Oh Jim, poor Jim, and all the other victims of medicore music teachers.
Yes, there are a lot of them out there. Yes, there were and are guilds
and associations. Not all the good teachers bother belonging, and a
great many mediocre ones have credentials. Sometimes a player of dazzling
prowess makes a fine teacher, but more often they will take the joy out of
it. There are many lazy teachers as well, who keep using the same old
material and the same for every student.
Scales and arpeggios from the beginning? Well, a bit, but they should
be introduced as useful to making cool sounds and music. When practiced
alone, as well as Hanon, Czerny, etc., I get into discussing physical
training and the mind/finger connection, etc, etc, that we do this so
we can do truly cool stuff we want to play.
As with so much, the success can lie in the Presentation.
The wise teacher tailors the curriculum to meet the student's interests,
always pushing the edge just a bit to challenge without boring or scaring
away. Pop music may have a place, and I make sure all my students can
sightread such things as well. After all, there's a lot of work to be
had for good sightreaders and when I'm accompanying for school choirs I
play every style including baroque. I always remind them that if you can
play classical music well, you can play anything once you know how to read
and feel the style.
How do we sort out the kids? With perception, an eye, an ear, a sense.
It takes time and care, thought and planning and communication. Do all
teachers do this? Obviously not. Some only care about the ones that
will be technical whizzes, self or parent motivated hard workers. I knew
others who were just mills in order to earn a living, and really didn't
care. I've known others who where hard workers, caring, thoughtful,
motivating, and tearing their hair out over some kids as if they were
In other words, piano teachers vary in quality just as people do in most
lines of work.
On the other hand, some kids will practice and some won't, even if they
like the teacher and the music. School and soccer take too much time.
Sure, soccer is social, but social isn't for everybody. It wasn't for
me. People need to know how to amuse themselves when they're alone too.
I remind their parents, "What will they be doing when they're 50, 60,
70, playing soccer or playing the piano? When it's raining? Christmas?
When they're sad or happy? Nothing can be so purging as sitting with
some Bach or Beethoven or Brahms or Rameau, or.......... when the heart
and mind are heavy or light. Personally, I find playing fugues in my head
to be very useful when undergoing dental work. ; )
So, sorry you're still p----ed off Jim. It's not too late.
Good teachers are out there. I meet them all the time.
Parents also need to realize that the teacher who produces the most prize
winners may not be the right one for their child, just as the one who plays
at Nordstroms may not be. They need to interview more than one teacher,
and change if it's not working after 4 mos or so (an arbitrarily chosen
number open to discussion). A child's first teacher should care very much
about children and fostering the love of music.
On the bright side, materials are improving. For the good teachers who
are always sifting through the available literature, nowadays one can find
fairly decent treatment of performance practice, and glory be, pictures
and brief discussions of harpsichords and fortepianos.
Then there's damage control. I just took over a group piano class of
beginners from a conservatory graduate who had these tiny little girls (
who could hardly get their fingers to do anything and couldn't read music
yet ) practicing their C major scale over and over again until they had it
PERFECT! Her definition of course. Idiotic!!!
When I sat in on her class (to see if I could handle a group for the first
time) I heard No, No, that's not right!!! Practice practice your scale
before you can go onto your piece!!!! I couldn't believe my ears!
Thankfully, her husband's job was transferred just in time to save 8
little girls from hating piano.
Now they are playing some fun little pieces, doing helpful finger
exercises, and laughing again. Give me those hugs over the stern look and
chastisements of that conservatory graduate anyday. Teach them to have
Finally, if somebody has music in their soul, they will find a way,
and you won't have to force them to practice either.
Harpsichords & Historic Pianos
2577 Trapp Ave.
Coconut Grove, FL 33133
[log in to unmask]