Teaching Style: I try to be very positive and encouraging in lessons, and will often do charts, games or practice contests with students. I often ask students questions to help them to come up with answers themselves.
Expectations of practicing: I expect all students to practice their lesson assignment at home 5-7 days each week. I also like it if parents go over the assignment with their children at home once or twice to make sure they are practicing the correct pieces and are meeting all the goals we are setting in lessons.
Instrumental Expectations: Students need to own an 88-key instrument with weighted keys and a pedal (minimum) in order to be able to practice at home.
The Ultimate Goal: My ultimate goal is to “teach myself out of a job.” If I do my job in lessons, students will develop into proficient pianists who can pick up music and teach themselves to play it on their own with correct notes and rhythm. Beyond that, they will know how to play and interpret different styles of music differently, to research pieces that are new to them and have the discipline to do that independently. I love when students tell me they’re playing other music on the side or they found a new piece they were trying out at home. The more self-sufficient they are, the closer they are to the goal of making music on their own. When students grow up, I want them to remember their time in piano lessons fondly, and for them to have developed a genuine interest and love of music that carries into adulthood.
Classical Training: I teach students how to read notes as they are learning to play the piano. I do some teaching of lead sheets and how to play melodies by ear so students can play on worship teams at church, when students are ready for that, but I mainly teach "classically." This means that I was trained primarily to play the main periods of music that relate to the piano: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, (Impressionistic), and 20th Century. If a person is trained “classically” they know how to read, play and interpret each of those periods. It can be compared to a sport such as gymnastics. A gymnast has to be proficient on the bar, beam, floor exercise and the vault in order to compete for any all-around awards at the Olympics. Similarly to that, a well-rounded pianist has to know that there is generally no pedal used in Baroque music, because pedals on the piano were not invented yet, and so on throughout the various musical time periods that relate to piano study. Students need to know how pianos changed throughout history and how those changes affected the music written in that time period and to be proficient musicians in interpreting music from each time period. (This is very helpful knowledge for serious musicians who plan to pursue piano in college, as well.)
Chording: I believe that students should not only learn to read music, but should also learn how to play from guitar chord sheets, as some worship teams and bands play from these sheets only. Knowing how to do this is huge for if a student ever wants to play on a worship team at church, or in a band, and it leads to students being able to sing while playing the piano, or making up their own arrangements of songs. I ask older students if this is something they would like to learn, and it has become a favorite skill for many students.
Making Mistakes I allow and expect students make mistakes--even lots of them. It's the best way to learn. When a baby is learning to sit up, do their parents yell at them when they teeter and fall over? Of course not! Falling over is part of the process of learning balance and developing the child's muscles. Am I going to be hard on a student who makes a mistake the first time they sightread a new piece? Of course not! Making mistakes is essential to learning. Letting students play a wrong note helps them learn to listen and to figure out that something doesn't sound quite right. If a student is making a mistake such as playing one hand in the correct hand position and the other in the wrong spot, I like to see how long it takes them to realize that. (Of course, I will correct the mistake before the lesson is over, but I try not to over-correct.) I believe that allowing students to make mistakes is important in developing students' self-correction.
Method Books and Beyond: Most students will learn from method books first to develop a strong musical foundation. When it seems like they are reading music well and have that foundation established, I start tailoring lessons to their individual needs. I tell them that we get to do “recital music” all the time. We pick out special pieces they like, and we make sure we are playing a balance of some of the standard literature and technique exercises as well. We often do a study on chording/worship music/playing by ear, as that helps develop a well-rounded musician who can play in different venues and styles. I’m all for adding “fun” books to lessons if it’s motivating to students, as well.
A strong foundation: I feel like I can help students develop a strong pianistic foundation so students who work the hardest will be able to connect the dots from beginning piano concepts through intermediate literature to advanced literature and beyond. I would like to prepare students to try out for college piano scholarships, to play in church, to play at weddings, or to simply enjoy and respect the art of music-making, all while having an enjoyable time in lessons.