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 Post subject: Becoming a Piano Teacher
PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:07 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:12 am
Posts: 6
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Hoy! I'm obviously new here, so I hope this is the right forum to post this in. I did check the thread of the same title last page back, but that was a year old, so I hope it's appropriate that I make my own.

A little background of myself. I'm 21, and I took piano lessons when I was only in the 3rd and 4th grade. I learned just enough to read sheet music, and that's all. Up until now, I taught myself piano after a 9 year hiatus (luckily, I still remembered how to read sheet music). However, I also feel like I'm rushing myself because I like to play songs that are way out of my league, especially since I'm not classically trained. In fact, my first classical piece I ever learned was Chopin's Revolutionary Etude! Sounds monstrous for a first, since it took me at least 2 months to fully memorize the song, but it's not something I'm too proud of because I'm very sloppy. My fingering techniques are quite good, but my accuracy is kind of off. Other than that, I want to say that I'm around above intermediate level. I just sent in my college application in order to become a music major.

Anyway, I'm in a bit of a rut at the moment. It turned out that a few days ago, I applied for a job as a piano teacher at my Chinese school. It turned out that I utterly lied during the interview, telling them that I taught piano before to little kids at my home town in Los Angeles (I now live in Las Vegas). Luckily, I brought all my old piano books with me when I grew up and showed to them the "methods" I'll be using and such. I told my interviewers that it was mostly video game music that motivated me to play, and that's something I'd like to use on the children if it means more motivation to them. After all, a teacher teaching only things like classical can get pretty boring and may drive a child into disinterest. However, I'll have to teach the kids what they NEED to learn in order to play what they WANT to learn. Let's just say that this is probably the only time in which I'm more nervous AFTER the interview than before. They ended up buying my whole story, and agreed to hire me after I perform in front of the whole school. Great...

They've discussed things like giving demo lessons and showing off my talent in front of all the children and their parents. I'm extremely nervous because I've never done anything like this. I need to fix all of my mistakes before Saturday's performance, and I also need to learn how to begin teaching these children. I wrote down a small list of songs I'll be practicing like a madman for this Saturday. They are (not in that order):
    Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum (Debussy)
    Rustle of Spring (Sinding)
    La valse d'Amelie (Yann Tiersen)
    Comptine d'un autre été: L'après-midi (Yann Tiersen)
    Grand Valse Mario (Karl Harmdierks)


I'm good with books, but I need some advice on teaching for the first time, handling the children (generally ages 6 to 17) as well as their parents, and performing for the first time (I doubt those recitals when I was in 4th grade counts). I'd greatly appreciate anybody's thoughts on the matter.

---

Too much to read? Here it is in a nutshell: Applied for piano teaching position at my Chinese school without prior teaching experience. Must perform in front of whole school to show what I'm capable of, although my piano skills aren't exactly top notch for the difficult pieces I casually play to myself with. I need help with how to teach children for the first time and performing for this Saturday.

UPDATE: Apparently, the school just called me to tell me that she wants me to play children's music, which is a lot more relieving on my part. She prefers that I play video game music or anything that would appeal to the children. Looks like I don't have to work too hard on the pieces I already prepared, but I must work harder on the video game pieces that I know of. I'll still be playing the list above including Chopinesque Kirby (Karl Harmdierks)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 7:16 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:57 pm
Posts: 301
Boy, oh boy... brother-man, sounds like you have got yourself into a royal bind. I bet by now you're convinced of the wisdom of abiding by the mantra "honesty is the best policy"! However, you've got to rise to the occasion on Saturday, and I'll try to help if I can. I'm not the best source of information - some of the old salts around here would have much more sage advice - but I'll attempt to be at least somewhat helpful.

Performing

I know you've got to practice a lot since you're excruciatingly near performance time, but don't just run through your pieces over and over again. When I get close to time for a performance, that's exactly what I want to do. But don't. Dissect the piece, fish out the troublesome spots, and work like the dickens on the places that are hard for you, practicing separately on the left- and right-hand parts if need be. With this method I seem to be fresher and better prepared when the time comes to show what I know. And when the moment of truth arrives, I try to remember to take a couple of deep breaths before I play. I always regret it if I don't. It helps when you're shaking like a leaf and you don't even remember where middle C is. :D Also, attempt to pretend you're not scared at all and shaking like a leaf and don't even remember where middle C is. It seems that when I try not to look like a victim of stage fright, I often don't end up being one.


Teaching

I've only taught five or six piano students in my lifetime (although I'm currently studying to teach piano), but, as director of a recorder consort, I sometimes feel like I've taught everybody, their dog, and their mother-in-law how to play that wind instrument ("play" being a relative term :wink: ). So I have some more general comments on the subject of teaching, especially to children. Definitely try to appeal to their imagination and tailor the description to that particular child if you can. Be very patient - an attribute which, if you lack, just about anybody will pick up on - and if the child doesn't understand the subject at hand the way you first explained it, then try a different approach. After a couple of months of teaching I discovered that I was starting to think about things from several different angles. If you already naturally think this way (I don't :roll: ), it'll be a great asset to you.


I hope that your experiences on Saturday go very well. Let us know how everything works out!

_________________
Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.

Felix Mendelssohn


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:03 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:12 pm
Posts: 9
Location: North Carolina
Regarding teaching: I cannot recommend a particular method for beginners, but mix and match according to the emotional and intellectual development, and cultural needs of each individual student. I taught Suzuki piano for many years to children between the age of 3 and 8. It is very useful for developing the ear and memory, and also involves the parents in the triangular relationship with you and student. I also introduced pre-reading activities and then some basic note and rhythm reading after about 4-6 lessons or even later (Bastien has some good starter books). I strongly recommend including in piano lessons lots of improvisation on simple chords, melodies, and rhythm patterns, and sounding out tunes by ear. I taught piano at every level of student (beginners to very advanced) from age 3 to adult for about 30 years. Currently I am a middle school (public) chorus teacher, and I do a lot of keyboard activities with students ages 11 to 15. It is vital that you nourish yourself with research, practice and much reflection if you want to grow as a musician and as a teacher of others. I believe that it takes a strong commitment. Best wishes for your success!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:01 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:12 am
Posts: 6
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Whew! Thank you guys for your kind words. I really appreciate them!

I've been practicing like there's no tomorrow for the past week, and I suppose most of it paid off. Never in my life have I practiced 8 hours a day!! I did notice some results, especially when I really cracked down hard with a metronome. I'm somewhat disappointed in my performance in front of the whole school, as I did make a few mistakes, but my friend who helped set up my keyboard told me I covered those mistakes well and it turned out smoothly either way. It turned out either way that the school owner congratulated me and actually found me a student who wants to take lessons twice a week! Looks like I'll become a piano teacher after all! This may just well be the beginning of a whole new journey for me. Especially with what I had to go through the past week, I really do look forward to buckling down on my piano practice.

Keep up with the advice, guys, I'd love to hear much more!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:33 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:12 pm
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Location: North Carolina
Congrats! Please keep us updated on your progress.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:53 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:57 pm
Posts: 301
Great news, tehyoshi! I am very glad to hear that all of your hard work paid off. I wouldn't be too hard on myself about the mistakes during the recital - they're going to happen to even the very best of pianists. Where your mettle shows is in how you handle them, and it sounds like you did that very well.

Indeed, it's wonderful that you've got a piano student already! I don't know if you've read it or not, but I have this two-volume book set on piano teaching that has proved invaluable for me. It’s titled Teaching Piano: A Comprehensive Guide and Reference Book for the Instructor, and includes sections on how to teach rhythm, theory, technique, and other essentials and also includes information on structuring recitals, teaching young children, teaching adults, and teaching group piano. The set also includes discussions on what constitutes a good piano lesson, how to nurture the student-teacher relationship, and how to work with parents (the latter being something every piano teacher needs to know :wink: ). The book set was published in 1981, so you will occasionally run across some information that is a bit dated, but it’s a classic work with much relevant information that I hope would be useful to you.

I wish you all the best in your new career, and do please let us know how you do!

_________________
Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.

Felix Mendelssohn


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 Post subject: resources
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:12 pm
Posts: 9
Location: North Carolina
The Denes Agay two volume set is good. I'd also recommend How to Teach Piano Successfully by Dr. James Bastien (costs around $12).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 12:38 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:12 am
Posts: 6
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Well, I got myself some more resources and books on how to teach. This is going pretty well so far! My first (and only) student is a 5 year old girl, and she's so sweet. She only loses attention once in a while, but is willing to go over things again in order to not make mistakes. She seems like a fast learner so far.

But now I seem to be facing another predicament. The thing is that within my Chinese school, I only have one student. How would I go about getting more students? How can I sell myself, or what are some ways of getting myself out there, within and outside of the school? Clearly as this is my first time teaching, I'm more willing to teach beginners than those closer to my own level, and right now, it'd be really difficult to turn down more advanced students if they were to show interest.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:01 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:12 pm
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Location: North Carolina
I understand your desire to get things rolling by attracting new students. Are your lessons after school or part of the regular classroom schedule? You may need to be really creative at first to get parents and students in the door, like hosting a couple "free" events, such as a group lesson with some fun activities including piano games, duet "improvisations on a simple tune/chord, or just letting the kids experiment. Serve some light refreshments like popcorn, cookies and sodas. (you should have some hand-sanitizer available!)
Will you use an acoustic or electronic piano? In my music classes (public school middle grades) I remove the fall board (keyboard cover) and music desk (acoustic piano) so that students can see some of the moving parts of the interior. Its fun for them to experience the movement created by the keys and action, as well as how the pedals operate.
I start beginner students on the black keys and teach a simple melody on the pentatonic scale that is easy to make up stuff on. (I use a folk song called "Billy Boy" that I composed a duet part to--it's catchy, easy to learn and quite rhythmic). Then you can add whatever style the children seem to be interested in (folk, blues, rock, classical, etc.). It is also easy to add an Alberti Bass accompaniment to just about any nursery tune, like Twinkle, Twinkle," "Mary had a little lamb," or "London Bridge." If the children are young then I'd recommend some musical movement activities too. It is important that students and parents catch a good glimpse of your personality, ability to have fun and generate excitement about music, even if you only have a few people drop in at first. The point is, word-of-mouth is your best advertisement. Get the word out to fellow teachers at the school. They can be good allies and might be willing to encourage students to participate in enriching activities. Good luck. It takes time to build a class, and you will want your students to stick with it after the first few experiences with you.


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