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#1275742 - 09/26/09 06:02 PM How do you start with transfer student?
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: NJ
I just returned to teaching after a long break. There are so many methods out there, internet resources, forums to help, that I don't know where to start. My first new student is a transfer student. I spent days poring thru his notebook to see what pieces and scales, etc. he'd learned (he's in PA1). His teacher never wrote a single thing in any of his 6 music books, so it was fairly time consuming. I've done some Primer review and PA1 review with him, and checked on posture, hand position, etc. and he seems to have progressed fairly well. He took lessons for less than a year and has almost completed PA 1. Is that an average representation of how long it would take to get through PA 1?

Also, it seems like teachers use quite a few repertoire books in the beginning, besides technique and theory books. I would appreciate any recommendations, or directions to other threads. I didn't have much luck on my searches. Thanks.
Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member

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#1275786 - 09/26/09 07:55 PM Re: How do you start with transfer student? [Re: chasingrainbows]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7639
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Heck, I'd just listen to him play 4 or 5 pieces, observe and evaluate his general skill level, then start in. You'll discover deficiencies soon enough.

I don't use PA, but in general, if I am taking a transfer who's still in methods, I'll attempt to cross him over to a series I do use, if he really needs it, or move him into a repertory series and etudes, where we really begin our work of becoming a pianist.
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

#1275820 - 09/26/09 09:04 PM Re: How do you start with transfer student? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: NJ
Thank you John. This is what I did for the first lesson: evaluated posture, hand position (all good), asked him if he could play one of his former pieces (he really couldn't), so as part of his assignment I had him review to play for me his recital piece, and pick one other of his favorite pieces to play for me next lesson. I reviewed his scale playing and at the second lesson, I also went over the review sections of the Primer and PA1 with him to gauge what he remembered. I will probably stay with PA since that's what I am using and feel the most comfortable with, but will take your advice and pick up some etudes. Can you recommend a repertory series? Do you mean "Performance" books?
Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member

#1275887 - 09/26/09 10:49 PM Re: How do you start with transfer student? [Re: chasingrainbows]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
May I ask you, Irenev, if you plan to write in his assignment books or on the music itself?

I think no notes written is a big disadvantage to the next teacher.

And, I also think that with markings on the page and complete instructions with beginners we are enabling them to remember what the task is and how to do it. Left to their own devices we don't know what they will be able to do and retain.

I think the big focus with a transfer student at any level is to become mutually acquainted with him in a friendly way and to find as much as possible to remark favorably upon. I think transfer students take time to adjust to the new teacher and they may be concerned about things we don't think about as teachers. The comfort level of the student is important to me and I also feel that it is impossible to teach someone who is resisting either me or the music assignment. We need their permission to go ahead especially if we see some changes in the future that are needed.

I think transfer students and beginners feel a little like the piano bench can be a "hot seat" during the lesson. Gauging and evaluating his abilities is an important first step as you are doing but also noticing his attitudes and his body language will get you lots of information, as do direct questions asked in a friendly, inquisitive way.

You didn't mention his age or how long he studied with the first teacher but those are also things to take into account with this young man.

Looking at music in sheetmusicplus may help you get acquainted with what's on the market today for teaching purposes. I prefer supplemental music in books or sheets to the methods and I find the younger kids through about age 7 enjoy children's songs and folk music. I rely on the music education composers series for really attractive pieces that are written with levels in mind.

Best wishes!


#1275893 - 09/26/09 10:53 PM Re: How do you start with transfer student? [Re: chasingrainbows]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7639
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
If you want to coordinate with the lesson book, then go with the performance book. I try to get students out of methods as soon as possible. Keith Snell's piano repertoire series (Kjos) primer starts in somewhere around level 1 or 2 depending on method series. It's the series I use most often, but there are many other good ones out there.

Helen Marlais has several sets, published by FJH, which are quite good and offer some alternate repertoire. Several of my more elementary level teens are liking the Festival Series.

If the student is being overwhelmed with classical music, you could supplement with something like Melody Bober's Grand Piano Solos, which, if any of you teachers haven't played through it, has a large number of 'pupil savers' pieces in it. In fact, I owe her a note of thanks, because one of my intermediate students was about to quit lessons this Fall, until I played through many of the pieces in level 5 for him, and suddenly, he was totally enthused once again.
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

#1276152 - 09/27/09 02:29 PM Re: How do you start with transfer student? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
You didn't mention how old your transfer student is. That will make a difference. I use PA primarily, and I limit myself for the most part to beginners. In general, a set of PA books takes my students about a year. I had one truly motivated 8 year old finish the primer level in less than 3 months - a unit per week, but that is unusual for my students. She finished level 1 in about 5 months. (And then she moved away... frown ) If your student did both the primary level and level 1 in less than a year, I think that's great progress.

However, I recently got a transfer student who had "finished" level 1 when she came to me. But her teacher only did the lesson book - no theory, no technique, etc. And he crossed off about every third piece. Needless to say, she had gaps in her education. Fortunately, she has been willing to go back and pick up some of those things. We are going through level 1 again, but this time skipping the lesson book completely, and using theory, technique, and performance only. It's working well - a nice review of concepts with all new pieces, and we are both pleased with her progress.

The mistake I make most often with transfer students (I've only had 4 of them, so I'm still learning) is being afraid to back up. I'm afraid they'll feel like I'm wasting their time or criticizing their former teacher. And yet, if I forge on forward, progress is slow and they get frustrated and overwhelmed. So now I just plan on taking a month or so to "play around" before making any hard and fast decisions. And I do try to pick a spot to start where they will have some success!

I think your assignment to review a couple pieces is a great one. I wouldn't try to re-teach them, though, or critique them. Notice what they might need to work on, and find other pieces to do it with. Otherwise you'll be fighting harder since the piece has been practiced so much already.

This might come naturally to you, but be sure to find lots and lots of things to compliment. Like Betty pointed out, they are aware that they are in a sense "auditioning" and it's scary. With brand-new-to-piano students, I get to be nice, and friendly, and fun right from the start. With transfer students, it's harder to remember to do that.

As an aside, I am pretty dependent upon "graded" materials, so I like to use the PA supplements. But I have stacks and stacks of various music that I can also pull from. But I am afraid I am not as good as I would like to be at matching up pieces with appropriate level. I've had some spectacular failures.
piano teacher

#1276223 - 09/27/09 05:06 PM Re: How do you start with transfer student? [Re: Lollipop]
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 89
Loc: New York, USA
I've had quite a few transfer students. For the most part, I continue on in their familiar method, PA in your student's case. To supplement, I always teach scales, and use Burnam's Dozen-A-Day series. Your student would probably be ready for the 2nd book in the series called Prepratory, It's the blue book, not to be confused with Book Two which is much harder and has an orange cover.

Jane Hergo has a Five Finger Frolic book which is great for sight reading and has fun, charming pieces for children. I agree with John, Melody Bober is terrific as well for fun, interesting pieces to learn.

Good luck!

Joan Edward

Private piano teacher, 20+ years

#1276729 - 09/28/09 05:19 PM Re: How do you start with transfer student? [Re: EDWARDIAN]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: NJ
Thanks to John, Betty, Lollipop, Edwardian and hopefully I haven't left anyone else out. Such wonderful advice! Part of my teaching philosophy is to create a positive, relaxed (yet with expectations of hard work and practice)environment with my students, especially those young ones. My transfer student is in 2d grade. He's quite smart and quick as well. I noticed while reviewing his recital/favorite pieces that were learned with his past teacher that there were a lot of stops and hestitations. I would prefer less of that, and maybe taking a little more time getting through PA and PA1 (which were completed in 8 months!).

I'd be very interested to hear how you feel about quantity vs. quality.

I was very positive because I want him to feel relaxed and encouraged with his new teacher. I will definitely look into the Dozen a Day and Bober music. I've pulled some other loose music out for him and hope to get him into one of C. Rollin's Spanish pieces (Level 1) in the near future. I'm pretty confident he can do that. I also have some flash cards (pumpkins) to test his knowledge of notes and rhythms. Over all, I think his prior teacher did a very good job with him, and wonder why they left that teacher.
Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member


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