It Takes Two Generations…

This year I have had a handful of gorgeous beginners taking lessons with me. I’m trialling new material for beginners and I need a cohort of children of different ages, genders, interests and learning styles so I can really test a range of approaches I believe will be more effective than the approaches I’ve used in the past. I haven’t auditioned these new students prior to accepting them into my studio –  inviting a diverse group of children to explore the piano and learn musicianship and performance skills with me gives me my best chance of testing my material (as well as keeping me on my toes!). Of all the diversities amongst these beginners the greatest is probably this: some children come from families of professional musicians while some come from families where no one has ever learned an instrument. What does this mean? On the surface it means that I can write “start on F sharp” in a notebook

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Has Parenthood Changed My Teaching?

Back in second half of 2006, when I was 14-16 weeks pregnant, Gina Wake (from Hal Leonard Australia) and I did a two or three week tour launching Getting to Grade Four. And then, between weeks 28-31 of my pregnancy (and when Gina was 15-18 weeks along in her pregnancy!), we toured the nation again launching Getting to Preliminary New Mix and Getting to Grade One New Mix. In retrospect we don’t know what we were thinking. But talking to piano teachers at this cusp moment in my life, this about-to-be-parent phase, meant that teachers who had known me through my seminars since as early as 2000 were sharing this transition with me, celebrating the arrival of motherhood on my resumé and giving me some great advice along the way. One teacher said to me with quite a twinkle in her eye “I wonder how becoming a parent is going to change your piano teaching…” “So do I!”, I exclaimed

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Half An Hour Is Not Enough

Since 2000 I’ve been talking to piano teachers around Australia (and from time to time around New Zealand, even less often in the UK, and just twice in Malaysia), and it doesn’t matter where I go, Sydney, Belfast, Bendigo, Wellington or Penang, teachers ask me “how can we fit it all in a half hour piano lesson?”. The short answer is “you can’t”, and in a way it’s a relief to just get that admission out of the way. It takes a lot of energy and self-deceit to pretend that 30 minute lessons on an almost weekly basis for 10+ years will produce master musicians, and once we recognise that this time frame is insufficient we can start looking for better strategies. So, if half an hour isn’t enough, what can we do about it? 1. We can re-examine how we define ‘enough’. What are the goals we are setting? Are they the goals we want to work towards?! Most

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Piano Lessons for Life

Piano teaching has been a part of my life since birth (my mother resumed her at-home piano teaching when I was three weeks old) and a part of my professional existence since I was 14 and started giving lessons myself. Teaching at such a young age provided many lessons to me beyond the usual teenage job learning curve: I had to create invoices, prepare materials, plan learning sequences, discuss the progress of students with their parents, coordinate timetabling, engage in professional development, and so forth. This learning curve was much facilitated by teaching under the watchful eye of a mentor-mother, but even so, these are considerable responsibilities for someone who won’t be allowed to vote for another 4 years. The most challenging aspect of teaching as a 14 year old was, without doubt, talking with the parents. Fortunately my early students practised well enough, and everyone paid their fees on time, so two of the biggest piano teacher communication challenges

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