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Do you remember your first piano teacher? (Read 2434 times)

Offline danpiano37

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Do you remember your first piano teacher?
« on: December 05, 2015, 09:16:21 PM »
Hi! I am currently in the process of researching and writing a book on teaching methods. One of the things I am especially interested in is how much your first (or main) teacher influenced you for good or bad for the rest of your piano journey.  Some questions that would be relevant are:
How was your teacher inspiring/uninspiring?
How did this influence you over the short/long term?
Did the teacher have a clear goal?
Did the teacher inquire about your goals/ preferences?
What was the method the teacher used?
Any other points or things you can remember?
Any feedback, or stories would be great. Stories of particularly inspiring or uninspiring teachers would be very welcome. You are more than welcome to reply to me here, or in private at dan@richmondmusicacademy.com.au  if you prefer.
All names of teachers/ students will be either left out or changed for the book itself.

Thanks! Dan Robertson
Richmond Music Academy

Offline birba

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #1 on: December 05, 2015, 09:33:46 PM »
Oh god, do i ever.  5 years of torture with this witch.  You know what she used to do?  You won't believe this.  You know the "technique" of balancing a coin on the back of your hand while practising to curb unecessary movement?  Well, this woman would put a PENCIL on the back of my hand and told me not to let it roll of!!!!  I had to wait quite a while before i had my first real teacher.  A dutch composer pianist who had studied with Mathay.  Talk about a rude awakening - a life saver for me.

Offline dcstudio

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #2 on: December 06, 2015, 12:14:41 AM »

My father loved jazz and took piano lessons from a professional pianist named Howard Hill in our home.   This man would come over with manuscript paper and write out lead sheets of standards and popular tunes and that would be the song for the week.   There was a huge orange binder stuffed with Mr. Hills lessons on the piano...which I still have to this day.   When my dad was learning Take Five I started picking it out on the piano and shocked the heck out of this guy one day by playing a pretty convincing rendition of it in 5/4 time--I was four and it was 1968.  :)   Anyway, he became my first teacher.  He used the exact same method to teach me as he did to teach my father.   He taught me chords and how to harmonize a melody.  Of course,  I didn't know these terms...all I knew is that if I had a melody note and I used the note a third below it as the root of my chord...it usually sounded pretty cool.   I could read the treble clef melodies he scrawled out...it was slow but I could do it.   Usually I just picked out melodies by ear and then used his chording methods to harmonize it.    By the time I was six I was pretty good at it...  Well then Mr. Hill moved away and I was given to a "real teacher" who had no interest whatsoever in my ability to play by ear and come up with my own arrangements.   In fact, she pretty much convinced me that it was a common skill and of no real value...lol...I realize now... she couldn't do it...   In spite of decades of formal training...  I ended up a jazzer... which I know makes Mr. Hill, may he rest in peace...quite happy.    He profoundly affected my life as a pianist.   The things I learned from him when I was four... I still use now.. and I am 51.. and I am also a professional jazz pianist.


good luck with your book..

Offline iansinclair

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #3 on: December 06, 2015, 01:35:06 AM »
Indeed I do.  A lady -- and I do mean lady -- by the name of Mrs. Sharp, of all things.  I was rather young (4) which I started, and didn't pay as much attention as I should have, but she was able to get me to read music easily, and really drilled on fundamentals (scales and the like).  She also discovered that I was -- and am -- fully ambidextrous (I'm also dyslexic) and had a field day making sure that my left hand was just as good as my right -- for which I have been very grateful indeed.  As I recall we used the John Thompson method books; I still have them (with notes!) and they seemed to be fine.

I might add two things: first, my mother was a very fine pianist, as were her mother and great aunt (who was a full fledged concert pianist in the years 1890 -- 1904).  So there was a lot of help at home.  The other thing was that I learned technique at that level -- but I learned music from one Dr. Enid Woodward, who had studied for years with Boulanger before coming back the US.  That was in college, though -- much later.
Ian

Offline iamazombie911

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #4 on: December 09, 2015, 11:18:03 PM »
My first teacher was not very serious (nor was I at the time), and as a result I learned bad technique that stuck for a while... :(

Offline gvans

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #5 on: December 13, 2015, 06:40:41 PM »
My first teacher was my grandmother, Edna, who had a master's in piano from Peabody Conservatory. She could play both sets of Chopin Etudes cover to cover, and often did (for me). She couldn't play a note on stage without freezing in debilitating stage fright, so she taught piano lessons and put my dad through the Depression with her income.

Edna started me at age five on her Knabe upright, and was kind and gentle. I played scales, arpeggios, and children's pieces that had pictures I could color with my crayons. She abhorred the flat finger, likening the fingers to "curved little hammers," and always told me to "play deep into the keys."

I loved her deeply.


Offline dcstudio

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #6 on: December 13, 2015, 06:51:41 PM »
Indeed I do.  A lady -- and I do mean lady -- by the name of Mrs. Sharp, of all things

that's funny--my first formal teacher's name was Mrs. Staff.

Offline briansaddleback

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #7 on: December 14, 2015, 08:24:39 PM »
My first teacher was my grandmother, Edna, who had a master's in piano from Peabody Conservatory. She could play both sets of Chopin Etudes cover to cover, and often did (for me). She couldn't play a note on stage without freezing in debilitating stage fright, so she taught piano lessons and put my dad through the Depression with her income.

Edna started me at age five on her Knabe upright, and was kind and gentle. I played scales, arpeggios, and children's pieces that had pictures I could color with my crayons. She abhorred the flat finger, likening the fingers to "curved little hammers," and always told me to "play deep into the keys."

I loved her deeply.


wow charming description and story. What a sweet and lovely memory to have as a child. Good to hear.
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline birba

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #8 on: December 16, 2015, 01:57:45 AM »
wow charming description and story. What a sweet and lovely memory to have as a child. Good to hear.
I know!  I was going to say exactly the same thing!

Offline indianajo

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #9 on: December 31, 2015, 01:03:25 AM »
But of course. My first teacher was my Mother.  She had a couple of years of lessons from J Schaum books and Schmitt exercises when she bought the piano before I was born, then she moved to the mine camp where Dad was employed and all that stopped.
However, in the third grade Mother said people (probably my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Richardson) had noticed that I didn't use my injured right finger three. When I did use it i pushed it with the fourth finger.  Mother asked me if I wanted to learn to  use my right hand.  Yes, I said. She got me up on the piano bench, quite a stretch in those days. I was about 36" tall and 42 pounds and had never even fantasized about playing the piano.   Mother played the piano at the elementary school for holidays, that was the routine, and I played the Bozo the Clown record player on the floor.  But I climbed up on the bench and learned "Putt Putt Putt goes my motorboat" and subsequent Schaum "classics".  Plus, I did a Schmitt exercises for the right hand and one for the left every week.  The deal, Mother would teach me if I practiced 30 minutes every school day.  A big Westclocks Big Ben alarm clock was set on the piano so I would know when I could stop.  Just sitting up there was a sign I was getting bigger. Forget the boys at school that made me the umpire when they played ball at recess and teacher said I had to go with the boys.  
It took me several weeks to get 1-2-3-4-5 schmitt exercises #1 down for the right hand.  But I did get it, and became convinced my right finger 3 wasn't really crippled, just neglected and a bit short.  After we got going, I learned a Schmitt exercise every week, and a Schaum piece every week or two.  The Schaum pieces weren't all that good, but Mother would play Donald The Dinosaur Boogie Woogie or Early in the Morning Down at the Station sometimes, and I was inspired that I could learn to play these someday.   At Christmas Mother played Christmas songs out of the drycleaner's folder, and I loved to sing those.  maybe I could do those some day.  Maybe even Sleeping Beauty, I loved that record!
At the beginning of fourth grade, with me making decent progress, Mother asked people at the PTA meetings and found me a lady with an art degree, Mrs. Hinkle.  Mrs. Hinkle taught me two weeks then decided I needed a college trained teacher, Mrs. Nikki Jelson.  Mother had to drive me to Mrs. Jelson's house it was so far away, but she had a car now and a driver's license even, (age 32) so off we went.  Mrs. Jelson gave me pieces that weren't by John W. Schaum, and actually sounded good.  And there were recitals, and by second year she was taking me to Piano Guild group recitals.  Wow, people liked me!  All I had to do was practice 30 minutes a day, or after a couple of years, an hour.  You kids that practice 8 hours a day, I had no idea anybody was even supposed to do that.  I always had a lot of homework, I was in K classes (college track) from 3rd grade.  But with my measly hour practice, I made a lot of progress in the six years lessons I had.  I quit because the high school band director thought I should concentrate on that expensive bassoon the school had lent me. I agreed with him, with up to four hours of homework a night age 16, practicing both instruments was getting a bit much.  I did get to go to TMEA All-State band my senior year, not too bad for a kid who paid for his own bassoon lessons from the local union hall stringer in double reeds.  
Dad and Mother let me play the AM radio in my room starting age 7 and I got to learn rock and roll and pop songs by listening. I lost interest in 1959, the year Rock and Roll died (Pat Boone, yuck!).   Then they bought an FM radio when i was 12, and we discovered the classical genre together with KLEF-FM.  Wow, I loved all that stuff.  i didn't play much of it on piano, but we did in high school band, lots of classics.  Now I'm retired I'm playing stuff I never dreamed you could play on the piano when I was a kid.  I'm finishing Pictures at an Exhibition, churning through Passacaglia & Fugue in Cmin and debating whether to try Liszt transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies next, or may that lovely morning piece from Pier Gynt I heard on piano on the radio this morning.  And Tchaikovski! I'm not hearing Sleeping Beauty on piano in my head, but I'm doing Nutcracker excerpts on the Hammond Theatre organ by ear! Music is a fun toy and a piano is the toy that fits in your room and works even when the electricity has been knocked off. 

Offline briansaddleback

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #10 on: January 06, 2016, 10:00:00 PM »
FIrst teacher was my mother. I believe I was 5 or six at that time, I did not have a good experience, I saw it back then as a chore and obligation and didn't last long with me and I quit.
I wish I had a teacher that could inspire in me the aspiration to pursue piano perhaps not professionally but as my noble hobby and interest.

I always loved classical music though. I believe even back at age 5, I could hum the whole overture 1812 Tchaikovsky from memory , not that I was gifted or anything, my mom played that almost everday when I was young.
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline danpiano37

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #11 on: March 05, 2016, 11:38:02 PM »
Wow thanks for your great responses! The amount of variety and interesting stories will all be a great help. It's always fascinating to hear about peoples' journeys and how these have helped (or hindered) where you've ended up.
thanks again!
Dan

Offline keypeg

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #12 on: March 07, 2016, 03:33:08 PM »
My very first piano teacher lasted less than a year since she was a farm wife getting some extra income and stopped when she expected her first baby.  The rural school bus passed by her house so she was accessible to students.  I was about 16, had self-taught but was so quiet that I did not volunteer anything.  She gave me beginner books with pictures and titles like "Tweety Bird goes up and down", which I dutifully played.  She'd pop off into the kitchen from time to time to attend to preparing dinner.  One day I shyly brought in the music that I played at home, from my grandmother's music I'd been given - and played the first movement of a Clementi sonatina.  Tweety Bird was put away, and she brought out a grade 5 conservatory book.

She stopped all lessons a few months later.  My piano was left behind when my parents moved, and I did not see a piano again until 35 years later.

From what I know now:
- I knew nothing about the height or distance that you sit at the piano
- Nothing about technique whatsoever
- She was the first person to miss that I could not read or recognize notes (my violin teacher 30 years later was the second) and I didn't know it myself.  I got by with some tricks via solfege.
- I had no idea about making the melody louder than the accompaniment, or anything else.

Years later when I attended my son's first lessons where theory was introduced, his teacher talked about key signatures this way: "There is a pattern.  F# - F#, C# - F#, C#, G#.... do you see?"  A lightbulb went on in my head, because *I* saw the pattern.  Once home I dug out that grade 5 piano book.  There was a note to the teacher, reminding her to reinforce that key signature and the technical exercises (in another book that I had not gotten).  I remembered struggling with music that was in E major or C# minor, fixing notes that sounded wrong in a scale, awkwardly.  For thirty years I had not understood how key signatures worked.

But then, where was music theory in the school system?  It was nil at the time.

Offline reiyza

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #13 on: March 07, 2016, 05:36:32 PM »
My first piano teacher was my grandfather, he was absolutely amazing, plowing through chopin eteudes and the fantasie impromptu like they were some beginner's etudes, absolutely effortless!

He started teaching me the art of piano playing at the age of 8-10(can't remember correctly.),

Apparently he wanted to start me off with music theories and solfeges, but as you may all know that the brain of a young child only wants to play, so my grandfather failed miserably in teaching me any of those two. He started teaching me beginner's books instead, the "john aaron beginner's book" volume 1 to three.

After a few months, he started me with schmitt alongside cZerny 599, during those times, he taught me schubert's serenade, fur elise, mozart's rondo alla turca(first part only). Then the unthinkable happened, he passed away. Leaving my development stunted for almost 8-9 years.

I admit than he lacked some resources to teach me, and I also admit that I am a very resistant student at the time, but the knowledge, technique, sight reading skill and discipline he imparted with me was very invaluable. I dream of one day becoming a great pianist like him. Sigh...
Yup.. still a beginner. Up til now..

When will a teacher accept me? :/

Offline love_that_tune

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #14 on: March 24, 2016, 01:47:13 PM »
What fun this thread is.  Do let us know when you finish the book.  I wonder what my students comments will be many years from now.

My first teacher took me straight through the John Thompson series.  I was 15.  I grew up playing hymns by ear.  I always say I'm a musician in spite of the awful church music I heard.  I always put my teacher's names on my brochure out of respect.  My mom used to say she was my first teacher.  However, I didn't know how to read a note of music when I went to my first piano teacher.  I could have been challenged a heck of a lot more than I was.  That would happen a couple of teachers later.  What we experience with every teacher influences the manner of teaching enormously.  I am grateful to them all.

Offline bernadette60614

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #15 on: June 07, 2016, 07:00:08 PM »
My first piano teacher was a lovely lady named Anita De Ray. I started lessons with her when I was about 12 using the Thompson series. By the time I was in high school, she had me playing Liszt, the Moonlight Sonata and Schubert Impromtus.

I was a responsible student and practiced 2 hours a day during the week, and as much as 4 hours a day each day of the weekend. 

I think because of where I grew up (a little mill town), she didn't view her students as capable of going beyond playing for themselves.  She never held a recital...never taught theory...and never required that I count.

As a consequence, I find myself as an adult able to "play" bigger pieces, but to play them so unevenly that my current teacher (whom I absolutely adore) is spending a fair amount of time correcting my bad habits.

Offline dinulip

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #16 on: July 15, 2016, 09:44:03 PM »
The first piano teacher is the most crucial one as he or she is the one who has the huge responsibility to make you love making music.  Yes - I certainly remember my first piano teacher who taught me during 10 years!  Thanks to her continued dedication - I discovered a lifelong passion for music and playing the piano. :)

Offline fleetfingers

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #17 on: August 02, 2016, 08:57:21 PM »
My first piano teacher had built up a studio in the woods where wild blueberries grew - one of my favorite memories from childhood is picking and eating hundreds of them during my siblings' lessons. It was a Suzuki class of 3-5 of us and we played on digital pianos. He was fun, engaging, encouraging, kind, loved music, and was brilliant at the piano (although more jazzy than classical and seemed to let me get away with some bad technique). I remember him throwing the chalkboard eraser at me when I got an answer wrong. All in good fun, of course, and I thought it was hilarious. I was ages 6-9.

Offline fleetfingers

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Re: Do you remember your first piano teacher?
«Reply #18 on: August 02, 2016, 09:29:16 PM »
OK, so I didn't read the original post until after I wrote an answer to the question... ;D

Was he inspiring? Yes, very. I don't remember too many details from lessons - just some - but I do remember the overall feel of music and loving what I was playing. We listened to cassettes of the music at home, and my mom would boast to everyone that she never made us practice because she didn't need to. We were inspired enough to practice on our own (she still talks about it to this day, but in truth we were not usually practicing what we were supposed to practice  :)). Besides, we did all the hard work during lessons. I dislike how piano teachers (or any teachers) will send the student home with assignments and then have them play what they were assigned when they come back the next week, only to go through the process again after corrections are made. As a child, when I was at lessons, it was an engaging process and I truly learned during the lesson. And I was inspired to come home and play it during the week. We also learned theory in class. He had his chalkboard, and we played games to drill note-names, key signatures, etc. He also had a new chart each year to track progress, and it was sort of a competition with other students. The year I remember most was when it was a horserace track. I ate that stuff up! It was the best.

I come from a big family, and there were 5 of us who took lessons from this Suzuki teacher. He did seem to pay attention to what each student was interested in, even though there is already a set path, as far as repertoire goes, in that method. Once, I heard him playing The Entertainer and I showed interest, so he taught it to me. My older sister was interested in composition, so he taught her theory and methods of song-writing.

His recitals were awesome. Large high school auditorium, lots of students, formal but comfortable because he guided you through the whole thing and was right there on stage.

I'm still influenced by my teacher and his method. I insist on teaching students by rote and ear myself, because I loved learning to play music early on, not just notes on a page. I loved my second teacher, too, but the method was totally different from that of my first teacher. I am actually grateful to have had both experiences. One bad influence that stuck with me from the former was my flat fingers, which was fixed through retraining by the latter. My second teacher was the one who was classically-trained and taught me the techniques that improved my playing.