I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately with my Songza playlist tuned into 60’s, 70’s and 80’s music. As much as the pop music of today gets my kids dancing around the living room… nothing gets them bopping like the good old stuff. There’s just something about “Old School” music that works… still! Even though this music is certainly less “fancy” than the music being produced today, even at it’s simplest it’s still just good.
Now-a-days we spend much of our time looking to the future; searching for the next big thing. It can get overwhelming as SO many ideas are thrust at us each and every day. I’m completely guilty of continually reinventing my piano teaching practices – I love what I do and I just can’t help but want to be get better and better. But sometimes being better also means zeroing in on the basics, because sometimes it’s the simplest things that work the best.
Look Back In Time For A Moment
In my own teaching I’ve often found it to be worthwhile to occasionally take a step back and remember my own piano lessons as a kid; to consider what it was that made it “work”. While I certainly would not trade my own innovative approach to teaching piano lessons for anything, there are a few lessons we can still learn from piano lessons of yore.
1. It’s all about personal connections. You may have the fanciest iPad apps to use in your lessons, but it still comes down to the fact that you need to connect with your students. I absolutely adored my piano teacher. I looked up to her. I wanted to be her! The teacher/student relationship is truly the most important part of the lesson experience.
2. It’s all about the music. My piano teacher lived and breathed music. It was all she talked about; and she talked about it with great enthusiasm. It was contagious. As a result, her favorite pieces became my favorite pieces; I got excited about the music she was excited about. And while I myself have many other interests, it is important for my piano kids to see that I truly love to play the piano; that it is a genuine source of joy for me. Most of us are in this profession because this is so… so let that shine and inspire your piano kids with your passion.
3. It’s an important tradition. My piano teacher taught mostly classical music and while I am a huge advocate for varying your piano kids’ repertoire to continue to be relevant, I’m also a big proponent of continuing on the classical music tradition. Without our influence as piano teachers, our kiddos may never have the opportunity to ever hear this music, let alone play it. My classical-music-only diet didn’t give me jazz improv skills, but it certainly did create an appreciation for classical music. It’s important for piano teachers to find ways to inspire piano kids to appreciate and understand classical music.
4. It’s an experience. Piano lessons for me were more than just a weekly activity, they were truly an experience. My piano teacher had two Westie Terriers that would rest at my feet as I played. She’d sneak me scotch mints with a wink from a crystal bowl when I’d done something particularly well. She’d surprise me with a coveted invite into her “private” living room to play my piece on her harpsichord. Almost everything in her house and studio was pink, angel-themed and covered in flowers.
It was the little things about my lessons that made them a part of my life that was as familiar as my home life. It was the little things that made my piano teacher my superstar. A sterile and business-like studio doesn’t have the same effect as a personalized environment where your piano kids learn about you and your quirks.
What “Worked” for You?
My own piano lesson experiences shaped me as the piano teacher I am today. So much of what my piano teacher did influenced me to either do the same, or to adjust and adapt. We can all learn from these ‘Old School’ piano teachers! So, we’d love to hear from you! What is your favorite memory from your piano lessons as a child? What was it that made your lessons “work”? What do you continue to do yourself that your own piano teacher did? Share in the comments section below.