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#942820 - 09/17/08 04:56 PM How many piano teachers really know anything?
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
I could not make this up. It is 100% true.

I work for a music story in my area. It was my choice to do so, largely for reasons of privacy. I am not told what to teach, how to teach, or who to teach. I'm not required to sell anything.

However, my wife works here too. She is in charge of ordering all the music.

A lady came into the store today. She asked my wife what she should use to teach an adult, someone who apparently plays by ear by wants to learn how to read music.

My wife showed her all sorts of materials. The lady bought "The Classic Piano Course", book one.

Now, this "teacher" admitted that she has not played piano in many years and "no longer knows bass clef". (She *was* a clarinet player.)

And on the way out, she said, "Me, a piano teacher, what a laugh!"

Now, how unusual would you think it is for this store to have to suggest to "teachers" what materials to buy for their students?

The answer is astonishing. My wife said that she knows of only four teachers who come in here, knowing exactly what they want, ordering what they need without asking for help.

And by the way, the Schaum books probably sell just about as often as any other method book. This is how I was able to tell, at a glance, that I teach nothing in them except one piece, which turns out to be cut or edited or shortened (Koelling).

So that's what we are up against.

Oh: my wife is not a musician. She knows what is out there and is pretty good at suggesting beginning materials because I went through every method book in the store and pointed out strengths and weaknesses in each one.
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#942821 - 09/17/08 05:00 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2846
Loc: UK.
Comes as no surprise to me Gary. Anyone can call themselves a piano teacher. I know a few who see it as a far better option than working the checkout in Tesco despite the fact that they can hardly play.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#942822 - 09/17/08 05:11 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
It was only a slight surprise to me to find out that only four people know what they want.

I also have to special order anything for my students, since whenever I teach something that is not totally basic, it's so unusual for people to get it that it's not worth stocking.

We have no WTC books.

But we have LOTS of Schaum!!!
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#942823 - 09/17/08 05:32 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
lalakeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/06
Posts: 286
Loc: Chicago 'burbs
Maybe you & your wife can gently "nudge" teachers toward Faber method books. I don't think they cost more than Schaum, but they're definitely better.

Schaum was quite the thing back in the '60s (along with Thompson, as I recall). Maybe those teachers are just using what they grew up with, not realizing how much improved today's methods are.

You might try inviting a representative from Alfred, Hal Leonard, or Kjos to your store to present a workshop for area teachers. Our local music store always has a waiting list for these, and the store sells LOTS of music that day!
_________________________
Private piano & voice teacher for over 20 years; currently also working as a pipe organist for 3 area churches; sing in a Chicago-area acappella chamber choir

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#942824 - 09/17/08 05:40 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11587
Loc: Canada
I don't care how great the method book might be - as an adult student I would not want to be near someone like the person who was described. In that case, spare me the "teacher" - give me the book. There is not only the question of competence: teaching is a skill and an art which requires some knowledge. Ethics and morals are in question.

What about the unknown student, who already knows how to play by ear, thinking s/he will be taught how to read music from a clarinet player who is not familiar with the bass clef, and probably not that at home at the piano either. Hm, maybe a trade-off: the student can teach the clarinet player how to play piano by ear, get paid for it, and the two of them can become study-buddies as they both learn how to read music from ....... Gary! \:D

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#942825 - 09/17/08 06:20 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I once knew a school music instrumental specialist at the elementary school level. The school asked her to take on a beginning piano class after school. She came to me asking for me to teach her just enough to keep ahead of the students.

I chose not to do that. She should be referring students to piano teachers who have specialized in that instrument. If you can't play and instrument brilliantly you certainly can't teach an instrument brilliantly. Brilliant like in brain usage, not sound.

There are lots of hokey situations out there.

They defame the rest of us.
Wanna Be's.
Imposters.

Just as in politics, you need the experience and the preparation to be at the top of the electorate. Years and years of service. You can't just pop into the national picture and international picture with a smile and a handshake. Can you?

Oh!

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#942826 - 09/17/08 06:26 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
RayMetz100 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/05/08
Posts: 119
Loc: Everett, WA
I will teach just about anyone piano if they live near the Everett area in Washington State. As you can tell from my link, I'm not great at all, but I'm better than 99% of other people in my city so I don't find it unreasonable to teach them.

You didn't mention if the lady that came to your store was a paid teacher or a friend hanging out with a friend. Even if paid, that's what makes america great. How would you like to live in North Korea and file a "letter of intent to teach music" and the fee or whatever BS they require.

So far no one has taken me up, which is undrestandable.

"Will teach for pizza"
_________________________
PianoMagic.com student
Recordings and piano pic at: RayMetz.com/Piano

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#942827 - 09/17/08 06:27 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Gary, I'm not surprised either. We have a wonderful local store, but neither the owner nor spouse are what you'd call proficient musicians, but they are music lovers and can play a few tunes on the piano.

When I arrived here ten years ago, I found them and started ordering what I wanted to teach with. Everytime I wanted to try some new material, the likelihood was they'd not carry it, but would order it for me immediately. Soon, I noticed that other teachers were using the same material!!!!

Much of the new music I'd order came from the pages of Clavier's new music section, and I'd read these and then decide which ones I'd like to try.

Gary, my guess is that we have a few more than 4 teachers who know what they want, but I might be horrified to learn that it's not more than a dozen.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#942828 - 09/17/08 06:51 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by lalakeys:

Maybe you & your wife can gently "nudge" teachers toward Faber method books. I don't think they cost more than Schaum, but they're definitely better.
My wife is in charge of music, and I make recommendations all the time, but people just go back to whatever they are comfortable with.

She has to order what people use. The most popular series of those that are not hopelessly out-of-date is the Alfred series. There is not a piano method on the market that does not have, in my opinion, really serious flaws, which is precisely why I don't use any of them. I have my spent decades writing my own method, but it is for my own uses only and would probably not work for anyone else. And it too has flaws, of course. There is no perfect method. ;\)

But that was not my point. My point was that there are people who call themselves piano teachers who are just stealing people's money. They not only don't know what they are doing, they *know* they don't know what they are doing. But they don't care, because they just want money.
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#942829 - 09/17/08 06:58 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
C-A-V-E-A-T E-M-P-T-O-R, baby!

Much like the 'oldest' profession, no training is needed to hang out your shingle. Unlike the oldest profession, the stubbornly uninformed consumer often is not in a good position to judge whether they have received a good service! ;\)
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#942830 - 09/17/08 07:06 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Gary, I'm not surprised either. We have a wonderful local store, but neither the owner nor spouse are what you'd call proficient musicians, but they are music lovers and can play a few tunes on the piano.

When I arrived here ten years ago, I found them and started ordering what I wanted to teach with. Everytime I wanted to try some new material, the likelihood was they'd not carry it, but would order it for me immediately. Soon, I noticed that other teachers were using the same material!!!!

Much of the new music I'd order came from the pages of Clavier's new music section, and I'd read these and then decide which ones I'd like to try.

Gary, my guess is that we have a few more than 4 teachers who know what they want, but I might be horrified to learn that it's not more than a dozen. [/b]
This store actually stocked things I recommended for awhile, but over time many things disappeared because no one bought them. What is sold is reordered. It's that simple.

For instance, I wanted to give one of my students the first of the "Trois Nouvelles Études" and discovered that no copies of any edition of the Chopin Etudes is now stocked.

Bach WTC? Nothing. And so on…

The reason is that *I* am teaching these things, but others here are not, for the most part, and the few who are are special ordering them. (I can get anything I want, obviously, and I'm not saying that there are not others in this area who are teaching such pieces. But they are in a small minority, as I suspect is also true where you live.)
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Piano Teacher

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#942831 - 09/17/08 07:09 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
That someone would be so idiotic as to think teaching is a big laugh—and to express that sentiment in a music store—is beyond the pale.

But in addition to the imposters, there are others whack-jobs out there who have credentials and even lofty reputations.

My last experience with a teacher (in my mid-teens, after a significant gap in both playing and formal study) was dreadful. He was apparently well known and well regarded in my mid-sized suburb of Los Angeles, and taught violin, too.

He believed that finger vibrato was a valid and useful technique for piano—that it could alter the timber of a note after it was struck.

Another notable belief of his was that the wrists should be consciously tense at all times and that our physiology included something he called the "magnet muscle." Whenever I played in a lesson, the admonitions to keep my wrists rigidly inflexible were continuous. I can still hear him stridently calling out "Magnet!" ... "Magnet!!" ... "MAGNET!!!"

As you said, Gary, you can't make this stuff up.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#942832 - 09/17/08 07:46 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7314
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
sotto voce, I hope you've ignored his stiff wrists admonitions!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#942833 - 09/17/08 07:58 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
sotto voce, I hope you've ignored his stiff wrists admonitions! [/b]
I did pretty much from the start; that's why he had to yell at me!

It was an untenable situation that didn't last long. My aunt and uncle (with whom I lived) realized that I was making more progress on the stuff I was learning on the side on my own, so they stopped wasting the money.

That was nearly 40 years ago. I've had some long gaps of disengagement from piano in the meantime, but haven't had a lesson since. This guy was actually merely the most incompetent of the bad teachers I endured in childhood—but I play reasonably well despite my "lessons."

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#942834 - 09/17/08 07:59 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5423
Loc: Orange County, CA
Maybe it's just where I live...

I live close to two music stores. Both have EXTENSIVE classical music in stock. Both are run by piano teachers who know what's going on, and they know how to order obscure music (one is better at it than the other). I order from the store that is closer to my house, and its staff can already recognize my voice over the phone.

You can find most of the Romantic piano concertos and Mozart concertos, the WTC, lots of Chopin, and titles by all the major composers. There are shelves full of teaching anthologies and method books.

There are at least 30 well-qualified piano teachers who live within a 20-mile radius where I live. Of course there are still the fake "piano teachers," but they can teach the kids who "just want to have fun." The problem is that there are only so many serious piano students, and there are 30 great teachers vying for them.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#942835 - 09/17/08 08:02 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
C-A-V-E-A-T E-M-P-T-O-R, baby!

[/b]
Makes me think of that "king of queens" episode where Arthur starts teaching all these kids.

The proof is in the recitals.
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#942836 - 09/17/08 10:47 PM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13764
Loc: Iowa City, IA
The problem is that most people use the same rubric for the oldest profession as they do music lessons:

Was it enjoyable?

While that is the point of the oldest profession, it's not really the point of music lessons.

\:D

 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
C-A-V-E-A-T E-M-P-T-O-R, baby!

Much like the 'oldest' profession, no training is needed to hang out your shingle. Unlike the oldest profession, the stubbornly uninformed consumer often is not in a good position to judge whether they have received a good service! ;\) [/b]
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#942837 - 09/18/08 01:59 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Gary, I'm not surprised either. We have a wonderful local store, but neither the owner nor spouse are what you'd call proficient musicians, but they are music lovers and can play a few tunes on the piano.
The problem at our store has nothing to do with ignorance. It is not primarily a piano music store. It's more about band and orchestra, and I taught brass for a very long time before finally moving to piano, which although officially my main instrument is not the one I had the most success teaching when I was younger.

The store can and will order anything I ask for. My wife is a wiz and will find anything I ask for in seconds. I told her that I'm missing the Friedheim edition of the Chopin Etudes, and she emailed me in five minutes for confirmation that she was ordering exactly what I wanted.

The problem is that no one else here is using it. How do I know? Because if we had five people use it, it would be stocked.

What is missing in this area is scholarship. For example, there is a wonderful edition of the Mozart Sonatas by Nathan Broder. The notes in the beginning suggesting how to interpret Mozart's notation and why to do it that way is worth the book, for me. And it does not affect the rest of the book, because that is not marred with the editors ideas.

It's at least one very reliable view.

But there is a catch. It's useless for anyone who is unable to make decisions without help. There are no clues about adding phrase marks, dymanics, pedal. You have to draw your own conclusions, and of course there is no fingering.

No fingering? Well, we can't have THAT, can we? Not when there is the old handy-dandy Schirmer edition with fingerings already there.

And work out our own interpretation from study? No, let's coast along with someone elses ideas.

That's what I'm up against. Each time I teach a sonata, I put it into Finale, from scratch, with my own suggestions. People think Finale does it all, when actually it only makes editing faster. If you don't know what you're doing, you get crap. I do this work myself because it allows me to work from the edition I trust the most and make *my own* recommendations about fingering, dynamics, ornamentation, and so on. But I'm meticulous about telling each student that whatever I've added is to be questioned, that someday any student who is really growing must do what I do: go to the best source and think it out anew.

Sorry about the rant, but it was a BAD day. \:\(
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Piano Teacher

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#942838 - 09/18/08 02:00 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
I like to think I know something, but I have had piano teachers come into the store where I used to work and ask me about methods. Rather incredulously I wondered to myself, "Shouldn't you already be familiar with most of these methods?" Unfortunately Alfred reigns supreme.

In the last two years that I've been here in Atlanta I've seen stock of Music Tree go up significantly. Used to be I had to special order it. Now it's either in stock or back-ordered. It can't be just me who's using it! I can't help but wonder who else is using it, and whether that person knows how best to utilize what's taught in the method.

Bill and Roxanne of Hutchins and Rea are familiar with me on a first name basis and when my bill comes out to less than 40 dollars, they give me praise for my restraint. It is that bad. At least they know that I'm willing to buy the music no one else buys because I'm curious about it, so I've received an extra discount on top of my teacher's discount.

Really, I'm just thankful that I live close enough to a sheet music retailer that is as large and as well-run as Hutchins and Rea, giving me the opportunity to buy piano duets by a Philippe Delisle.
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina

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#942839 - 09/18/08 03:19 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4750
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
My last experience with a teacher (in my mid-teens, after a significant gap in both playing and formal study) was dreadful. He was apparently well known and well regarded in my mid-sized suburb of Los Angeles, and taught violin, too.

He believed that finger vibrato was a valid and useful technique for piano—that it could alter the timber of a note after it was struck.
We should talk more. My high school teacher also had a "reputation". Her idea of teaching was to brag about who she studied with, then sit on her sofa away from her grand piano so she could get "the big picture". When I had a problem, she said, "Are you sure you've worked that out?" She told me over and over again that I was very tense, which was true, but she never gave me ONE fingering suggestion. And she gave me the Schnabel edition of the Beethoven sonatas. I have great respect for Schnabel, but his tempo markings can ruin a young pianist if taken too literally, and she just told me to check the markings with my metronome. When I think of all the things I struggled with that could have been solved with just a suggestion, it makes my blood boil.

But it gets worse. She recommended a college teacher who so nearly ruined me, I shudder to think of it. This man was a great believer in the "drop and flex" method, and to get rid of tension, which was a real problem because I had no technical foundation, he stressed a kind of up and down motion of the wrist that was just ridiculous. The more I tried to do what he said, the more tense I got. Sound familiar? I was fortunate. For my last two years of instruction, I got a fantastic teacher who straightened out most of my problems in almost zero time, and the rest I've taken care of by continuing my own investigation.

This, by the way, is why I'm so suspicious of people who preach different kinds of technique in forums. If I can't see it and if I'm not convinced it works, I want no part of it.
 Quote:

Another notable belief of his was that the wrists should be consciously tense at all times and that our physiology included something he called the "magnet muscle." Whenever I played in a lesson, the admonitions to keep my wrists rigidly inflexible were continuous. I can still hear him stridently calling out "Magnet!" ... "Magnet!!" ... "MAGNET!!!"

As you said, Gary, you can't make this stuff up.
No. You can't. One of the finest pianists I've ever seen and heard simply said that most of these "systems" come from people who talk about playing and can't play. He was right. I seldom talk at all about wrist position, because people have a tendency to overdo whatever they are told. The longer I teach, the more I'm convinced that most people will adopt sensible physical habits if I don't screw them up by giving them things they are not yet ready for. I like to shape technique through the music I teach and the way I approach it. That's not the whole thing, but it's a huge part of it. It also leaves room for students to find their own solutions for THEIR bodies and THEIR hands and THEIR style, which in the end is what anyone who is successful must do.
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Piano Teacher

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#942840 - 09/18/08 07:14 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5423
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Minaku:
the opportunity to buy piano duets by a Philippe Delisle. [/b]
Just the other day I saw piano solos by Kurt Weill (of The Threepenny Opera fame). Expensive, though...

It's amazing what I find at my local music stores. Teachers must be ordering some wacko stuff.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#942841 - 09/18/08 07:57 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
You know, I'm sorry about all these horror stories and deficiencies, but with the exception of my very first teacher (the nun who really did whack knuckles with a ruler), my experience with teachers and my son's experience with teachers has been exemplary. No charlatans, time servers, or hacks in the bunch, and no one I would regard as a half-deranged clavichord player who thought bebung worked on a piano!

Instead I have experienced a set of dedicated professionals who could cater to students at different levels of interest and ability and with very different needs (the me at age 9 was very different from the me at age 16, for instance).

I too switched to a teacher with a 'reputation' when I was in high school. A reputation of being one of the best teachers available anywhere between Caracas and Orlando and you know what, she really was at the top of her profession. BTW, she really DID work the tension out of me. I only wish I had been serious enough about piano to have had more years of training with her.
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Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#942842 - 09/18/08 08:01 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11587
Loc: Canada
Piano*Dad, may I ask the background of you having found those teachers? How did your own parent find your first teacher for you? Did that parent already have a background him/herself? In regards to your son, when it was his turn, we already know the answer.

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#942843 - 09/18/08 08:27 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
You know when I read this ... I can relate to many of the teachers that I have been through. Some things come to my mind ...

1. There seem to be a 'school' or a group of teachers that believe in being 'tense' in the wrist. They might not say 'ok, be tense' ... but they will say "high wrist" ... or "lift the fingers". (at least in my experience)

2. There seem to be many teachers with so called 'credientials' that teach incorrect technique. A had one teacher who was a member of a Music Teachers Association in Australia, I could see his certificate of membership mounted on the wall and even look him up in the teacher's directory to prove it. But he was a terrible teacher! He taught technique completely incorrectly. (The shoulders were raised and wrists where tensed).

3. The piano teaching community varies. Where I live there are many teachers it would be very hard to know who every is. In rural areas I have noticed that all teachers know their collegues. This sometimes sets the standard to what 'is' a piano teacher ... or at least what is a decent piano teacher.

They are just a few evaluations ... I think this could be the reason why there are strange teachers that don't really know anything.
_________________________
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#942844 - 09/18/08 08:31 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Keystring,

My mom was the determined type. What she had failed to accomplish she was sure that I could master! She had struggled through years of piano training with no noticeable effect. \:D

She hated it, in fact. But she was truly set on me getting something she had never been able to receive, namely good instruction that would develop a love of music. It really hurt her when she discovered that the first teacher she had arranged was a 19th century moron. I refused to go anywhere near a teacher between age 6 and 9. She finally found a warm, nurturing teacher who I timidly approached (fearing the worst) and who slowly brought me to the table again.

My mom would stay with me at lessons and she would often sit with me at practice. This was the person who couldn't play a note anymore. She also pushed me through teen rebellion when I used piano (and threats to quit) as a method of asserting control, immaturely I might add. She stared me down, set some basic rules, and effectively called my bluff. Fortunately, I was interested enough in the piano (and good enough by that time) that I knew which side my bread was buttered on, so to speak. I didn't quit.

After about seven years with this teacher I had reached a change point. I was good enough to be in competitions and master classes, but with so many weak spots that I could see why I was always not quite in the same league as the hot shots (who were often younger).

My teacher knew of this top pianist at the University of Miami who also had a full studio of private students, and my mom began to do her homework to learn about her. What she learned was quite impressive. Like most kids, I was a conservative in a comfort zone, so she was reluctant to push me toward a new teacher. But after I had a not-so-nice experience at a master class, she abruptly took me for an audition with this teacher.

Man, was that ever an eye opener. After I played a Rachmaninoff prelude for her she brought a younger girl into the room to 'diagnose' my problems. Part of me wanted to crawl into a hole, but the rest of me was really curious. That's when I began to realize just what I was in for! I began to see the kind of work effort involved in achieving at a high level and I saw a teacher who, though kindly, was also very pointed in her critiques and who demanded real commitment and determined effort. My mom was in the room too, and took it all in as well.

My original teacher was a little hurt with how rapidly we switched. But I only had two years to benefit from the new teacher, and we all stayed friends. I think that was important. In fact, I still played in his end-of-year recital.

Sometimes a teacher's reputation is well deserved. This was certainly one of those cases. I used to tape my lessons (on cassettes) so I could replay them during practice. I still have a few of them. I listened to one of them last year and was reminded of how important it is for a teacher to pay very close attention to all the fine details of technique and interpretation if they want a student to have half a chance of achieving their potential.


P.S. Now back to our regularly scheduled topic! \:D
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Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#942845 - 09/18/08 08:38 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5423
Loc: Orange County, CA
1) Tension is bad. Tension in the wrist is worse. I don't play with any tension, but I do keep the wrists high enough so that the back of my hand is on parallel planes with the keyboard.

2) Not all "credentialed" teachers in professional associations are well qualified. This is true in almost every professional associations out there. You have to do more research to find the best teacher.

3) Communities do vary. My MTA branch is not the most close-knit. We have members who never show up to meetings and never participate in any events. They must pay their annual dues so they can keep being affiliated with our association. I don't even know why they do that.

But within the community, there are dedicated teachers who actively participate in musical events and promote music in cities where we live. We constantly strive to be better teachers. I guess you can call this a "community within a community."
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#942846 - 09/18/08 08:42 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5423
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
I used to tape my lessons (on cassettes) so I could replay them during practice. I still have a few of them. [/b]
Ha! I still have those tapes, too. I can't believe how much yelling is on those tapes. \:\)
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#942847 - 09/18/08 08:52 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
I don't remember a lot of yelling. The tone of exasperation is noticeable, though. \:D
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Grotrian 192 #156455

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#942848 - 09/18/08 09:23 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11451
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:


As you said, Gary, you can't make this stuff up.

Steven [/b]
Apparently, you can, because he did. :rolleyes:
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MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#942849 - 09/18/08 09:47 AM Re: How many piano teachers really know anything?
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11451
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Gary, our local music store (which did finally reopen), is wonderful about stocking the things that we like to use. Of course, you can get whatever you want because of your "connections". I suppose there's some benefit to sleeping with your local music supplier :p . Anyways, this woman keeps new things as well, to help us teachers find out what's new. However, she always tells me that I would be surprised as to how many teachers in the area still use Thompson and Schaum in spite of the great strides in pedagogy. If I ask her to stock something for my students, she will do that, and reorder when it sells. Otherwise, I can simply place an order and by the following week it will be in. What a blessing she is!

As for that woman who came into the store not knowing even how to play with her LH who was apparently going to be a piano teacher, boy that really angers me. Unless it is a person who is simply teaching a friend for fun, but even then, I don't think that is right. In order to teach, you must first know. That is not to say that someone can be learning a piece for a student and then teach them, because they obviously can play piano and understand methods of teaching. But if they can't even play at the intermediate level, what right do they have to "show" anyone anything?

I have a voice student who was approached by a friend at church about taking voice lessons from her. She had not given her a yes or no, but asked me if I thought she could. While this student is a very good student and has made a lot of progress with me, there is so much more in teaching than doing! I let her know that in order to teach, she would have to know what to listen for in the student to first be able to diagnose what they were doing to create a certain sound, then they would have to guide that student to the correct sound. She would have to understand the physiology of the voice in addition to having an excellent ear. While I didn't want to discourage her from the teaching profession, I did not feel that she would be a good teacher for this student. At best, she should be a coach, playing the piano while the student sang, and giving nothing more than comments on interpretation, where to breathe, etc.

Which brings me to my last point (sorry, this is long!): what about mentoring? A local teacher whom I admire has done this with some students who are interested in teaching. In her group lessons she will have them assist her, and eventually she helps them learn to teach individually, giving them beginner students that the parents agree to take from at a reduced rate (usually new to her studio) and she will discuss with her student each week what they are working on and help them with different ways of approaching issues. I think this is a wonderful idea and it really helps the students understand what it is to teach. There are 3 steps to learning: observing, doing, and then teaching. What a great way to solidify what these students have learned! I think I may approach my voice student and see if this is something she'd like to pursue under my guidance.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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