an extraordinarily exciting time in the history of music, when musicians have access to an unprecedented expanse of influences and creative strategies.
Music has a fantastic and unique ability to break down boundaries and for people from completely different cultures and backgrounds to communicate effectively with each other even if they can’t speak the language. It can even affect social change.
To be able to perform a piece well does not necessarily mean that you are being creative. However, the study and performance of music does give many possibilities for the development of creative ideas and creative artistry.
I look for activities in my teaching which promote active inventiveness and imaginative solutions. These include composing, arranging, improvising, practicing innovative performance and developing exercises.
In the study of music we strive to achieve musical excellence, hone performance skills and instrumental technique.
In the process of becoming more musically literate, I hope to deepen my students appreciation of music and develop a cultural and artistic sensitivity and awareness.
My job is to listen carefully, be responsive, and not get in the way of learning. I show possibilities and give suggestions how to move forward.
I usually begin the lessons with an assessment on how the student has been getting on with their practise goals and design a way forward from there.
I like to approach the study of music from many angles and through a variety of processes. As well as standard notation I also like to use lead sheets, teacher imitation, recording, transcription, improvisation, harmonic analysis, composition, and solfege study.
In my teaching I strive to turn my students into musicians, not just pianists. I encourage them to learn theory and rhythm. I encourage them to sing and hear music more deeply, so that when they go to a piano they are bringing music to their instrument. Anyone who thinks that if they bash their piano long enough it will eventually play them music will find out the hard way that it never does (play music).
It isn’t enough to teach good musical values – students must also learn to experiment and be inventive in their music making. Ultimately, I want them to become lifelong independent music learners so that they can think for themselves, hear for themselves, and know out of their own understanding what works and what doesn’t work.
I am happy for parents to observe lessons. Parents are one of the best facilitators for productive practice if they know what is going on in each lesson, even if they don’t know anything about music.
Many ‘old school’ piano teachers were very strict and admonished their students if they played a wrong note. I believe that it is more constructive to praise my students for their achievements and build on their strengths. Sometimes constructive criticism is helpful. When they go wrong I make suggestions, try to identify the root cause of the problem. encourage them to find their own solutions, help them to understand the problem more clearly so they can see why it is going wrong and try to improve their practice methods.
I strive to help students get the most out of their practise time. A large part of becoming a good musician is learning how to practise effectively. I know some of my students have limited time to practise, but I do insist on regular practise. It is better to practise 15 minutes every day than 2 hours on a Sunday.
I do not advocate the mindless repetition of a piece or exercise for accuracy, but rather I encourage intelligent practice by trying to get to the root of a problem, experimentation, analysis, keeping a practice journal. The right thing is making personalised, informed judgements and having faith in your abilities as a human being. I encourage my students to explore. I endeavour to show my students how they can teach themselves. I can show them many things to begin with, but hopefully as my teaching progresses I become more of a coach, and eventually if it goes well they can continue to progress without me.
Rather than focus on the relentless pursuit of perfection, students often play better when encouraged to play with more confidence, feeling, take ownership of a piece and express themselves through music .
As a result, students increase engagement, practise harder, nervousness diminishes, the condemnatory ego is suppressed and they improve more rapidly. Reasons behind this counter intuitive reality have been explored in books like Gary Green’s ‘The Inner Game of Music’ and Kenny Werner’s ‘Effortless Mastery’.
Begin Your Piano-Playing Journey
The decision to learn piano can be one of the best investments you make for yourself. It can also benefit those around you, as playing music can be inspiring and motivating to others. Do not wait any longer to start making your piano dreams come true!