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#1014215 - 10/06/04 08:42 PM My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
Cadi Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/04/04
Posts: 18
Welp, I did it. I went, I signed up in a 'Music Academy' and now I take a half hour lesson once a week with the promise to study the lessons I was taught on my own. I rented a Casio digital keyboard from the same people for $37.71 dollars a month up until Dec. After that I get the option to buy it (for less than $699.99 of course.) After the first lesson, I have to say, I have a newfound respect for pianists. I can barely keep up with the treble or bass clef alone, much less -two- at the same time with different hands! Jeeeebus! I am /amazed/.

Anyways, onto the other part of this post. I was introduced to my teacher and as I shoke her hand I noticed she was a bit surprised at how old I am (19) although she didn't say anything. Throughout the lesson she seemed a bit unsure as if she's afraid she'd offend my intelligence because she is so used to dealing with kids. However, the more unsure she gets the more self-concious and unsure -I- get! She doesn't look much older than me, maybe by ten years at most. I was assured before signing onto the contract that they did accept adult as well as children, but I suppose not many adults took advantage of that.

I was wondering if any of you have encountered this before? When the teacher is far too used to dealing with children? How did you guys handle it? Change teachers and move on or stayed and sort of nudge the teacher into how to deal with you? Admittedly I am not sure whether I played badly because of the awkwardness or if it's 'first time jitters'. Tell me your stories if you have'em!

Obey the Tikiman
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#1014216 - 10/07/04 07:20 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
jdsher Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/04
Posts: 643
Loc: Plano, Texas
I seem to recall a thread some time ago in which a forum member reported a difficult time learning from an instructor at a piano shop. If my memory serves, he spent a couple of months frustrated, trying to learn from a young lady who did not meet his needs. He finally decided to search for another teacher. Ultimately, he ended up with a great instructor who was much more comfortable with an adult student. You might call the Music Academy and delicately ask if this instructor has taught adults before. If not, ask if there is someone there who has that type of experience and try to transfer to them. I can remember my first lesson about a year ago. It was indeed frustrating, but at the same time exhilarating to finally start this lifelong process.
Jon
_________________________
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein

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#1014217 - 10/07/04 08:26 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
pianojuggler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 1515
This is a real problem we adult beginners face.

I found several teachers who had experience with adults, but all were with advanced adults who were focusing on a specific problem area, technique, improvisation, etc. I found a few who were willing to try taking on an adult beginner, but none who had experience.

I did start out with a teacher just like yours. It was at a storefront music school. My teacher was a grad student and professional accompanist who was making some extra money giving lessons. She actually had very little experience teaching anyone, but her approach seemed geared toward the prepubescent crowd. She tried to throw in a little theory to make it more intellectually stimulating, but she was obviously improvising this as well...she had no "lesson plan" per se.

After two lessons with her I went looking for another teacher. But it was really for other reasons. I am a professional instructor and instructional designer myself, and I was willing to help this woman learn about teaching adults. But what drove me away was the fact that the "studios" in the music school were thin sheetrock walls with no insulation, and the 10-year-old abusing a saxophone in the next room was louder than the (Baldwin Acrosonic) I was trying to play.

My current teacher is wonderful. She did have experience with adult beginners, although most of her ABs were harp students. She currently has four adult piano students; the other three are retreads, two of them also have children taking lessons from her.

She frequently asks me about my goals, my satisfaction with my progress, and what else is going on in my life (like why I didn't get much practicing in *this* week). She also selects music that I find interesting, challenging, but achievable. I sometimes bring a piece of sheet music in and she'll say, "I think this is above your level," or "it's challenging, but if you really want to, we'll do it," or "that's a great piece, let's go for it."


Adults learn differently from kids. Adults are motivated by different things, they have different kinds of problems, and different goals.

If I found a good teacher who I liked but who didn't have experience with adults, I would have a frank conversation with him or her (probably over a cup of coffee away from the studio), and say "you're going to help me learn to play the piano, and I'm going to help you learn to teach adults." If that's mutually agreeable, and it doesn't slow the pace of your lessons too much, go for it. But you need to have the discussion, and the teacher has to be open to feedback.

I also would not expect to pay as much for a teacher whom I was training as I would for one who had experience and a well-refined approach.

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#1014218 - 10/07/04 08:30 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Tough question, really. By way of background, I'm an adult beginner who started with a teacher who teaches all children or accomplished adults. I am the only adult beginner in the studio, and I am starting my sixth year of lessons.

I think whether this will work might depend on how good your teacher is, not whether she has a lot of experience with adults. In other words, she really should have a musical education and/or teaching certification to compensate for any lack of experience with adult beginners. If she doesn't, you might get a blank stare or garbled explanation when you have questions about music theory. My experience is that I ask a lot more probing musical theory questions than my kids (who also take lessons from the same teacher).

There's also the question of repertoire. There are books out there that aren't filled with child-like illustrations and contain arranged pieces of things fitting the adult ear and disposition. If you don't like what she proposes you play, tell her to find things that are more mature.

That said, I think the adult beginner does have to recognize the reality of the situation -- most teachers have far more young people than adult beginners, and their whole way of teaching is often geared toward youngsters. My teacher, for instance, has on occasion asked me to do valuable exercises with *very* silly names (the current one is called the "parachute drop" where you drop your fingers onto the keys in a certain way to improve tone). Ugh. On those occasions, I try to just go along in good spirit, figuring it doesn't make much difference what the exercise is called if there is some value in it.

In your case, I'd say you might want to spend some lesson time talking about this issue head-on, letting her know you'll speak up if she assumes too little knowledge on your part, but that you'll really want adult beginner pieces.

In the meantime, I'd suggest you spend a lot of time learning your stuff outside of the lesson. Adults, unlike kids, can learn the nuts and bolts of theory and reading music faster than kids, who sometimes lack motivation. I like musictheory.net because it has a note-recognition practice drill.

Good luck, and *don't quit!*
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#1014219 - 10/07/04 08:38 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Uh oh. While I was typing my reply, PJ was saying the same thing, only much better!

One other recommendation -- I don't think 30 minutes is long enough. Maybe for kids, but not for adults. You'll need to have time to talk about theory, fix mistakes, repeat things with better technique than you first played it, have her demonstrate things, have her play pieces you are considering undertaking . . .

PJ:

 Quote:
She frequently asks me about my goals, my satisfaction with my progress, and what else is going on in my life (like why I didn't get much practicing in *this* week).
You know, there is a lot of truth in this. A lot.

When I was picking a teacher for my kids, I talked to another mom who had a lot of experience with picking teachers and who recommended my current teacher. She said that you should approach finding a piano teacher with the idea that this will be the last piano teacher you will ever have. It is disruptive to change, she said, and a personal relationship develops that can and should be very close.

So if you're going to stick with this (and hope you will, because it is worth the work), you might consider whether this teacher is the person you want to have a long-term relationship with. If not, it might be best to address this in the beginning.
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#1014220 - 10/07/04 09:31 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
pianojuggler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/04
Posts: 1515
*blush*

Thanks, Cindy. I think you stated the situation very well, too.

I agree with Cindy: 30 minutes is not long enough. I would ask for 45. An hour may be stretching it unless you specifically set aside 15 minutes for theory or other topics. Frankly, in my 45 minute lesson, we're lucky to spent 25 minutes with me actually playing and my teacher teaching.

Repertoire is important. My teacher sometimes picks things because they are "good for me". I call these "the lima beans". She also has a knack for knowing when to ditch a piece because she can tell I'm really not enjoying it. The only two that we tossed out without making it all the way through were a Clementi Sonatina and something by Kabalevsky through which I was truly suffering.

I love Baroque music, and fortunately Bach, Scarlatti, and folks like that did write some pieces that are accessible to the first- or second-year student. They are NOT necessarily pieces written for students, nor are they simplified versions of "real" pieces. My teacher is morally opposed to dumbed-down classical music (but in a good-natured way).

Our other saviour is Martha Mier. She has interesting, achievable music at every level from absolute beginner to several years on. Her "Jazz, Rags, and Blues" books feature pieces that are as complex and heady as jazz ought to be, but are also very forgiving.


But above all, what makes a teacher effective is the ability to give meaningful, useful, relevant, and timely feedback. If your teacher is unable to do that for whatever reason, you owe it to yourself to find a different one.

Finally, I believe that any decent teacher should be willing to give you a free half-hour trial lesson to see if you are compatible. The few I've known who refused to do that are probably to snooty for my liking anyway.

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#1014221 - 10/09/04 03:03 PM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
David Kirkham Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 159
Loc: Provo, Utah
I have found my teacher to be a little nervous when I walk in. BUT, I am not critical of this at all. He should be nervous because I am very demanding. I too spend a lot of time on theory. I am at the stage I want to know WHY Beethoven wrote what he did and WHY he wrote it the WAY he wrote it. I just feel like I am missing something in my music life and I am paying my teacher to tell me what it is. I feel if I can understand they WHY's more then I will be able to play with that ever elusive expression everyone is always talking about.

Also, I ask my teacher to play pieces for me. I ask him to play it over and over and over and over again and I ask him why he hits the keys the way he does. How did he JUST make that subtle sound!?!?!?!? I know it makes him nervous. But hey, I am not there to make him nervous, I am there to learn and he knows it so he knows I am checking his skills out as much as he is checking my skills out.

I would carefully interview the teacher...and then dump them if they don't do what you want or you don't get what you want out of them.

Finally, congrats on getting into the music world!

David \:\) \:\) \:\)
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#1014222 - 10/10/04 01:03 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
HermanM Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/04
Posts: 117
Loc: Newport, VA
No offense, but I got a chuckle out of the statement "she was a bit surprised at how old I am (19)" - imagine my teacher's shock and horror when she met me, a prematurely greying 40 year old! But I digress.

I too felt like I encountered the same sort of reluctanance to take on an adult student. I think many teachers have an easier time being in charge of a lesson when its a child rather than an adult. Or who knows why else (maybe a thread in the piano teachers forum would be useful?). Long story short, I didn't get a good vibe from my first teacher, and recently switched to another that I am much happier with. I also switched from half an hour to an hour, and that was an excellent decision as well. With the first teacher we never even worked on technique exercises (and I always wondered why - shouldn't I be playing scales or something? I'd ask myself), now its at least a half an hour on technique, then on to the pieces I'm working on (2 or 3 at a time).

I like the analogy that someone stated above about entering into a long term relationship - changing teachers was kind of like breaking up with her. There was some awkwardness involved, and sensitivities that had to be treated with kid gloves. Tricky business, switching teachers in the same 'music academy'. Somehow I pulled it off, and it was definitely worth the effort.

At any rate, enough of my babbling - good luck in your endeavors. - HM
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#1014223 - 10/10/04 10:14 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon
It was awkward for me to switch teachers after 6 months, but I had to do it for my own good. My new teacher takes the time to help me make the pieces very musical. We spend a lot of time on refining small sections of a piece. She demonstrates a lot for me, so we are constantly switching chairs, back and forth, but I love that. She explains different techniques for different periods, like Bach vs. Beethoven, so she's not just a piano teacher, she's a music history teacher. She also explains things in a way for me to visualize a passage better, a concrete image for me to hang on to when I get to that measure or passage. She explains what the composer was trying to say at that moment. She's not at all intimidated by teaching adults - she enjoys communicating on an adult level because she has so much knowledge that not a lot of kids can appreciate yet. However, she does absolutely love teaching children!

I think all teachers should teach this way, unlike some who mostly want you to hit the right notes and get the right rhythm (like my very first teacher years ago).

I think someone who teaches both kids and adults has to be very special, someone with a lot of compassion and patience for the childishness and shorter attention span of children, and the more complicated and stubborn brains of an adult (me included) who want to know "Why". I ask so many questions that I feel I'm being too technical or petty, but my teacher loves it. She feels that I ask the right questions. When you get to concert level, each piece played IS analyzed to death. She knows I'm not planning to go pro but just want to do this for myself; however, she still wants me to learn the details that go into what pros do, so I can understand all the tricks of the trade and be happy with myself to play as musically as I can.

I went to a Master Class by Richard Goode where he helped 3 teenagers with 2 pieces they each performed. It was amazing! I didn't now any of those pieces, but the way he helped their technique with even just working on one measure here or there - it was amazing. At my level, I felt overwhelmed. A lot was over my head, but I could see how at professional level, the piece is really taken apart and worked over and over to really beautify it, to make it come alive and tell a story. It's all coming together for me slowly, and unlike any other teacher I've had, my teacher is opening up a whole new world of understanding music!

Sorry for the long post! \:D
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#1014224 - 10/10/04 10:20 AM Re: My First Piano Lesson - Teachers Nervous About Adult Students?
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
you're forgiven... it was a joy to read.. I am so enjoying the first teacher I've had in 38 years.... absolutely loving it... He seems not at all nervous that I am older.
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love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

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