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What's your teacher like?

Posted By: Cindysphinx

What's your teacher like? - 06/23/04 02:05 PM

I'm wondering what sorts of teachers we all have.

I take lessons from a woman who is about my age, I'm guessing. She's married to a piano teacher, and they have no kids -- she says all of the kids in the studio are her kids!

Her background is that she's the daughter of two well-known piano teachers who have authored lesson books. She used to be a professional pianist herself, although she never attended conservatory. About 20 years ago, she began to develop MS, which put an end to her professional career, so now she teaches. Many things are difficult for her because of the MS, but she says she considers herself lucky she can still play at all.

Her teaching style is extremely laid back -- for better or worse, because she rarely pushes students if they fail to practice. She is relentlessly upbeat and positive, to the point that I'm often taken aback if she says anything even slightly discouraging. Once, shortly after I began lessons, I asked her how long it would take me to master the piano. She gave a sunny, cheerful response of some sort. When pressed, she told me it takes about 10 years to master the instrument! Ouch! But she's very supportive and seems thrilled that I've stuck with it.

I think if there's anything she could do better, it is in explaining theory. I just never know what on earth she is talking about -- "Oh, well that's a five-seven chord in first inversion, so you'll want to do *this.*" I'm going to try to work a bit harder on theory myself because I hate to use lesson time for this sort of rote study.

On the whole, I've been quite happy working with her.
Posted By: jdsher

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/23/04 03:39 PM

Cindysphinx: Your teacher sounds like she's very inspirational. My teacher is probably 10 years older than I am and judging from her resume it looks like she has always had an interest in academics and teaching. She also has a very relaxed teaching style. With me she enjoys discussing music and any other topic that might come up. I can remember lessons where I didn't even touch the piano for 30 minutes while we discussed some kind of musical subject. I really enjoy my lessons and find that I look forward to them.
About 2 weeks ago I saw my teacher perform a Bach concerto for two Harpsichords and she was amazing. The church where the concert was held had pretty strong air conditioning currents that blew the pages of her music. She didn't even flinch, she just waited until her hand was free and put back the page like it was something she had planned. My respect level shot off the charts that night.
Posted By: Cindysphinx

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/23/04 04:02 PM

Jon, it's amazing how unflappable teachers can be when they perform, isn't it? I'd go completely to pieces if my music flipped before I was ready.

After my last recital, my teacher was trying to console me and tell me it wasn't as bad as I imagined. (Yeah, right!) I asked her whether she had ever booted a performance before and how she managed her nerves. I expected her to hold forth with story after story about all of her performance mishaps and anxiety, which would make me think perhaps I'm not a hopeless case.

Instead, she paused, furrowed her brow, and looked all around the room before answering. She said she remembered that she played the wrong arpeggio during a concerto once, which really surprised her, but she just kept right on going. That's all she could think of! She says she never got nervous because she had been performing since she was a small child.

Ahem. . . .
Posted By: jdsher

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/23/04 04:34 PM

I believe that because she started performing in recitals at such a young age she was never bothered by performance anxiety. Isn't public speaking more feared than going blind and getting cancer? My 5 1/2 year old son is giving his first recital this Saturday. It will be interesting to see if he is anything other than excited about playing in front of others.
Posted By: teachum

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/23/04 05:42 PM

My teacher is just a little older than I. We both are teachers (3rd grade) as well, which is how I came to choose her. She is quite accomplished and accompanies the orchestra and choir at a local college. I am fortunate that I have quite a bit of theory background. I was originally a music major many years ago, but then went off in a different direction. She encourages adults to take a theory course, if possible, if they have very little background. That way, more time can be spent on the keyboard. I feel lucky that I have as much theory background as I do, so that even though I can't always apply if quickly, I do understand the concepts. For instance, I understand all the principles of chord inversions, augmenting, etc., I just don't recognize them "at a glance" when I encounter them in reading the music. That's something we are working on - going through inversions and changes quickly so they can help me in reading and playing. I hate having to read note-by-note and measure-by-measure. I also have the problem of comparing myself to my sister who is much more accomplished! I want to play with her, but hate to, because I feel so inferior. Even though she never says anything to make me feel that way and is nothing but encouraging.
Posted By: Roxane

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/23/04 08:00 PM

I absolutely adore my current teacher. She belongs to the same generation as my father (in fact her elder sister and my father were classmates in high school) and I only came to her because my previous teacher, who is a good friend of hers, went overseas to do her PhD in music and I got passed on to her. I was initially disappointed and apprehensive since she was not someone recommended to me (as all my previous teachers were). But it turned out to be one of the best things that have ever happened in my musical pursuits.

By some strange coincidence, she and I shared the same piano teacher during our formative musical years (albeit a generation apart). Our teacher in common, although having turned out a couple of international concert pianists, was, I realize only now, good mainly in her interpretive skills, but quite poor when it came to technique. This meant that my current teacher and I shared many of the same problems in technique, which limited our playing. My teacher only discovered all her shortcomings when she studied at the conservatory and had to work hard to overcome them. Having identified her problem areas and more importantly, their solution, she is thus able to help me tremendously with the same difficulties I face.

Before studying with her, I thought I had reached my limit as a pianist, but the last 2.5 years have been a breakthrough and I now know I still have more room to grow and look forward to. I am so inspired that I no longer find scales, Hanon or Czerny exercises a chore; in fact, I like the advanced Czerny exercises so much that I work on two or three of them at any one time and I spend half my practice time on these. Playing exercises correctly has really improved my technique such that other pieces become so much easier because all the problem spots have usually been practised in some earlier Czerny exercise. My teacher is pleased that I recognize the benefits of exercises, and I'd like to think she is as pleased with my progress as I am.
Posted By: SEK John

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/23/04 08:23 PM

My teacher is about my age (45) and also teaches my wife and daughter. She has a PhD in music with an emphasis in piano pedagogy. She also performs in church services (organ and piano), weddings, etc. She also mentioned she had to really battle to overcome stagefright.

I'm an extreme beginner...didn't know where middle C was 3 months ago. She is laid back, very flexible schedule wise, and has a great sense of humor. I take a weekly half hour lesson. It seems like every week she gives me tips that help without sounding critical. Additional family memebers get a discount so my lessons are VERY inexpensive...and yet I don't feel she shortchanges me at all. She started me out in the Faber Adult series...and encourages us to find music we want to play versus emphasizing only classical music,etc. Her goal is to make learning fun. She has a party during the holiday season for students and parents.

Wife and daughter both like her alot, also. We feel lucky to have found her.

Posted By: plays88skeys

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/24/04 12:22 AM

My teacher and I are the same age. She holds a Masters of Music degree from Va. Commonwealth University and is a Certified Professional Teacher of Music (I think that's the correct term!) When she isn't teaching private lessons, she's busy with Piano Guild events and serves as an adjudicator at many competitions.

I take weekly one hour lessons. While they are very serious and I work hard, we also get along so well that the mood is always buoyant. She also has become a personal friend in the three years I've been under her tutelage and we attend many music events together, lunch fairly frequently and email a lot.

She has corrected many bad habits I brought with me to her studio. As a result what I now play really is what the composer intended, as opposed to what I thought sounded okay. She is so insistent on this that we have spent entire lessons sometimes working on just one measure! I must say all my Bach pieces sound much crisper than before because my articulation is now correct.

I don't know what I'd do if she retired.
Posted By: cathys

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/24/04 02:07 AM

My teacher is about 6 years younger than I (I'm 43). She's married and her husband plays the Sax. She is the associate music director at our church and runs some of the children's music programs as well as accompanies with several of the musical groups. She plays both piano and organ very well. She is absolutely wonderful with kids but does expect everyone to practice (she even includes minimum practice times in her contracts) but does understand the occasional off week. The kids love her so much I think she rarely runs into practice issues since they would hate to disappoint her. She takes time at the beginning of each lesson to just ask about other things that my son is doing and just how things in general are going.
She also studied with some local folks that have authored music lesson books.
We really hit it off well and we have a lot of musical tastes in common. I have a 45 min lesson with her each week but a lot of times we'll get to talking and playing and run a bit over. I always tend to feel a bit guilty taking up her time but she truly doesn't seem to mind - I actually extended my lesson from 30min to 45 because of this. She really stresses the dynamics and musicality in playing and has worked on the way I voice chords and the dynamics especially between hands. I have learned so much from her. When she plays in church or at a recital I am just in awe and she is an excellent sight reader as well. I will bring stuff that she hasn't played before and it may not be perfect but it sounds pretty good as she just runs through it cold.

She has a little boy who is around 2 years old and she is expecting another baby this holiday season. She's planning on taking probably at least 3 months off around the holidays. I don't know what Nick & I will do without her frown during that time.

Posted By: apple*

Re: What's your teacher like? - 06/24/04 02:28 AM

Well well SEK John,, I see we are close neighbors (I'm from Shawnee). Glad to see you are still around. I am looking for a teacher myself.. might be interested in talking to yours.. We could have a 4 member pianoworld party now.
Posted By: Laura

Re: What's your teacher like? - 07/09/04 01:18 PM

Well- Ive just finished with a fantastic teacher. shes moving away to another job. she is about in her 40's i think and she is a reception teacher. I am gonna start on monday with a music student he is at university and if not my age then hes not much older. he is prob 20 to 24. i dont think anything more than that. will c how it goes. never had a guy before and never someone so young but he does sound v nice.
Posted By: jdsher

Re: What's your teacher like? - 07/09/04 02:09 PM

Good luck with your new teacher Laura, remember there are lots of great teachers, so if you're not clicking with the younger student teacher, then interview a few more until you find the right one. I'm curious, did your former teacher recommend anyone to take her place?
Posted By: Kitagrl

Re: What's your teacher like? - 07/10/04 12:56 AM

I have a great teacher too...she has been playing for over 40 years and studied under a great concert pianist and was a concert pianist herself only did not choose that for her life's work. She is very sweet and very encouraging (although since I played by ear some before lessons sometimes my terrible fingering drives her crazy because I often use whatever fingering happens to fall on the keys at the time, instead of the correct way...) and I just adore her! I had to stop my lessons for the rest of the summer due to scheduling but can't wait to resume! She is so talented that I know that I can stay with her for decades if I want to, and still not learn everything she knows about the piano. I do wish I did better with theory, I feel like I have a slight mental block with the theory stuff.
Posted By: Laura

Re: What's your teacher like? - 07/11/04 03:23 PM

She did- but it didnt work out- not for anyone because she told us that she was a jolly person- well when we phoned she was grumpy and it was really weird- she didnt seem to have a clue what i was talking about. maybe she got alot older since my teacher last spoke to her. and she recommended someone else- a guy that she couldve put our name down for but she said he was quet- which i didnt want and he didnt want real beginners- which im not- but it made me wonder how patient he must be!
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