Posts Tagged ‘piano student’

Letterhead - Valencia Studio
Piano Lessons – Saxonburg PA

Dear Piano Lover,

I’m establishing a NEW PIANO STUDIO in Valencia, PA.  It’s in a location easily accessible to the people of Valencia, Saxonburg and Mars PA.

Most people would just love to play the piano. The reasons are many. They love the sound of the piano – they want some means to relax after a hard day at work – some just want a chance to get back the joy they had playing the piano as a child – and many parents want to give their child an opportunity for musical expression for their personal development.

I’ve been teaching piano for years and one of the most satisfying things about teaching is hearing from my old students, now adults, telling me how much playing the piano means to them. I presently have openings at my studio(s) in Wexford and Valencia to give you the opportunity to learn to play the piano.

Here’s what a former parent said of my instruction:

Mr. Severino is an excellent instructor, he teaches students on a age appropriate level. He is good at giving background history so the student is better educated in understanding how and why the music is composed. I had my child interview a number of instructors and she choose him because he made her feel the most comfortable. It has been three years and we could not be happier with her progress. Mr. Severino encourages a child’s talent and enjoyment of music. It has been a pleasure and truly rewarding experience.

Please give me a call (724) 898-0273 or eMail me at pianopressings@gmail.com to join my growing studio of great piano students.

Dan Severino

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I began teaching while in high school.  I had taken about 5 years of lessons on the organ and made good progress.  I thought I could teach beginners.  So I put an ad in our local newspaper. The ad produced several inquiries which turned into my first students.  I thought I did quite well teaching my first students.  My students respected me, accepted me as their teacher and complimented me on my ability to teach.

One mom complimented me saying that I was the only person, other than her son’s father, that could communicate with her son so readily.  The little boy was shy, socially awkward and today would be classified as a slow learner.  All these positive experiences gave me confidence to study music in college and become a teacher.

In college I majored in piano and kept my organ studies. Today I own a teaching studio, Piano Lessons PLUS, and am the organist for my Church.  But after getting my college degrees and starting my teaching career I found there were some things that my natural teaching ability didn’t provide.  There were some things that only experience could provide and those experiences were critical in making me the teacher I am today.


Most music teachers choose to be teachers because music comes easily and naturally to them.  That’s not to say we didn’t have to work hard but it was “fun”work.

So, I naturally thought that all my students would love music as much as I did.  I mistakenly thought they would learn pretty much at the same pace I did.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the case so one of the first major lessons I learned after my college education, a lesson that could only be learned through experience, was my experience as a student was going to be different than that of my students.

In the first years of my teaching I tended to go much too fast through the initial books.  I could get away with this for a short while but then the student would come to a plateau and crash.  We would try to fight our way through that plateau but it brought about a frustration to the student that wasn’t necessary.

The initial steps in learning to read musical manuscript must be thoroughly understood.  Depth of learning is critical to teaching the beginning piano student, regardless of their age of beginning lessons.  It doesn’t matter if the student is 4 or 12.  To learn to read music well a student must read music, a lot of it.  Here’s one place where we are not talking quality; we’re talking quantity.

Once I learned this very important lesson my students began learning at a much steadier rate.  I found they were no longer the running into “brick walls”.  There was much less frustration and piano lessons became a natural progression.  The trajectory of my students learning was much steadier.  Experience became my friend.


It wasn’t until I was in college that technique was approached as a scientific study of how to utilize the human mechanism to produce facility and a beautiful tone.  My teachers before college gave me finger exercises.  Play these exercises and with sufficient repetition you could play any piece you desired.  While in college it was a huge mental adjustment to approach the piano from this new paradigm.

When I began teaching professionally I had to take these rather complex ideas I learned in my 20’a and apply them to young grade school students.  It was among the most difficult of the tasks I had, to bring these sophisticated principles down to a grade school level.  But with each student I taught I learned better and better ways to convey these principles to my students.

My class of students had students with so many different mechanical abilities that it just added to my personal learning curve.  Some students had very delicate hands.  Some where honestly frail.  Others students had very strong hands but each with varying degrees of flexibility.  Even other students had finger joints that easily collapsed that made producing a good sound on the piano difficult.

But after years of close observation eventually I got to the place where I had enough experiences that the problems I saw began to repeat.  Eventually I knew what I needed to do and the tasks I needed to give the students so they could maximize their personal technical potential.  It was only through experience that I as a teacher learned how to master the teaching of technique to my young students.


My first lessons were on the organ.  I was 11 years old.  My progress was far different than the progress of those who started on the piano at age 7, which was the typical starting age in the early 1960’s.  The rate a student progresses is very different depending on the age the student begins.

When I began teaching I had to guess which books to purchase.  I had to hope the books I choose would match the rate of progress of each student.  Of course, each student had a different level of natural ability and that further complicated this issue too.  Every student brought me a different set of issues that demanded my attention.

But again, the only example I had was my own personal experience.  And starting music rather late at age 11 didn’t give me a very good template when I began my own studio of students.  Again there was a lengthy learning curve in understanding all the possibilities of judging the right level of music that would maximize my individual student’s progress.

This is especially true in the intermediate level of piano study where one chooses more repertoire from a body of musical compositions that really wasn’t written with any thought to step by step progress as is typical of method books written for the elementary piano student.  Bach wrote many superb pieces for children.  So did Schumann and Bartok.  But these pieces were written with no thought to sequencing; which piece to teach first and which piece to teach next.

So, choosing the “right” next piece is dependent upon the teacher’s judgment.  This requires a lot of thought and study for any piano teacher.  It comes from seeking out and knowing a vast amount of literature for the developing piano student and then categorizing them it in a logical progression of study.  Then from this body of music choosing selections wisely that will maximize the students learning.   Of course, this is different for each student.

Choosing selections that are not too hard or too easy, choosing selections that are progressing the student musically and technically, choosing selections that are properly varied from the major historical epochs of music history, choosing selections that would be appealing to the personality of the student all go into finding the next “right” composition.  I didn’t learn this without a lot of study and experience.


Most piano teachers I know feel they are passing on to their students a great musical tradition.   A tradition that is centuries old and a tradition that was centuries in the making.  It is a tradition that teachers feel a responsibility to pass on to their student because it represents the very best of all human endeavor.

Passing on that tradition to my students was another item in my teaching that required a lengthy learning curve.  At college all our classes; history, theory and performance classes combined to give us an overview of that tradition.  There was no class in MUSIC TRADITION 101.

Our musical tradition is something that is slowly absorbed in the consciousness of the student through diligent study.  As a teacher one of my goals and functions was to take this information, this tradition, and distill it to my students in a level they could understand.

When I taught my students about simple music notation, the treble and bass clef or grand staff,  I would relate the story of a time when there was no musical notation.  Music was passed on aurally.  In time, as music became more complex the need arose that music could no longer be passed on from generation to generation aurally.  So, musical notation was born.  Through the next generations a system of musical notation was devised that eventually became what we have today.

Then I can present to my students the concept that music notation is something that is still in the process of changing and most probably what we have in a couple hundred years will be something different from today BUT something that will be built from what we have today.  Students can then see and understand that they are a member of the great sweep of history and they come into the long ongoing story of history at this special moment in time.  Taking this approach we can help students see that when Bach was born he came on the scene at a time when music was doing things that caused him to write music the way he did.  We can understand why Bach wrote minuets but Bartok didn’t.

The reason I use Bach and Bartok as my examples is because Bach and Bartok wrote music at the level of young piano students.  They are going to come in contact with these composers and through these composers I can pass on this great musical tradition to the next generation.  But again, it took a lot of thought and study to take my musical education, absorb it, and bring it to the level of my students.  This only came through experience.


I started teaching in my teen years and found I had a good aptitude for teaching.  This teaching led me to consider studying music in college.  After college I had a good education and could begin my own studio.  But there was a major thing I lacked and that was experience.

It was only through applying myself to the day to day task of teaching my class of students that a comprehensive picture began to emerge of how to go about my teaching tasks in a way that was best for my students.  It was only through drawing constantly from my education and thoughtfully taking that knowledge and making it connect with my students at their level that I became the teacher I am today.

It was only through a careful study of how students learn and progress that I became confident that the materials I was giving them was the right materials for them.  All teachers that take their work seriously go through this same process.  Their journey and their emphasis may be somewhat different but the process is the same.

So parents, if you are considering a piano teacher, consider a teacher that teaches because they love teaching.  And certainly consider a teacher that has had the time to have his education simmer and has had the experience to learn those things that only experience can give.

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The Practice Puzzle

How do I practice?  How many times should I play through each piece?  Is 3 or 5 times for each piece enough?

I’ve been asked this questions by students since I began teaching.  In this short blog I want to give you a new way of thinking about practicing piano.

I think most beginning students approach practicing piano like they do putting together a puzzle.  They dump all the pieces out of the box and put the pieces face up and begin to try to find matches.  Very often this is done in a hit and miss fashion.  You find a piece that “sort of” seems like it may fit; or “seems to” have the right color and experiment to see if it fits.  With enough testing and experimentation eventually the picture emerges.

Many students practice this way.  They play their piece from the beginning to the end.  They think by doing it with enough repetitions and practice eventually the composition will emerge.

That is the longest and most inefficient method of practice we could devise.  We need A NEW METHOD ….. A BETTER METHOD of practice.

Mr Severino Presents – A BETTER METHOD

Let’s play a NEW GAME.  The example above is a 25 piece puzzle.

Our goal is to put this puzzle together in only 25 MOVES.

That means we must be perfect.  We cannot guess and try to put together pieces that “sort of” look like they “may” fit together.  To put this puzzle together in only 25 MOVES we are going to have to concentrate and think carefully, unlike before where we just guessed our way through to the completion of the puzzle.  We are going to have to closely examine each piece and imagine if the shape of one puzzle piece will fit into the other piece.  We are going to have to examine each piece to see if the colors of each piece and then imagine if they are going to help complete the image of the puzzle.

How does this apply to our piano practice?  We examine each “piece” of our musical composition.

Examine the “time signature”.  If your piece is in 3/4 time, with your music in front of you begin to sense the accent on beat one of each measure.  You may do these exercises with your piano in front of you or you can do them mentally.   You want to train yourself to do as many of these steps as possible away from the piano.  Not all piano practice must be in front of  your piano!

Examine the “rhythm piece” of the composition.  Mentally go through each rhythm and make sure you understand it.  If you do not, isolate that rhythm, play it or clap it until you understand it.

This includes the important point of being able to know how the right hand and left hand work together.  Don’t go on until you understand how this rhythm is going to “feel” under your fingers.

Examine the “harmony”.  Are there any chords that you know?  You want to get to the point where you can easily identify all the chords in your compositions.

Examine the “key signature”  If a composition has no key signature is it in C major or A minor.  Search for the note C or the note A in the composition  Search for C chords or Am chords.

Examine the “accidentals”   Many students are thrown by accidentals when practicing by just slugging away and trying to learn by going through each piece 5 times.  But if you are prepared by mentally going through each accidental you will be much more successful and make far fewer mistakes.

If we use this same approach in our piano practice our learning will be much better.  And if we make this as the main method of learning our assignments we will be able to learn our assigned pieces much more rapidly.  How would you like to learn 5 pieces in the time it now takes you to learn one?  This will be within your capabilities if you learn how to practice with your strongest concentration.

Thanks for participating in Mr. Severino Presents.  ‘TILL NEXT TIMEKEEP PRACTICING!!

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Piano Lessons – Cranberry Twp PA

I know of many fine piano teachers in the Cranberry area, so, why choose Piano Lessons PLUS?  GOOD QUESTION!   I’ve been teaching piano since I was in high school.   Even before my formal education in teaching and college degrees. It was just something I found I could do well and enjoy.   In high school I was a member of Future Teachers of America. Then it was off to college to procure my formal musical education. I remember wanting to be a teacher from an early age. I get a charge out of observing a young person learn and exploring the treasures that is hidden within him.  I enjoy teaching children of all abilities, not just the musically gifted.  I feel every student is deserving of my best attention regardless of their ability.

However, I have had students perform as finalists in competitions sponsored by the American Music Scholarship Association and play in Carnegie Hall in New York City.

I’ve had articles published in leading journals dedicated to the piano teaching profession.  Professionally, I’ve been involved in the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the  Music Teachers National Association as well as the National Federation of Music Clubs.  I’ve served in leadership positions in each of these organizations.

From the very beginning of my professional career I’ve taken a strong interest in the very young beginner; ages 4 – 6. So much so that I’ve developed my own piano method to teach these young student.  I’ve written numerous books of various aspects of developing a young student’s piano skills. My teachers brought to me a strong appreciation in the value of folk songs and they feature a prominent role in my instruction.

I’ve also written numerous solo compositions that my students will often feature in local festivals as well as recitals.  When you study at my studio you’re child is going to be under the instruction of someone who wants to teach. You will be studying with an experienced instructor who knows how to patiently advance a student and monitor their progress.  To find out more visit my WebSite at www.pianoteacherpress.com    Feel free to call my studio at (724) 935-2840 for a FREE INTERVIEW.  My studio is governed by three major themes; a love for music, an active interest in the whole educational process, and an approach that promotes the individuality of each student.


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This blog will be the third installment of Your Desktop Studio; the items I ALWAYS have within reach while teaching my lessons.

CALENDAR – The calendar is an item that I assume most teachers have at an eyes glance in their teaching environment.  Having a calendar, to me, gives my eyes an immediate perspective for arranging things as make-up lessons.  It is also a good reminder to show students that a recital is only days away and that their next lesson will be the LAST LESSON before the recital.  It’s also good for getting a quick look in finding good times for parents wanting to schedule summer lesson times.  Just looking at a calendar sometimes jogs a parents memory as to summer vacations and camps that help us determine that a Friday is really the best day for lessons because there will be fewer conflicts with other planned events.

HAND SANITIZER – This item is a must.  When students come to lessons with a cold I always give them a squirt of hand sanitizer after they sneeze or clean their nose.  I think this is a normal procedure in the public schools to as they seem to automatically give me their hands at these appropriate moments.  Parents seem to have a sense of comfort in knowing their is at least an attempt going on to limit the spread of germs.

CLEANER FOR GLASSES – Young children just do not take to keeping their glasses clean and free of smudges.  Frankly, I’m amazed that some of them can see at all!  When I notice a student’s glasses are smudged (or worse) I try to instill in them the need to proper care for their glasses.  I clean their glasses for them with a glass cleaner specially designed for glasses and a cloth specially designed to prevent scratches from forming on their lenses.  After putting their glasses back in their heads they always respond with a “WOW!! I CAN SEE!!”.  Hopefully, the example of proper care of glasses will give students the incentive to develop a good habit.

ASPIRIN – Anyone who works with teaching for long hours is apt to get a headache now and again so it’s important to keep your pain killer of choice handy.  I put the aspirin in an inconspicuous place.  I would rather students see my pencils and pens (and glasses cleaner) than a bottle of aspirin.  Power of association, you know.

HIGHLIGHTERS – When I was a student teachers marked everything with a red or blue colored pencil.  I had one piano teacher in particular that LOVED to mark my music.  At my first lesson he told me he required me to memorize all my pieces.  After a couple lessons I understood why; after marking my music to thoroughly I couldn’t see the notes.  This teacher helped me have no qualms to writing in my students books.  However, I find that highlighters often to the job much more effectively than colored pencils.

For example – if a student is just getting used to Key Signatures and has difficulty remembering F# for the Key of G using a highlighter to highlight all the F’s in the score is much more effective than writing a sharp symbol before each F.  Also, the fact that the highlighting is still “symbolic” it jogs the students memory that they are to remember something at all the highlighted places in their score.  The highlighting makes for an intermediate step to the student, where writing out the sharp basically delays the inevitable time when one depends upon the Key Signature alone.

For a thorough explanation on the use of highlighters read my blog article on HIGHLIGHT YOUR TEACHING.  This concludes all the information I have out in the open, but what about what’s kept in all those shelves?  Stay tuned, or better yet, subscribe to Blogging at Piano Teacher Press.

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