GROUP PIANO LESSONS
It's important to remember that the desire for lessons must first come from the child. The teacher and parents can help fan the flame (or douse it!), but the child has to have the initial desire. A person can be turned off music forever by being pushed or forced into it. I know many adults who have experienced the negative consequences of pushing. The best advice I have is to follow your child's lead.
1)Differences between private and group lessons:
b)Parental Time Commitment- attend lessons and help practice
c)Practice- minimum 4 days/week (average)
d)Instrument- your family will need decent instrument, capable of holding a tune.
I will start a child on keyboard ($150-$800), but a decent piano ($750-$1,200) is usually required after 1-2 years.
2)Instrument sources (feel free to discuss options with me, anytime!):
Acoustic instruments- I highly recommend Gary Hardy’s Piano Warehouse
Electronic instruments- many online resources.
3)How I would chose a teacher:
a)Motivation- Is there a lot of external motivation- rewards, stickers, contests, bribes? A good teacher can fan the flame and bring out the internal motivation. Students need to find their true desires and strengths. External rewards confuse the issue. I will rarely use external motivation to "jump start" a student during a difficult practice time. However, it is always short term, and the student always knows that the goal is to get their internal engine fired up.
b)Music- Does the student choose their music? Is the teacher responsive to requests? One of the best internal motivators is a desire to play a piece you love. Teachers who force students to play only classical music, or all the pieces in each book can douse the desire quickly. Look for the willingness to be flexible and responsive- to go the extra mile. Even advanced music may be accessible if a simple arrangement is used.
c)Expectations- Level of commitment required- Some teachers are only interested in extremely serious students. Make sure that the teacher is interested in working with your child at an appropriate level. For example, if the teacher expects 30 minutes of practice, 6 days a week, in the beginning, building to an hour in a year- think about your child. Is this reasonable for them? If not, you are setting up a failure situation from the very beginning.
d)Recitals and Competitions- Is the teacher offering opportunities, or are they pushing students into uncomfortable situations. Many children enjoy performing. However, some really don't want to perform in front of strangers, or they don't want to feel judged by strangers. Are the performing opportunities comfortable and fun? Does the child choose, and is their choice honored? Is the focus of the lessons on getting ready for competitions? I believe that it is rarely advantageous for children under middle school level to compete in individual music competition. Indeed, it is probably better to hold off most students until High School. The desire to enter a contest must come from the student, and they need to be strong enough to deal with all possible outcomes.
e)Child Oriented- 95% of good teaching comes from understanding and honoring the student. Many excellent musicians make lousy teachers because they are committed to music, not teaching. Of course, the teacher needs to have good command of the instrument, but that is just the beginning of the requirements for doing this job. Observe several different lessons. Would your child respond to this approach?
f)Technique- I teach technique from the music. I design all exercises from the music itself. Boring exercises definitely discourage students and can kill interest. Technique enables musicians to play the music they love. It can and should be fascinating and of utmost interest. Look for creativity and flexibility, as well as a sense of excitement.
g)Student creativity- Is composition and improvisation encouraged and honored?
h)Parental Involvement- Are parents welcome in the lesson. Is the difficult role of the parent acknowledged and supported? Parents walk a tight rope, trying to support and encourage, without lapsing into nagging and force.
4)Is the relationship with the teacher working?
Once you start lessons, it is important to ask this question. I would look at the following: Is the lesson time generally enjoyable? Is the student excited to go to the lesson? Are they excited about their music? How does the teacher respond if they aren't? With reminders, and support from you, does your child respond well to practice? Realize that most children need a lot of support, in the form of help from you, in order to enjoy and profit from practice. Also, anyone can have bad weeks or even months. However, many months of low motivation often indicate that it is time for a change. It may be time to stop or to find another teacher. No teacher is right for everyone