My goal as a piano teacher is to help students realize their own unique musical voice and to give them a solid technical foundation that enables them to explore their expressive capabilities. Teaching music is not only a passion for me, but a way to convey the rich traditions that have been passed on to me from my own teachers.
Ultimately, my purpose as a piano teacher is to make myself unnecessary. In other words, to provide my students with the mental and physical tools they will need in order to teach themselves for the rest of their musical lives. During my time with a student, I have the ability to guide and mentor them by using demonstration, explanation, and the sharing of ideas and traditions; nevertheless, the majority of a student’s learning will take place during individual practice and study. Therefore, I make sure that my students know how to use their time efficiently and maximize the productivity of their practicing. By reinforcing the importance of musical integrity, attention to detail, and respect for the artistic product, I ensure that each student is able to realize their potential and consistently develop and improve essential skills in the future.
I believe there are three vital attributes that need to be developed in all aspiring musicians; these are the intellectual, the physical, and the emotional aspects piano playing. Specific intellectual skills include diligent reading of a score, recognition of all musical symbols and terms, theoretical analysis, and aural development. Physical education at the piano includes learning proper posture, hand position, visceral rhythmic feeling, and finger dexterity. Finally, the communicative, emotional nature of music must be instilled. Musicality is not just an emergent phenomenon that results from the application of fundamental skills, but a practiced ability that needs to be taught and nurtured. I emphasize phrasing, dynamic shading, pacing, awareness of character and atmosphere, and the projection of line as rudimentary. By teaching the intellectual, physical, and emotional aspects of piano playing at the same time, I take a holistic approach; that is, all the above-listed vital skills must be developed simultaneously to train well-rounded musicians.
Different students come to a new teacher with an endless variety of previous experiences. This is why I avoid strictly graduated or standardized methods. It is my responsibility as a teacher to analyze my students’ needs on an individual basis, and provide each one with an approach that will best suit their personal development. I have formed this attitude out of respect for my students, and a commitment to helping them achieve their goals. Music is a highly flexible art form, and while there are basic criteria that all students must learn to understand its principles, each learner inevitably comes with a different set of strengths and weaknesses. As a teacher, my job is to foster the strengths, and address all issues that need improvement.
When a student leaves a lesson, their mind should be reeling with ideas and inspiration, stemming from a genuine love for music that propels and sustains all motivation. The technical attributes of music making, while extremely important, are only a means to an end, not an end in themselves. The end is the expression of emotions and ideas that are authentic to each of us, and if I can help a student accomplish this ability to communicate through music, then I know I have been successful as a teacher.