On Learning and Teaching Piano
"Piano has always been an important part of my life. I grew up with supportive parents and five musical siblings who offered models of dedication and a healthy outlook on the world. Our piano was a central part of the family environment, and contributed to the life and prosperity of our household. I began piano lessons at 6 years old with my steady, knowledgeable piano teacher, Dorothy Beck Peterson, who continues to be an important mentor for me through my development as a pianist and teacher. Piano was not my sole focus through grade school, but I believe that each activity I explored can be related to learning this king of instruments. I think that developing a broad span of interests and abilities nourishes the musical soul. At the same time, the art of piano promotes a deeper level of personal growth.
Through my youth I developed skills to a high level in competitive gymnastics and ballet. Besides providing opportunities for me to act as a role model in a team setting and to continually seek improvement, these physical activities heightened my sense of spatial awareness, strength, balance, and laws of motion and timing. I believe these qualities transfer to my physical and musical approach when playing piano. The aspect of embodied music became an interest of mine through my years of study with Professor Steven Hesla at the University of Montana (from 2011-2017). We explored and expanded upon concepts deriving from Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which is a music education method that informs musical flow through physical representations of the rhythmic beat.
My study of rhythmic governance through eurhythmic ideas contributes to an understanding of seamless, proportional flow in music. I learned to care for inner rhythmic beats, which guides me in my sense of rubato and moments of arrival in music. My primary objective in piano performance and music making is to produce life and purpose within the music. Success in this aspect relates to an understanding of physical principles in motion that are felt and imagined through the body. I often imagine the motion of a piece in relation to physical laws of gravity, such as a bouncing ball, a flowing river, or a leap and land gesture. Imagining such things helps me follow the curves within the musical line, which keeps the music alive and intriguing. These concepts have been an important influence for my teaching philosophy.
The study of music offers a platform that benefits our existence and participation in the world around us. The skills involved in learning the piano include physical and mental coordination, spatial awareness, analytical and critical thinking, listening, attention to detail, emotional expression and release, self-control, and an appreciation for patience and goal achievement. I strive to teach my students with these important disciplines in mind so they can learn and be creative in the world around them. I believe all these things can be related to the everyday projects and prospects of our lives. For example, I find my training in music and piano helpful even while building a bike shed, or studying Italian! Although learning how to play the piano is a serious endeavor, I try to go about teaching it in a fun and fair-spirited manner. Above all, I want to instill the idea that music always has something to say. I continually yearn to transmit the messages that music has to offer."
1 Lesson and Practice Notebook for me to write assignments and activities, and for the student to write practice times, ideas, or questions throughout each week.
Options for beginners age 6-8:
-Alfred’s Premier Piano Course – Lesson Book 1a, 1b…etc.
-Faber Piano Adventures – Primer level, then Level 1, 2…etc.
Options for beginners age 8-11:
-Alfred’s Piano Course for the Later Beginner – Lesson Book and Theory Book
Options for intermediate beginners:
-Four Star sight reading and ear training books – starting from Level 1
-Dozen a Day technique books – starting from Level 1
-Books from The Royal Conservatory ‘Celebration Series’– Repertoire selected from Level A, 1, 2…etc.
I will supply and/or recommend other materials and music when deemed necessary.