Practice Makes Good (and fun)

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
I wanted to share some important information with you about practicing.
Of course, it’s up to each individual family to decide if their piano student(s) will be doing any practicing. It definitely helps the lessons become enjoyable and interesting as opposed to uncomfortable and boring (for student and teacher). If you/your child chooses to practice their piano assignment in between lessons, here are some helpful tips on how to do it.

– Establish a practice routine, enter it into family calendar.
– Set aside time for 4 piano practice sessions every week.
– Create a pleasant practice environment. Quiet, a good bright light, footrest if needed. No teasing or criticism.
– At every practice session, open the piano lessons binder.
– Go to the assignment sheet from your last lesson.
– Do everything on the list as many times it says (more is better) or for the number of minutes indicated.
– Set a timer for every session.
– If you reach the bottom of the list and time has not run out, start again at the top of the list or practice the item that was the most difficult again.

Students ages 5-9 need supervision during their practice sessions. They need an older sibling or adult to:
– help them go through the instructions and work through each item
– keep them focused

Students ages 10-12 need someone to check their piano assignment at least once a week. They need someone to:
– ask them to play every item on their assignment worksheet
– offer feedback on elements that need more effort and improvement

Students ages 12+ need someone to:
– offer some sincere encouragement
– give specific praise when you hear them practicing well on their own

Adult students: don’t be shy about showing a trusted friend what you’re working on in piano lessons. Supportive friends and family can provide encouraging feedback, which is so valuable when learning to play an instrument.

And that’s all there is to it! Good instrument, bench, footrest, light, some quiet, straight posture, curved hand position, follow the instructions, and be uncool enough to sincerely try. Voila, the perfect practice session. Repeat at least 4 times a week between lessons to see encouraging results and grow as a human being.

Piano Lessons Beginning of Term Newsletter 2020

The Mobile Piano Geek
Fresh Piano Lessons Delivered to Your Door Or Through Your Computer
http://www.alisonmaira.com
Beginning of Term Newsletter 2020

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
It’s great to be back in the saddle of learning, studying, and growing! I’m excited to see you all again, to work and study with you as we immerse ourselves in that amazing, beautiful mystery that is music. Whether you are a beginner just learning how to read notes or an advanced student studying for exams, there is much to learn – the mechanics of music yes, but more than that too. How to persevere, how to try hard, how to bravely explore new ideas, how to not be afraid of mistakes or let them stop you from learning and succeeding.

Covid-19 Safety Protocols:
I will be wearing a cloth mask during in-person lessons. I will bring hand sanitizer and clean my hands before each lesson and during the lesson too, if necessary. I will also clean the piano keys before each lesson. How you can help: make sure your children wash their hands before their lesson, and ask them to wear a mask.

Teacher and Student Illness Policy:
This is where online piano lessons can really come in handy. From now on, I will not be coming to work if I or anyone in my household has cold or flu symptoms. We can have lessons online that day if I’m well enough. You must cancel our in-person piano lessons if your child or anyone in your household has cold or flu symptoms. We can move that lesson to online delivery if the student is feeling well enough. I reserve the right to cancel in-person lessons and reschedule them as online sessions if the student or their family members have cold and flu symptoms when I arrive for an in-person lesson.

Cancellations: each student receives two free cancellations per school year. Please let me know when you would like to use them and I will apply a cancellation credit to your invoice. Any subsequent cancellations will not be refunded or credited, but you can arrange a make-up lesson with me if you wish. I have availability for make-up lessons on Saturday afternoons.

In Other News:
I’ve just started classes at the M.Ed Counselling Psychology program at SFU. I’ll be immersed in child development, education, and counselling for the next two years. YAY! My favorite topics on earth. I wanted to make sure all my students know that I too am in school. I have teachers that assign me hard things, and I have to time-manage my butt off to get my homework done. I love to learn, and I’m proud of myself for gaining all this new knowledge that I can use to help people in my community. End of life lesson lecture;)

Things to do to prepare for a wonderful year of music study:
– Establish a practice routine, input into family calendar. Set aside time for 4 piano practice sessions every week.
– Get a timer to measure practice sessions. A basic kitchen timer or stopwatch is fine. This timer stays on top of your piano or in your piano box.
– Get a container for your piano materials. Something big enough to put metronome, piano books, piano binder, timer, pencil, eraser, current sheet music. Keep this container on top of the piano or somewhere very close by.
– Start a “Songs I Like” list. Put a copy on your devices and a paper copy in your piano materials box. This list will be helpful when considering what repertoire to study next.
– Arrange for piano or keyboard maintenance if it has been longer than a year since last tuning or there are ongoing issues needing repair.

Playing For Fun:
Music is a glorious thing and it is an amazing gift to give your children or yourself. Usually your child’s piano assignment will not touch on the great emotional journey that music can be. It will be about sustained effort, delayed gratification, intellectual challenge, discipline, and if everything goes well, slow and steady progress. Sometimes practicing will feel like kind of a drag. It is very important to round out your or your child’s musical education by giving them the fun, easy side of music as well. Go see live concerts, have a dance party at home, try karaoke, play Rock Band (the video game), and encourage your children to mess around at the piano, with no pressure. Try to figure out some notes of a song you like. Write your own songs. At my house my daughter plays absolutely crazy “music” on the piano and I have to do an interpretive dance. This brings her great joy, and that is the point. Although I must admit my dancing skills are not coming along as well as I would like.

Available Lesson Times:
I have two lesson times available on Saturday afternoons for adult or experienced piano students who are too busy to have weekly lessons but would like to maintain their piano skills with a teacher’s guidance. These would be once-a-month, 60 minute lessons. If you know of anyone (or yourself?!) who would be interested in this format, please feel free to pass along this newsletter to them.

Attached is my Studio Policies 2020, and Practice Tips for Beginners/Intermediate Students.

Thank you for reading! Please contact me with any questions or comments you may have.

See you all this week,
Cheerio,
Alison

Spring Hill Jack Duet

This is Spring-Heeled Jack, a rather tricky polyrhythmic duet performed by Sarah and me. This was the very last lesson I taught, on March 12, 2020 before the pandemic shut everything down. Little did I know I would not Sarah again in-person for three months after this video!
Spring-Heeled Jack, in case you are wondering, is a ghost or perhaps demon who was sighted in London in the early 1800’s on and off for about a century. He’s actually kind of terrifying and here’s a good wikipedia article about him.

Resuming In-Person Piano Lessons

The Mobile Piano Geek
http://www.alisonmaira.com
alisonmaira@live.com

May 29, 2020
Resuming In-Person Piano Lessons

Dear Parents and Students,
I wanted to touch base with you about resuming in-person piano lessons. Certainly, changes will be happening moving forward. Here is some information I would like to share with you.

Teacher and Student Safety:
In-person lessons will look different than before. I will be wearing a cloth mask, and I’ll be changing masks before I go into each house. I will bring hand sanitizer and clean my hands in your house before each lesson and during the lesson too, if necessary. I will ask the student to sanitize their hands as well. I’ve been looking into disinfecting piano keys and a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a damp cloth seems to be the most practical. This will work on ivory and plastic keys and not damage the finish. I will be carrying this with me as well and doing a quick clean of the piano keys before each lesson. It’s probably best if I use the same chair in your house for every lesson. I will not be offended if you clean this chair at the end of every lesson. I think it would be better if I leave my jacket in my car whenever possible and leave my shoes at your front door.

Teacher and Student Illness:
I have gone to work with a moderate to severe cold in the past. I have also sat next to hundreds of sick students. Both of these things cannot happen anymore. I have a child and vulnerable elders in my family to protect, and I know most of you do too. This is where online piano lessons can really come in handy. From now on, I will not be coming to work if I or anyone in my household has cold or flu symptoms. We can have lessons online that day if I’m well enough. You must cancel our in-person piano lessons if your child or anyone in your household has cold or flu symptoms. We can move that lesson to online delivery if the student is feeling well enough. I reserve the right to cancel in-person lessons and reschedule them as online sessions if the student or their family members are presenting with cold and flu symptoms.

In addition, I would like to you to know that I have been interacting only with my husband and daughter since March 14. My husband and I have been working from home since March 16. My daughter will not be returning to school in June. I have had a few encounters with two friends, but outside only and two metres apart. Mike and I have left the house only for a weekly shopping trip (taking turns) and for bike rides and walks.

I feel confident about resuming in-person lessons with the safety policies I have outlined above. I am open to your suggestions and comments. Please let me know if you would like to resume in-person lessons for June. We would return to 45 minute lessons once a week. If you are not ready to resume in-person lessons, we can continue with online lessons but the time slot might change if I need to organize specific online and in-person work days.
Thank you for your resilience and adaptability these past 8 weeks or so. I am very much hoping to see all your shining faces again soon.

Sincerely,
Alison

Piano Lessons In The Time Of Pandemic

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
I have been thinking for days of what to write to you. Never in my wildest imaginings did I expect to lose my job and not return to work after Spring Break. But that is the situation in which millions of Canadians now find ourselves.

During the first week of Spring Break, I clung to the hope that private in-home services such as tutoring and various therapies would continue. But it’s clear now, with the recent directive to ‘go home and stay home’ that I won’t be out and about doing lessons.

So, what to do going forward? Kids thrive on structure and routine, and it’s a good idea to keep their brains occupied and stimulated. Piano lessons are great for all those things. Some of you have already asked about online lessons.

Piano lessons in particular are difficult to manage over the internet. Because of lag time between devices, teacher and student cannot play together. That means no duets but it also means I can’t count out loud for students or tap a beat for them to follow, or stop them quickly at a particular passage to re-try. Every exchange between teacher and student will have a slight delay. This is the best case scenario. Usually there are technical difficulties to deal with as well. There is just no way that an in-the-moment flow between student and teacher can happen over the internet…and that is pretty much the sum and total of my teaching approach and lesson plans.

However! Just because my present way of doing things does not translate to online delivery doesn’t mean I won’t be teaching anymore. It just means that I will redesign my lesson plans and create new ways to teach and connect with students. Here are some ideas and plans I’m putting together:

– 30 minute Check In Lessons with current students for the material they’re presently working on. No theory or duets. I won’t be able to leave written practice assignments for the students to follow so part of the lesson will be directions on what and how to practice that week.

– 30 minute Song Project Lessons. This would be something for more intermediate or advanced students. Students choose one song they want to learn, and we spend 30 minutes learning it in small sections. This could last for weeks or months depending on the complexity of the material.

– 30 minute Make A Song Lessons. This could be a fun activity for beginners and intermediate students. Student creates lyrics, I show them how to put their words to a melody and chords, and 30 minutes later we have a completed original song. Extra points for silliness. I could send along a worksheet of the chords and melody we come up with so students could practice their piano parts if they want.

I will drop my rate to $25.00 per 30 minute lesson for online sessions. For booking, I will leave it up to parents to decide how often they would like to have lessons, and what kind of lessons they would like to purchase. These are kind of mix-and-match options. Students could try all three kinds of online sessions, or just stick to one. Lessons would be pre-paid by e-transfer and I can email a receipt afterwards.

My new teaching hours will be 3:00-5:30pm Monday-Friday, and 12:00-3:00pm Saturday. I’m open to booking additional sessions on Saturdays and Sundays too, with sufficient notice to make arrangements to kick my family outside for their daily fresh air so I can hear myself think. This week I am researching delivery platforms, camera angles, and computer setups. I want to get it right and get comfortable with teaching this way before I unleash myself on the unsuspecting public. My plan is to launch online lessons for April 1 Wednesday.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and your kids. It’s a huge loss to me as a teacher and as a human to not see your children every week. All those precious relationships of learning, encouragement, warmth, all the giggling and inside jokes, all the little details about their lives they share with me each week, the good-natured co-operation and shared camaraderie, and most of all, watching them grow and progress. Losing my front row seat of seeing the everyday miracle of learning and development unfold in your children is very painful. I miss them. I’m looking forward to sitting beside everyone again soon.

Thank you for reading. Hopefully we will reconvene in a virtual way in April:)
Alison

Alison Maira
PBD Counselling & Human Development
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
The Mobile Piano Geek: http://www.alisonmaira.com

I acknowledge that I live, work, and play on the unceded, occupied territories of the (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Piano Lessons Beginning Of Term Newsletter 2019

Hello Lovely Parents and Students!
Woo hoo! It’s great to be back in the saddle of learning, studying, and growing. Education is a beautiful thing. I’m rejuvenated and have a great deal of renewed enthusiasm for teaching and embarking on another year of music study with all my students! I recently finished the first part of my studies at SFU and have completed a Post Baccalureate Diploma in Counselling and Human Development. I know I’m a better teacher and mother for it. I’m looking forward to applying all my new knowledge this year as I teach, guide, listen, and learn with you and your children.
Attached are my Studio Policies, a checklist for achieving effective practice sessions, my updated teacher bio, and some good reasons to study music and the piano. My schedule is not quite finalized yet, and I ask you to please bear with me as last minute adjustments might need to be made to accommodate everyone.
I’m expanding my teaching practice this year and adding lesson times during the morning and early afternoon. If you know of any adults or homeschooled children who might be interested in piano lessons, please feel free to forward them this email.
As always, your questions and comments are welcome.
See you all this week!
Cheerio,
Alison

Alison Maira

PBD Post Baccalaureate Diploma, Counselling & Human Development
B. Mus, Jazz Studies & Music Education
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
BCMEA – BC Music Educators Assn.
The Mobile Piano Geek: http://www.alisonmaira.com

I acknowledge that I live, love, work and play on the unceded, traditional, occupied territories of the (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Aidan

Here’s Aidan! Mastering the intricate rhythms of the James Bond Theme.


Shirley

Here’s Shirley! I hope to be as happy and busy and wise as she when I am in my 80’s. Shirley loves Elvis Presley and Michael Buble, and you cannot be in a bad mood when teaching or playing their songs it’s just impossible (I have tried), which means I am always happy when I am teaching Shirley.

Danica

Well well well. Here’s Danica, playing her concert solo and duet. She made a lot of great progress this year, transforming into one of my most diligent and accomplished students. When she started reading my practice instructions her playing and practicing really took off! And that is not sarcasm – only gratefulness and pride. I often wish I could show my students the difference in how the songs sound from those who practice the assignment and those who…don’t.

Thanks for a great recital Summer 2019!

Here we all are at our fantastic summer piano concert! Everyone played very well. And by that I do not mean it was a perfect performance for all – I had some nervous moments during my solo, for example. However, students and teacher managed to keep going, recover quickly from small mistakes, and finish with a smile! I like perfect performances, but I like the excitement and unpredictability of live performance as well. You learn a lot about yourself from handling mistakes in public while everyone is watching. Not falling apart when things go askew and being able to laugh a bit after, because it really isn’t THAT serious and no one dies from embarrassment, is a tremendously valuable skill to cultivate.

Recital! Recital! Recital!

   

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Our annual Summer Piano Concert will take place on Saturday June 17 at 1:00 pm. The location is Mount Olivet Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver. I invite all of my students to seize this performance opportunity! And please bring your family and friends. Everyone is welcome. Students should go through their 2017 learned repertoire, choose their best solo and duet, and prepare it for their lesson this week so they will have plenty of time to polish their selections and get really comfortable with them. Performing is exciting and exhilarating if you are prepared. Performing is terrifying and a unique form of dreadful torture if you are not prepared. I’m just sayin. As an experienced teacher and performer. 

     Students can arrive early at the church to warm up on the grand piano. Church appropriate attire please. Please rsvp to me by June 13. 

     Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing all your shining faces on June 17th.

Alison

Winter Piano Recital 2017!

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful relaxing break. Now we are all back in our various saddles of work and school and it is that special time once again when all my delightful piano students enthusiastically prepare two pieces, one solo and one duet, for our semi-annual performances.This week I will be asking all my students to choose their two songs for a performance video, to be filmed the week of the concert (2 weeks from now) which will be posted on my Mobile Piano Geek twitter and facebook page, website and youtube channel. In addition I encourage all my students to attend or participate in the upcoming live concert!

The Details:
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver
Saturday January 21
2:00-3:00pm

Grandparents, extended family, and friends are invited too.
Please let me know if you or your child will be participating. If you don’t feel comfortable with performing, you are still more than welcome to attend and enjoy.
I will send out a program as soon as I know how many will be performing.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Cheerio,
Alison

If Your New Year’s Resolution Is To Try New Things…

As of January 4 2017 I have one lesson time available, Wednesday afternoon 3:30-4:15pm.

If you live in North Vancouver and have always wondered, “What would it be like if a cheerful, skilled, sensitive, intelligent, and extremely modest piano teacher with 10+ years teaching experience came to my house once a week to impart exciting musical knowledge and guide me in a new adventure of learning to play my favorite songs on the piano IN ADDITION to being introduced to hitherto unknown elements of musical style and genre that would vastly expand my horizons as a human being?” then I have good news for you: the answer to your question is,” It’s pretty fun and interesting and you can get started by contacting me to set up a few lessons to try it out”. For yourself or that child you love so much and want to best experiences for.

Perfect Practice

I know, I know. Practice makes perfect, not the other way around. Here are (more) of my thoughts on how to maximize your investment in piano lessons, for you or your child.
The Perfect Practice Session: By Alison Maira

You need a digital keyboard with full size weighted keys, or acoustic piano that has been tuned and maintained within the last year.

You need a comfortable bench at the correct height for your size. When resting your curved fingers and slightly rounded wrists on the white keys in the middle of the piano your arms should come out at slightly less than 90 degree angle. Your shoulders should be relaxed but your back is tall and straight (but not straining to be so) Exaggerated wrist bend or straight arms = too close or too far away from the piano.

You need a footrest if your feet cannot rest comfortably flat on the floor. Additionally, it is very difficult for a child to maintain focus during their piano practice if their feet are dangling in the air. Feet resting flat and still increases focus and creates what I call your “dance space” – a solid unit of good posture, healthy finger, wrist and hand position, feet grounded and comfortable. This consistent and solid foundation allows for a lot of expressive body movement while playing, which many good piano players engage in BUT their dance space remains a solid unit from which the movement flows. The arm, hand, wrist, finger, elbows, shoulders, back, and feet move as one beautiful unit. Motion is typically generated from from the hips while seated on the bench. The dance space can move to the right or left and real power comes straight down from the shoulders and a slight lean forward from the trunk.

You need a good light on or near your piano. It is not fun and too difficult to practice when you can’t really see the keys or your sheet music. Just sayin’.

You need to follow your teacher’s instructions for every practice session. I have yet to meet a student who has memorized my practice instructions perfectly and has no need to refer to their assignment sheet or notes I have written on their sheet music. I have met plenty who take a glance, get it wrong, practice the wrong thing for a week or two, or three – and have to painfully un-learn the wrong thing and re-learn the correct one. Tremendously frustrating and completely preventable. One of those things that makes people think piano lessons are a drag and really stupid.

You need a reasonably quiet environment while practicing. Not church-like reverent silence, but a time and place when it is possible to carefully read the instructions, go though the assignment one item at a time, experiment without feeling self-conscious, and hopefully fall into the flow of relaxed concentration and the deep satisfaction of hearing yourself improve as you apply your best effort.

You need to gather your materials and have them ready when you begin. Metronome, assignment sheet, songbooks, tablet/phone/laptop for online ear training exercises, a sense of curiosity about what musical puzzles you will solve today, and a pleasant attitude. Like really there are worse things than learning how to practice and play a musical instrument, yes teenagers I am talking to you. I love you but sometimes your determination to be cool is not cool with me as it effectively torpedoes your potential to stretch out and truly achieve something better. Learning requires vulnerability and risk taking. I can promise you as your teacher that your sincere efforts will never be mocked or belittled by me. So have your damn metronome ready when you practice so there is no need for weak excuses about why you still can’t come in on the and of 2.

And that’s it. Good instrument, bench, footrest, light, some quiet, posture, hand position, follow the instructions, have all your stuff ready and be uncool enough to sincerely try. Voila, the prefect practice session. Repeat at least 4 times a week between lessons to see encouraging results and grow as a human being.

Featured Student, Aidan

Aidan started lessons this past September and every week I am impressed with his progress, his enthusiasm for learning new songs, and his excellent questions. He is the only 7 year old I know who is fascinated with comparing and contrasting composers within the socio-economic-political context of their life and times. He looks ahead in his lesson books, which I encourage all my students to do, and his guesses at how to proceed with new material are easily 75% right and this margin is growing from week to week. One of the things I love most about being a teacher is giving truthful, positive feedback and compliments that are well deserved. Every week I have opportunities to tell Aidan that he is a good listener, a great learner, very intelligent (especially about music), that his pieces are sounding better and better, and that it is a pleasure to teach him. He loves to hear all this stuff – I can tell by the way he listens carefully, head down looking at the keys with a little smile on his face – and I never get tired of saying it. It emboldens him to try harder and set higher expectations for himself. And so we attain a virtuous circle of learning, reinforcement, confidence, and the desire to do more and make it better. Sounds easy and fantastic but it doesn’t happen with everyone and it’s often very hard to achieve this virtuous circle. Aidan helps me appreciate the virtuous circle and renews my efforts to bring that to all my students.


Sarah: Solo & Duet, January 2016

For our most recent recital Sarah put together two short solo pieces to make a larger one. Today the kids call that a mashup. Older people will know it as a medley. Either way it’s fun and fascinating to watch a student create something new by combining old ideas.

Mo: Solo & Duet, January 2016

Quite often when I post current student performance videos I end up comparing them to older ones of the same student and it sure is gratifying to see unmistakable fantastic progress during the elapsed time between videos. Mo always falls into that category.


Shirley: Duet, January 2016

This lady just turned 80. Yes she did. Still going strong with her diligent practice routine, careful adherence to instructions, and great ideas for repertoire to study.

Best Of 2015 Part 1

Best of 2014, Part 1

Featured Student, Sarah

Sarah has been studying piano with me for about the past 5 years. She has an enthusiasm and joy for music that is energizing to be around. When I am teaching Sarah and she is singing along with her right hand part because it’s so beautiful to her, I often wish I could teleport home to my piano and play for hours, to have lots of fun at the piano just like she does.
Sarah doesn’t discriminate with music. She falls in love with classical pieces, pop songs, jazz standards, and lullabies. Many times I have played a new piece for her and her eyes widen in surprised delight. ” Ooh, I LIKE that one!” she says breathlessly as the notes strike her ear for the first time.
This year Sarah is discovering her own practice strategies, which of course fills me with teacherly pride. I have long believed that practicing is much akin to puzzle solving. How do I put this song together? What steps are needed, in what order, to facilitate the magical transformation from disjointed segments to a unified whole? This process is different for every student of music.
As a teacher I can suggest strategies that work for me, others that my teachers have shown me, and create new ones that address the puzzle at hand for the student on the bench beside me. But there comes a time when the student, if they are to continue with their studies, has to devise their own puzzle solving practice devices. Things that work for that individual person. Nobody knows your brain better than you, I say to my students. You have to figure out how to put this information into your individual brain, in a way that makes sense and in a way that you can remember and draw upon. I can guide, suggest and critique, but I can’t put the information in there for you.
If I could, I’m pretty sure I would be the greatest piano teacher the world has ever seen.
But in the meantime I will look to Sarah for inspiration as she tries, struggles, and succeeds on her journey with music.

New! Saturday Flex Lesson Packages

Car Sign!

Are you (or your child) interested in beginning or continuing piano study but can’t commit to weekly lessons? Fear not, good people! Here is your solution. I am offering flexible lesson packages on Saturday afternoons.
I have three lesson times available on Saturdays. 3:30-4:15pm, 4:30-5:15pm, and 5:30-6:15pm. They are offered on a first come first served basis. Students can book one lesson at a time or as many as they like. No refunds for cancellations, but you can use your prepaid lesson as a credit for a future Saturday lesson. Lesson times might need to be adjusted depending on where you live, travel time, traffic, etc.
I teach in-home lessons in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, north Burnaby and Vancouver. For more details or to book your flex lessons please contact me at alisonmaira@live.com or 778 318 3916.

Featured Student, Max

Max is one of those students who the thought of makes me smile. And shake my head a little, and then smile again. I first met Max when he was 7 years old. During our first lesson he jumped up and rolled under his piano bench, where apparently he intended to stay for the rest of the lesson. That was a first for me. I convinced him to come out and try playing a song. He was suspicious but agreed. I could see that Max was a very active child who needed to move a little while he learned. That’s ok with me. A lot of kids learn better while they’re moving. I could also see that he was very, very smart. His brain absorbed new information quickly and if he was interested, he was hungry to learn more more more. I made it my mission to make piano interesting for him, because it was so rewarding for both of us (I hoped) to devour new concepts and new material.
Now Max is 13. He has developed into one of the nicest teenagers I have ever spent time with. He’s still smart, and very funny, and one of those gems who spontaneously display polite good manners and respect when his parents are nowhere in sight. His enthusiasm at discovering new elements of music inspires me to fall in love with music and great artists and pieces all over again. I felt the way that Max does when I was his age. The thing I loved WAS THE BEST THING THAT HAD EVER OR WILL EVER EXIST. Sometimes I forget I used to feel that way. Max reminds me. I run with it and feed him whatever I can think of to kindle the fire of his sharp intelligence.
This year Max discovered the 12 bar blues and the basics of improvising. In this video he is playing a 12 bar blues chords in his left hand while improvising with his right hand using the blues scale, with a metronome. He feels the pulse in his body while he plays. He fairly vibrates with excitement. The combined elements of memorization, staying in time and spontaneously crafting a melody that uses only the notes of a specific scale pattern make for a challenging brain workout for a person of any age. He is the youngest person I have taught who can do this and I am looking forward to seeing what he will accomplish in the coming school year.

Featured Student, Rosie

I started teaching Rosie when she was 5 years old. Back then she had a 15 minute lesson before her older brother Evan’s lesson. Normally I don’t teach 5 year olds unless they are very keen to learn piano. Rosie was one of those rare 5 year olds. She asked me every week for what seemed like months whenever I came to teach her brother, when could she start piano lessons. She showed me how she could play parts of her brother’s songs, just by listening to him practice. Rosie was so happy to start her own lessons with me. She practiced diligently and parked herself in her living room window, waiting for me to walk up her driveway every week. She would wave so hard when she spotted me I thought her arm might fall off. An enormous grin would light up her face without fail and she would run to the door and throw it open for me. She still does this every week, 4 years later. When I am an old lady in the nursing home I will remember Rosie’s loving joyful enthusiasm with great fondness. Her solid beat, attention to dynamics, and accurate note reading skills solidify her place in my heart.