How to Find a Piano Teacher
“Her teacher says she’s very talented but that she doesn’t practice enough.” There’s no such thing as talent, get used to it. And no point blaming yourself or your child for not practicing. The right piano teacher knows how to work with the child’s natural interest in music, develop it, and build on it. But how do you find the right piano teacher? This short practical guide shows you what qualities to look for in a piano teacher, and how to assess them. It is based on a parent’s careful observation, over many years, of a teacher who has accomplished remarkable results with students of every stripe: both those headed for a life in music and those on the way to a lifetime of enjoyment of music. It synthesizes the author’s experiences in meeting with countless students and teachers of various instruments, spending many hours talking to parents, attending dozens of student concerts, and sitting through hundreds of lessons and master classes as his child went through twelve years of Conservatory, before going on to the Royal Academy of Music in London on a full scholarship.
The insights gained from the book apply equally to the teaching of other instruments as well. Although each instrument presents its own characteristic technical issues, they all have music in common, and similar problems and dilemmas arise when they are taught: how much to practice and how; balancing technique with musical understanding; surviving student concerts; early exposure of high-performing children; separating from a teacher after many years. Although the book is intended as a guide for parents, piano teachers can also gain from it by comparing their own practices with those that elicited the admiration of a highly concerned parent.
The Web is awash with sites, blogs, and landing pages that give advice on finding a piano teacher. Typically, they say something like... “Before starting to look for a piano teacher, decide what you expect music lessons to accomplish for your child.” Or maybe “Learning to play an instrument will provide your child a lifetime of delightful challenges.” And again, “The best way to find a piano teacher is by word of mouth, although the Internet can also...” Then, “Make a list of potential teachers... seek recommendations from friends...” The book in front of you says nothing of the sort. Instead, it speaks about the qualities piano teachers must possess to nurture the child’s natural fascination with music and to instill quickly those qualities that children need for genuine, satisfying, and vibrant music making.
To remain engaged with music for life, as a professional or an amateur, one must achieve a certain level of fluency in childhood. Music is a language. Pitches are its phonemes, motifs its vocabulary, harmony its syntax. To impart such fluency to those who don’t have it natively, it is not enough for teacher and student to instruct the fingers through endless practice. The book describes how the teacher you want for your child knows to devise a personalized program that takes into account your child’s skills, tastes, preferences, and inclinations, which will maintain the child’s interest in music and build on it.
Gabriel Lanyi is a writer, editor, translator living in Jerusalem, Israel. He is the author of "Uscolia," the story of the land of native fluency and of learning without teaching. Until learning without teaching is fully understood in the rest of the world, however, finding a good piano teacher is the next best thing.