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I restarted piano lessons two years ago after decades of absence from the piano. My first piano teacher after beginning again had a PhD in piano performance. She and her husband moved away and I got another teacher who also had a PhD in piano performance.

Both were supremely excellent pianists, but I thought their teaching skills left something to be desired. I've been thinking that because their educational focus was on performance and not teaching, it made them second-rate teachers. I'm not currently taking lessons, but am thinking that in searching for a new teacher, I should look for someone with an educational background in piano pedagogy rather than performance.

What are your suggestions?

Last edited by Tim1028; 08/09/17 06:21 PM.
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Limiting your pool of teachers based solely upon the degrees they've earned is not the best approach, in my opinion.
Some performance programs have exceptional pedagogy opportunities for students through coursework, outreach, and graduate assistantships with oversight by experienced mentors and pedagogues. Others don't. By the same token, some pedagogy programs are truly exceptional, comprehensive, and rigorous, while others seem like watered-down performance degrees with slight tweaks to coursework.

I thought I knew a lot about being a pianist and teacher after my experiences earning 3 college degrees in piano and having a couple of grad assistantships with a lot of private and group teaching. Then I started my professional career, and realized there was (and continues to be) a lot more to learn out in the real world.

The best teachers of piano I had in college didn't have a PhD or DMA, by the way. It would be silly to eliminate studying with them because they didn't have a terminal degree, since they forgot more about playing and teaching through actual life experience than I'll probably ever know.


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In some situations, a degree in piano pedagogy means the teacher has had a "less than stellar" degree, and thus was given to the "lesser" teacher in the degree program at the university. But, in reality, it has very little to do with the teacher's ability to teach.

I would simply look for the best teacher possible. A degree is just a piece of paper.


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Originally Posted by Tim1028
Both were supremely excellent pianists, but I thought their teaching skills left something to be desired. I've been thinking that because their educational focus was on performance and not teaching, it made them second-rate teachers.


Teaching is a discipline and there are amazing teachers who contribute to this forum !

There are so many posts when I look at the question as a long-time pianist and go "geez, how do I even provide a concrete piece of advice" and then one of PW's teachers will weigh in with some really cogent point.

OTOH, realize that every one of us piano players spends ten times more time at the piano solo than with a teach. In a way, we have to figure it out for ourselves. A good teach doesn't impart the skill mystically (oh how I wish) but tries various approaches, a history of techniques that have worked, and no small amount of intuition to help you figure out how to teach yourself. Coz at the end, you only have yourself to blame.

So, yah, your performance majors might be bad teachers or not and you might profit from finding another teacher. If it's not clicking, it's not clicking. And if you feel lost after each lesson, that's not a great sign either. But I expect one can find a portion of pedagogy folks who aren't great and a portion of performance folks who are great.

Anyway, my main point to advise you against over-generalization. Pedagogy or performance, I think the ideal is to find someone who watches and listens, gives actionable suggestions, works with you to find what works for you, inspires you to apply yourself... and then the other 90% of the time, you have to try to make it work for you at the bench.

EDIT: Crap. Wrong forum. Take this as opinion from a long time student and not an actual teacher.

Last edited by Whizbang; 08/10/17 01:11 AM.

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Yes, I believe beginners and intermediate players should search for teacher with piano pedagogy degree rather than piano performance degree. But what is more important is to search for teacher with pedagogical talent. And the main sign of this talent imo is a deep interest in your personality and rapt attention to your playing that a teacher shows from the very first minute.

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I guess it's fair to say that degrees are not equal. In some systems they are quite consistent and you can expect them to produce fairly good teachers because of uniform curriculums and requirements and also harder admission process. In others it may mean a little more than a piece of paper...

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I'd say choose a teacher based on the recommendations of their students.

I know an excellent player who absolutely reuses to teach, because he's been playing since he was three years old, and doesn't think that he can transfer to someone else the things he's known for sixty years. I really wish he could teach, he's so very good.


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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
And the main sign of this talent imo is a deep interest in your personality and rapt attention to your playing that a teacher shows from the very first minute.

Been there, done that, never again! (especiallyt the personality bit) A teacher, esp. of a beginner or beginner-intermediate, or esp. if the student started on their own or had a poorish first teacher must:
- understand the instrument, technique, and how music works including at a basic level
- want to impart basic skills to the student
- know how to impart those basic skills to the student
- know how to teach the student how to practice, how to approach things on a daily and weekly basis
- be observant of the student's physical motions (esp. for an adult), comprehension, and other abilities which have to do with playing music on an instrument

None of this involves personality. In my experience as a student, attention to personality can even get in the way, and even seriously interfere with the learning and teaching process.

"Rapt attention" I would agree with wholeheartedly if by this you mean attention to how you play physically, what you understand, how you understand it, and other things that are related to learning to play an instrument.

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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
In some situations, a degree in piano pedagogy means the teacher has had a "less than stellar" degree, and thus was given to the "lesser" teacher in the degree program at the university. But, in reality, it has very little to do with the teacher's ability to teach.

I would simply look for the best teacher possible. A degree is just a piece of paper.

+1. Even schools with not-so-great programs can have a particularly talented teacher. So what matters primarily is if the teacher knows how to teach, and secondarily, if they have experience in teaching, and in this particular case, teaching adults. I'd use that criteria instead.


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Credentials don't matter in teaching piano. But a graduate degree in piano performance is something that would *not* attract me as a beginner or returning intermediate adult pianist: it's nearly a declaration that this teacher holds teaching in lesser regard. By contrast, any degree in piano pedagogy or music education is a bit more interesting: it suggests some thought given to the world of musical explanation and graded thinking, especially at early levels of music study. Unfortunately such educational training always centres on children, not adults.

To me the best idea is to take several one-off lessons with various recommended piano teachers, regardless of their formal training. Or do an in-person interview/audition with several - this is generally cost free - and then take a paid lesson or two with each of your strongest candidates. You'll know which one feels the best to you. If it happens to be someone with a doctorate in piano performance, so be it and you can tell me I was wrong.

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I'd say that credentials in performing are useless for teachers, but piano teaching degrees or diplomas are useful.

In my home country, no piano teacher would be hired without a piano teaching diploma, because all students are expected to be taught to a recognized exam syllabus (ABRSM). Music teachers are held in high esteem there, and music education is regarded as 'educational' rather than for performing purposes, or as a route to showbiz.

I had two teachers in that country, and two in the UK, and all had teaching diplomas. None of them were ever at a loss for suitable teaching material or pieces for any grade, or for teaching specific skills. Of course, all taught classical.

Personally, if I was looking for a teacher now, I wouldn't hire any who has no piano teaching credentials.


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I find some of the comments here completely removed from reality, and potentially harmful.

I went to a university with a small piano department. We only have a performance degree, not a pedagogy degree. When I went there, we didn't even have pedagogy classes.

So if some people think that I'm not a good teacher simply because I have a performance degree in lieu of a pedagogy degree, they are hilariously wrong.


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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I find some of the comments here completely removed from reality, and potentially harmful.

I went to a university with a small piano department. We only have a performance degree, not a pedagogy degree. When I went there, we didn't even have pedagogy classes.

So if some people think that I'm not a good teacher simply because I have a performance degree in lieu of a pedagogy degree, they are hilariously wrong.


👍 My current teacher 's degree is in piano performance as well. She is one of the most gifted teachers I have ever seen. I'm glad that I didn't try to use "a rule "and tried to find the right teacher, instead.


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Originally Posted by keystring

None of this involves personality. In my experience as a student, attention to personality can even get in the way, and even seriously interfere with the learning and teaching process.

"Rapt attention" I would agree with wholeheartedly if by this you mean attention to how you play physically, what you understand, how you understand it, and other things that are related to learning to play an instrument.

Talking about personality, I mean that a gifted teacher not only teaches technique and specific skills, but he/she encourages personal development in a student by the means of music. He/she wants a student to become someone bigger. Such were the greatest pedagogues of Russian school. Talented teacher works much on understanding of different music by a student and teaches musical culture in a broad sense.

So if you ever see a teacher who tries to give you something beyond formal training, then you are very lucky.

I was very happy to have one teacher of that kind in my life. Not for a long time unfortunately, she was older than 80.

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Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
Credentials don't matter in teaching piano. But a graduate degree in piano performance is something that would *not* attract me as a beginner or returning intermediate adult pianist: it's nearly a declaration that this teacher holds teaching in lesser regard. By contrast, any degree in piano pedagogy or music education is a bit more interesting: it suggests some thought given to the world of musical explanation...


I could not possibly disagree more with this.


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My daughter's teacher has 3 degrees in piano performance.

As she puts it, "I am so lucky. I have the best piano teacher ever."

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Following from what I wrote earlier, I'd like to add that I have a diploma in piano performance, but don't consider myself qualified to teach. And I've never taught anyone formally.

I know a lot of piano repertoire but they're almost all advanced music, and of course I also know a lot of the history and theory of music. However, a teacher needs to know how to teach beginners from first principles, and know a lot of beginner and intermediate rep and teaching pieces specially composed for such purposes, and how to use and adapt them for individual students depending on their specific needs. (Someone doing the teacher's diploma exam will be tested on these things, but not for performer's diploma). And stuff like knowing how and when to correct students' technique - and importantly, when to leave alone even if the student's hand and finger positions are different from your own. And knowing when individual students' idiosyncrasies are OK because of their specific anatomical attributes and when they are not.

Sure, I could learn 'on the job' (presumably, many teachers do so), and read about various teaching methods, and become familiar with rep designed for teaching purposes. And that's assuming that I already have the right empathy and psychology required to be a good teacher.......


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Re: bennevis above: thumb

Teachers do not teach. They facilitate learning. Their ability to do so likely comes from some innate talent for observation, empathy, communication, AND knowledge of anatomy and current 'best practices' in pedagogy.

I assume that people like AZNpiano keep up to date by reading peer-based pedagogy journals and discussing teaching techniques with peers, as would any good teacher.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
[quote=keystring]
]
Talking about personality, I mean that a gifted teacher not only teaches technique and specific skills, but he/she encourages personal development in a student by the means of music. He/she wants a student to become someone bigger. Such were the greatest pedagogues of Russian school. Talented teacher works much on understanding of different music by a student and teaches musical culture in a broad sense.

So if you ever see a teacher who tries to give you something beyond formal training, then you are very lucky.

I was very happy to have one teacher of that kind in my life. Not for a long time unfortunately, she was older than 80.


thumb


Age, experience, education, performance talent, patience and student achievements are all important factors for me when choosing a teacher to further my study. I believe that having a degree shows that as a student they were able to achieve a high level of playing, understanding and drive for studying piano at the highest possible level, and for me that is should be the foundation for a good teacher. An education provides the student and potential teacher with hours of intensive study of a wide range of repertoire , history, theory and interaction with other students and teachers.


Last edited by Miguel Rey; 08/11/17 10:14 AM.



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Originally Posted by littlebirdblue
My daughter's teacher has 3 degrees in piano performance.

As she puts it, "I am so lucky. I have the best piano teacher ever."


Indeed your daughter is lucky. "Luck" is a fine word to use.

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