Archive for February, 2013
Hear me out.
Piano lessons have been going through an evolution since I began teaching in the 1960’s. In that time the average beginner was in first or second grade. Most teachers required that a beginning student be able to read words before they begin reading music notation. This seemed perfectly logical. Parents would call a piano teacher to see if “they had room in their schedule” to begin their young child. Teachers invariably would organize their schedule into 30 minute blocks. This was also a very logical choice because it fit so sensibly with the clock; lessons began on the hour or the half hour.
Everything was chugging along UNTIL competition arrived from Japan and Shin’ichi Suzuki. He developed a successful method of beginning young children. His first success was with violin and then with piano. Now, children as early as age 3 were learning to play the violin and piano. Of course, American parents wanted this same opportunity for their children. It took time, but eventually methods were written that were geared for young students. I was a little more impatient so I wrote my own method, but that’s another story.
Teachers had a new challenge. Instead of teaching a student with reading skills already developing we had to teach a student with very little or no reading skills. Today there are many good methods that do quite well in teaching 4-6 year old students to read music notation. I have done quite well in teaching young 4-6 year students. It is not uncommon for a student to be with me from age 4 to high school graduation. But as all conscientious teachers I want to do better. I don’t want to say it’s not uncommon for a student to be with me from age 4 to high school graduation. I rather want to say that it’s very common for a student to be with me from age 4 to high school graduation.
Each age of a student’s journey with music presents its unique challenge. The challenge with the very young beginner is to sustain their interest throughout the whole lesson. Teachers employ many very good strategies to keep a student’s interest. We move the student from place to place. We do some activities on the computer. We do activities that involve movement. For many students this proves to be very successful, but not all.
One day a mom wanted me to begin her very active 5 year old boy. She didn’t have great confidence he was ready for the discipline of piano lessons. I talked to the young fellow and he told me he’d take the piano lessons but he didn’t want to be in any piano recitals.
Her older son was doing marvelously. This boy was taking 45 minute lessons. The mom asked if I could teach them both in an hour. She thought that 15 minutes would be all the young fellow could handle. We finally agreed that I would teach her older son for 40 minutes and her younger son for 20 minutes. This arrangement worked like magic.
The young boy was able to give me good attention for the whole 20 minutes. There was none of the typical discipline issue that was so common in 4-6 year old beginners. No need to bounce from piano to computer. No need to constantly look at the clock and think how I’m going to fill up the lesson time with useful activities. The whole 20 minutes was a very pleasant teaching experience.
This very positive experience got me to thinking. Maybe this was the KEY that I’ve missed. Maybe this was what I was missing to help the majority of my young beginners to love their piano lessons. Maybe the 30 minute was just too long for the attention span of many of my 4-6 year old students. Maybe the solution was this simple. Most all other activities of young children are NOT one-on-one in nature. When a child is playing soccer the only one-on-one activity is when the coach may give the child a short 30-45 second training session.
I began to think that the 30 minute piano lesson wasn’t something that was written in stone atop Mt. Parnassus. The 30 minute lesson was simply a paradigm we accepted, a paradigm that we accepted because it worked so well with our old way of doing piano lessons with the paradigm of not teaching student until they could read. This worked beautifully with the first and second grader that mastered basic reading skills. It didn’t so beautifully for 4-6 year old students with no reading skills and less maturity. No reason to fit young beginners into a 30 minute lesson if it doesn’t fit their capabilities.
So, Piano Lessons PLUS is going to begin to offer 20 minute lessons to all my young beginners. I can give parents the benefit of offering this for only $16.00 per lesson or $64.00 per month. If interested in helping your young child succeed in piano – please call Piano Lessons PLUS at (724) 935-2840.