There are some good reasons to visit your child’s piano lesson, if it can be done so that your visit does not distract teacher or student.
It’s not just that piano lessons are an investment and you want to see that you get your money’s worth.
You need to see the lessons so that you see the interaction between the teacher and your child.
Use common sense and just observe.
Is the child comfortable, smiling and engaged?
Or is the child distracted, bored and detached?
THE TRANSPARENT METHOD
I’ll guarantee you that if the child is distracted and bored, you’re not sitting in on one of my lessons. I make absolutely sure that the child is ready to have a bit of fun at the piano before I proceed. If they aren’t ready, I find a way to get them ready.
Kids have a range of moods, and, without pandering to them, you’ll get more done if you find what work is appropriate for which mood. For example, a tired, cranky child is a terrible candidate for a lengthy note-reading seminar. If you take up the same subject briefly when they are bright and chipper, there will be better results and the result will last longer. Kids are grateful that the piano teacher is sensitive to their moment-to-moment mental capacity.
In that sense, kids are sort of like horses: you can work them, but a cruel master gets far less than a friendly co-worker. I think I get better results in piano lessons because my students know absolutely that I will back off when it gets too hard, and that I always find a way of getting something musical to interest them, regardless of their mood.
If there’s one thing that characterizes my lessons, it is the picture of a child running to the piano. They know for certain that I will make it fun. Once you get them running to the piano, the job is halfway done.
Just keep their mood up and don’t overburden them with brainy problems. Break those problems down into tiny little problems and then make a game of putting the problems back together. Kids understand it as a game, not as work.
I keep reassuring them of their progress, pointing out the slightest correct move. You have to be like a super-aware sheep dog, watching every move, and gently nudging in the right direction.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKELY SEE IF YOU VISIT A CONVENTIONAL PIANO LESSON
What I describe I’ve seen for myself, or have had described to me by parents and other teachers.
I’ll try not to generalize about the noble breed of piano teachers, but there is no control of what is out there. Anyone can say, “I’m a piano teacher,” and conservatory training is no guarantee of anything, especially where children are concerned.
As a matter of fact, conservatory training means that the artist has been trained according to methods that are applicable only to professional aspirants, and most likely are of negligible value in interesting younger children in the piano.
Don’t be fooled by credentials. Go visit the piano lesson process and make a common sense evaluation of it for your child. Listen to your child’s reaction. Just because someone went to Julliard doesn’t mean they know a hoot about kids and common sense teaching.
The worst of this breed of teacher goes from page to page in a book, most likely Alfred, Bastien or Faber (these are currently popular book methods.)
Usually this is from inexperience, or sometimes perhaps burn-out. These people were taught piano this way, and think they will make a business from teaching your child the same way.
I’ve seen teenagers barely able to play anything set themselves up as suburban piano teachers, suddenly making $40 to $80 an hour. Parents who don’t know what they’re consuming may put up with it for years, not really knowing any better. And I’ve had parents tell me in this situation, “But they were the only teacher in town.” It’s not an easy situation.
Potential teachers who tell you,”But your child must be taught the basics first. I believe in the old method,” are not telling you the whole story.
Of course a child must be taught the basics, but in order to do so, the child will have to show up to hundreds of lessons. The real factor in success at piano lessons is the child’s interest level, and I’ll guarantee you you’ll not have much interest level with books such as Bastien, Faber and Alfred alone.
Your child will run screaming the room if these textbooks are the only diet they are fed in the piano lesson process, yet that is precisely what these piano teachers do.
Often, other kids are visiting the students I am teaching, on a playdate or whatever. They comment, “Gee, you don’t just play from books. You get to play fun stuff. We only play from the book, and it’s really boring.”
Don’t forget the real object of early piano lessons: to interest the child in the idea of the piano, and lay the seeds for further ongoing interest.
Any more is overkill, and Carnegie Hall is not waiting for your child.
Copyright 2009 Walden Pond Press
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