What are your studio rates?
Rates and Policy information can be found under Studio Policy and Rates.
What is your pianistic and musical philosophy?
I love teaching! My philosophy as a teacher is to nurture the art of music by providing a well-rounded curriculum encompassing a broad range of musicianship skills. I believe that a high level of musicality is achieved by focusing on the process. This process-oriented approach helps the student to discover personal rewards in musical study, find enjoyment in music-making, feel confident of his/her ability to learn and to feel that the effort invested into piano studies is a worthwhile endeavor. The study of piano is a rewarding experience and is important for developing a student’s gifts/talents as a vital part of investing in their future.
What are your teaching objectives?
- My primary goal is to teach students how to learn.
- Teaching must be matched to the student’s learning style, not learning matched to the teacher’s teaching style. Therefore, teaching style, curriculum, and approach must be flexible, varied, and individual.
- Empowerment is the key to motivation. Motivation is not something the teacher does to a student; it is something the student does to himself. The teacher’s part is to introduce possibilities.
The following maxims guide my interaction with students:
- I’ll never be angry if you ask a question.
- I’ll never be angry if you make a mistake.
- I’ll be upset only if you don’t try. If you won’t try, I can’t teach you.
- If you don’t understand, it’s my fault, not yours. It’s my job to teach you in a way you understand.
- Attempting is often more important than succeeding.
Other ideas paramount in my teaching:
- Music is a joy.
- Music lessons should be fun. They are a privilege, not a punishment or a requirement. If we’re not having fun, something is wrong.
- Piano study isn’t always going to be easy, but it always should be satisfying.
- I emphasize initiative and self-direction.
- I encourage exploration and creativity.
- I show the student respect and affection.
What is your approach to teaching theory, sight reading, and keyboard harmony?
In my studio I take a classical approach to piano lessons. Based on my musical training, what I find gives me the most joy as a teacher and pianist, and what I have seen my students most enjoying is the ability to sight-read music and understand musical theory. As a foundation of my studio, I never teach by rote and insist that students learn to understand the notes, counting and technique. This always proves to be extremely rewarding for both young children and adult students alike because this allows them to pick up a piece of music and play for their own enjoyment without the constant need of a teacher.
The theory and depth behind how music is composed and played is extremely extensive and takes many years of lessons to become affluent – piano is an art form and looks deceptively simple when watching a performer. When teaching music theory adult students often say “I had no idea how purposeful, logical and intricate reading music actually is – it is really fascinating!”. Students who begin lessons as children just know this to be how it is because understanding theory should begin at the very first lesson.
I can most easily and accurately associate music theory with mathematics – everything builds upon a solid and basic foundation and continues to build and layer from one concept to the next. One cannot learn algebra without fully understanding how to add, subtract, divide etc. If one can “kind of” add, subtract or divide, the problems would take an enormous amount of time when it should be quickly understood at the most basic level.
I firmly believe that each level, generically speaking, of piano study should be understood thoroughly and in many different ways before rushing into the next. A student should never get through the first “level” of math in a month, aspire to get through the second level in the next month and continue at that pace. It is important to know that to successfully sight-read a piece of music it must be below the current level that a student is working at. If it isn’t, then the pieces the student is currently working on are not appropriately challenging.
As a generic example, if a student is working at a level 4, then they should be able to pick up music at a level 2 or 3 and quickly understand how to count and play it. They will not be able to pick up something at their current level and play it immediately. By the time a student reaches high-school and they are working at a level 12, then they should be able to pick something up quickly at a level 9 or 10 – which is very impressive but did take years to achieve.
Finally, mastery of the piano will not be achieved after a few years of lessons or even at the end of high school just as mathematics don’t end at either point – how much one wants to learn will depend on how far they want to take it. However, unlike mathematics (well, for the general public – not meaning to offend any mathematicians!), creating and playing music for any musician becomes extremely personal, enjoyable, theraputic and spritual to the player. It is an investment that for children and adults alike brings a lifetime of enjoyment, creativity and continuous new and exciting challenges. It is an extremely rewarding study.
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. … I get most joy in life out of music.”
What piano method will be used?
I have taught from all piano methods. Using my own teaching experience, and my pedagogical courses at ASU and NAU, I choose to teach beginning and intermediate students (ages 5-17) mainly through the Faber & Faber Piano Adventures series. It has set a new standard for a new century of piano teaching and is fast becoming the method of choice at leading university pedagogy programs and major teaching studios around the world.
Why use the Faber & Faber Piano Adventure Series?
Approach to Reading is effectively integrating three skills: 1) discreet note recognition, 2) intervallic reading, and 3) a multi-key understanding. These are carefully sequenced and reinforced to ensure success.
- Pianistic Music is specifically written (or arranged) for the piano. 1) pieces feel and sound right at the piano, 2) pieces make easy and effective use of the damper pedal, 3) the pieces incorporate essential pianistic gestures – the motions and phrases that are integral to playing the piano, 4) pianistic pieces develop fluent piano technique and are written to encourage freedom at the keyboard, to promote a relaxed wrist, and to suggest gestures that carry the hand across the full range of the instrument.
- Artistic Music is integrated throughout these books. A method can only be as good as its music, and the course dovetails technique and artistry so the teacher may bring out maximum expression in the student’s playing. Parents and students notice the musicality.
- Student Appeal is ensured and time tested with ten years of painstaking pilot testing. Literally a hundred pieces that did not pass the test of student enthusiasm were discarded and replaced until the method met the standard and musical taste of the piano student and teacher. The tremendous appeal of the music as published has been confirmed by the hundreds of letters and comments from teachers and students across the United States.
What topics are covered in a weekly lesson?
Lessons will be composed of reviewing previous lesson material, learning new material, sight-reading, musical statement, piano technique, and ear-training. Students are also provided with a “popular book” of pieces that are quickly recognized (from musical theatre, movies, folk tunes). All students will have a supplementary notespeller that reinforces note reading through repetition and work outside of the studio.
Non-beginning students, after assessment in theory and technical skills, will be provided with changing repertoire selected to build on their strengths and challenge their weaknesses. The repertoire ranges from the Baroque to Contemporary styles and is chosen by both the student and the instructor.
Practicing – how much when I first start lessons?
- Students ages 3-5 should be practicing 5-10 minutes 5 days a week.
- Beginning students ages 6-9 should be practicing 20-25 minutes 5 days a week.
- Students 6-13 who have been taking lessons more than 6 months should be practicing 25-30 minutes 5 days a week.
- Adult students should be practicing a minimum of 25 minutes 5 days a week.
- Time should be scheduled at the same time every day and “scheduled in” as any after-school activity would be. Consistency is vital to keep a child learning and processing.
How long are lessons?
The majority of lessons are 30 minutes in length. What you are hoping to achieve – and how much time you are willing to dedicate to practicing – will depend on how long the lesson will be.
What are your performance requirements?
There are 6-7 recitals held each year; 3 in the spring, 1 in the summer, 1 in the fall and 2 in winter. The Spring Recital – in which students perform one memorized solo – is based on a musical time period or theme. The Spring and Winter recitals are required. All of the other recitals are either option or select students only.
Do your students participate in the Arizona Study Program or competitions?
Students have the option to participate in the Arizona Study Program once they are of appropriate level.
More information: Arizona Study Program
Do I need a piano or can I use a keyboard to start?
A keyboard is fine – for a while – if it meets the following guidelines:
- The keys are full-size – 7/8 of an inch. Smaller keys are not appropriate and are very difficult to transfer between practicing and the lesson.
- The keys are weighted – if you push harder, the sound gets louder. If you push lighter, the sound gets softer.
- There are at least 60 keys – a full size keyboard will have 88 keys.
- The keyboard has a stand to hold the keyboard and to hold the music – if there is no stand, there must be a way to put the keyboard on a desk so that the student simulates the seating position at a piano.
A keyboard that is around 60 keys can be used for up to a year and a half. After that point a full-size digital piano or acoustic piano must be purchased.
A digital keyboard that is 88 keys and weighted can be used for up to, but no longer than, around 3 years. After that point, a piano should be purchased or rented.
Where can I buy a keyboard?
When will it become necessary to invest in an acoustic piano?
The following links have some general information regarding the differences between an acoustic and digital instrument. A student beginning on an electronic instrument will need to invest in an acoustic instrument within two to five years. This will depend greatly on the type of electronic instrument the student is currently playing on. When I notice a lack of finger strength that is inhibiting a student from working at their full potential I will bring up the topic of investing in an acoustic piano.
What should I be looking for when purchasing a piano?
There are some brands that are better than others, however a lot depends on how the piano was cared for, it’s current condition and most importantly how it plays. Most students and parents who are starting lessons can’t necessarily tell if the piano has a good tone and how the keys feel – their depth and evenness. I am always glad, after you have found a piano that you are serious about buying, to meet with you and give you my honest opinion about the piano. A well-chosen piano can last forever and there will never be a need to upgrade or purchase a second piano over the years. In fact, one of the pianos used in my studio was the piano I first starting learning on when I began lessons. Now I teach from it and the tone and touch is still amazing!
What do I need to do to maintain my piano?
I need my piano tuned! Who would you recommend?
I have my pianos tuned before student recordings for each concert by Tony Smith. I have been very satisfied with his work. Please understand that rates are around $100-$120 for a piano tuning. This is a very fair price! Tuning a piano usually takes about an hour and a piano tuner is very specialized in what they do. A piano tuner also has to drive from one location to the next which is very time consuming.
I need a metronome!
I am moving and need someone to move my piano!
My child wants to quit piano lessons and I don’t want to force them – piano should be fun. What should I do?
On occasion this situation will arise in all studios. I am very pleased to say that in my studio it is a rare occasion, however there are several ways to get through this phase. When students consider quitting, they tend to be around 3 years of taking lessons or are starting middle school. At this point, the pieces become longer, more challenging and the practicing required has increased. To avoid this, I try to gradually increase practice requirements over the course of a student’s piano education – but sometimes a student will hit a wall and feel overwhelmed. Other students will become bored with the routine, regular lesson material. I always strongly encourage parents around the holidays and over the summers to purchase music outside of the weekly material – recognizable songs that their child would enjoy like musicals, pop songs, holiday music, movie music etc. This music can easily be incorporated into lesson assignments – and the more music laying around at home the better! These students will often tend to walk by the piano, pick up a new book and play this music for fun. It doesn’t even seem like practicing. This increases their sight-reading ability and confidence in their own piano discipline. Finally, around the middle school years, students tend to take on more activities. Daily practice can become difficult to fit in with after school clubs, increased homework and sports. The best solution to this is organization. If practicing can be at the same time everyday (for example, from 4:00-4:30pm or before school from 7:00-7:30am) then the student doesn’t put it off until the end of the day when they are tired or realize that it’s 9:00pm and they don’t have any time left to practice.
The main point to stress here is don’t quit! You have made a significant investment by this point and almost all students will come around in a few weeks. Students will almost certainly regret quitting or being allowed to quit.
The following article My Kid Wants to Quit Piano!?!? also shares my experiences and has some thoughtful information.