The Adult Beginner’s Piano Journey

I feel as if I have stumbled onto a great secret of satisfying and rewarding teaching. That secret is, adult students, especially beginners. There is something wonderful about these people. It’s fun to teach music to a child, because children are fantastically curious, full of energy and innocence. The adults though, I really feel like I’m helping in a tangible way. Sure they get better at playing the piano – if they commit to regular practice and following their assignments they can become surprisingly solid and expressive players at any stage of life. But they also get better at knowing themselves, facing challenges, and handling victories. You would be shocked to know how many accomplished, professional adult people have a total blind spot about their own intelligence and ability to grow. They cannot and do not see their own progress, all the ways in which they are improving, the skills they have mastered, the increase in fluency, the steady buildup of knowledge. Helping my adult students handle their victories and acknowledge them is probably the biggest part of my work with adult beginners. I’m not sure why this is so and why I see it so often. There’s probably a great paper or study waiting to be written about it.
I have found that another great secret of good teaching is love and encouragement. People of any age learn more effectively when they are loved and encouraged; when they feel safe enough to take their world-mask off and allow the new information to be absorbed and they do not fear looking stupid or making a mistake. That’s “flow state”, the relaxed concentration that allows endless repetitions and true practicing/improvement from a place of fascination and curiosity (not from a place of boredom/being forced to – that is NOT flow state).
I help my adult students get into that flow state through the most effective tools in my teaching bag of tricks: love and encouragement. Simple. But complicated and delicate too. It’s engrossing work that I will practice and research and try to get better at for the rest of my life. It requires sensitivity and subtlety. Love and encouragement from a teacher has to be gentle and unobtrusive, something you can only see out of the corner of your eye. The small, vulnerable flame of learning has to be nurtured, not blown out with overzealous trampling of false praise.
I would love to meet some new adult piano students this year, especially beginners. If you or someone you know has always wanted to unlock the secrets of the piano and dive deep into the endless world of music; push themselves to achieve (and accept) new victories, and work on an amazing new skill, feel free to get in touch. I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about.