Teaching piano has always been a major focus of my work. After completing the Bachelor of Arts in Music degree at Humboldt State University under the eminent pianist Dr. Frank Marks, I went to Dominican College of San Rafael (now Dominican University) to earn the Master of Music degree in Piano Performance, with an emphasis in Piano Pedagogy.
When parents ask about piano lessons for their children, my responses are based on knowledge of hundreds of years of the best keyboard teaching, as well as the latest research on how our brains learn and perform music.
A primary challenge for keyboard students is to build strong music reading skills. Pianists have to play many more notes simultaneously than, for instance, singers or violinists. Pianists have to read both treble and bass clef, and organists often read three staves - while playing bass notes with their feet! Then consider the role of accompanist: keyboard players are often called upon to support soloists.
Primary challenges for violinists, by contrast, include producing a beautiful tone with perfect intonation. Courses of study that emphasize listening more than reading are exactly what is required. The Suzuki method for violin is popular because it is effective at developing the string player’s ear, and it is designed to be successful with little children who are not ready to learn to read.
Ultimately, strong reading skills coupled with good listening will make music students into independent learners able to explore any style of music they choose, whether Classical, Romantic, jazz or anything else.
The body of music written for solo piano and for keyboard with other instruments is so vast we can explore it for a lifetime. The life enhanced by music education offers artistic experiences, self-expression and pleasure.