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Topic: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)  (Read 2832 times)

Offline HarleyMan

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I am looking for a piano teacher in my area and just wondering which of the following options I should explore or avoid.  Any and all suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.

Background: Age 54, beginner. I had about 6 months of piano when I was very young and about a year of piano when I was 25.  At present, I can read notes (slowly) in both clefs and I can play a few songs. 

I have been through Bastien’s Adult ‘Older Beginner’ (Book 1) during the past couple of months and have now reached the point where progress working alone is too slow and frustrating, I have too many unanswered questions and I am very unsure of my fingering choices on songs that do not include fingering suggestions.  After studying hundreds of posts on this forum, I know I need an instructor/teacher to guide me and correct errors before they become ‘bad habits’.   Also, I was a University Professor of Mathematics for about 10 years...so I know the value of a good instructor.  And now I am looking for one.

I have talked with the local Music Stores, but they strongly urge me to enroll in their ‘classes’ and they preach ‘you must learn the basics first’ ….using OUR method books.  Fortunately, I have been reading this forum long enough to know that teachers who structure a course of instruction or ‘method’ based on music that the student would like to learn do exist on planet Earth!

Yes. I have my list of about 50 piano pieces I would like to learn written down. It ranges from classical like Debussy (Clair De Lune) to a few Scott Joplin pieces and includes some Bach, Beethoven (Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia) and numerous popular pieces (Stairway to Heaven, House of the Rising Sun (Piano Solo), Music Box Dancer (Frank Mills))….etc.  My ambition is to be able to play many of these for myself and/or friends.  Nothing more.  And yes, I expect my ‘taste’ to change as I ‘grow’ and learn…even at this late age…it already has. 


Options: 
1. Phone book – Just start calling “Piano Teachers” and asking questions about how they are willing to teach and if they will accept older beginners. 

2. Local Community College – Enroll in a introductory piano/music class and talk with the teachers AND students about piano lessons and piano teachers until I find the right one.  Maybe I could find an advanced--graduate level--piano student who would teach....or is this a 'bad' idea?  In University Mathematics, we had graduate teaching assistants teaching undergraduate classes in College Algebra and Calculus.

3. Attempt to find a teacher at the local community college without enrolling in classes.  For some reason, I think this is unlikely.  Has anyone had any success trying this?

4. Look on the Internet for teachers.
https://www.pianoteachers.com  (Only 1 in my area of Northern Virginia) :'(

5.  Would a post in the “Teaching” section of this forum help?  Or is that list intended for discussions between teachers only?  (As a newbie I am a bit unsure of protocol here.)


Final option (if all else fails):  Move in next door to Bernhard and play Hanon Exercises both LOUDLY and HORRIBLY at all hours of the day and night until he agrees to ‘teach’ me.   ;D

{Just kidding Bernhard, I would never subject you to that type of torture. :o}


What are the pros and cons of enrolling in a college piano class?


Have I omitted any resource that might produce a good piano teacher?


And one more thing here.  If I get a list of piano teacher names and/or phone numbers:  Do piano teachers find it offensive or objectionable to be asked 'how' they teach?  (ie. Do I need to be very tactful and careful about how I ask if they are willing to look at my list of piano pieces and tailor a course of study that will get me to my desired destination?)
  As a teacher I personally would never have objected to a student questioning me about my teaching methods in the classroom....but I did know more than one college professors who would have taken it as an insult to be asked about their teaching methodology. ::)


TIA for any and all suggestions/responses!

This site is a GREAT resource of knowledge and advice.  My sincere thanks to all the wonderful folks who take the time to share their knowledge and experiences here.

 :)
Have a GREAT day,
HarleyMan
Yes.  I ride a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle  8), play golf, play piano and teach mathematics.
Weird....yes....if I were richer I would just be called eccentric. ::)



Have a GREAT day!
HarleyMan

Offline jazzyprof

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #1 on: January 09, 2005, 06:30:13 PM
Since you live in Northern Virginia (close to DC) there is no shortage of fine universities with great programs in music and in piano pedagogy within an hour's drive.  I would suggest inquiring at a university as opposed to a community college as the former would have graduate students.  Ideally, you should find a graduate student in piano pedagogy or piano performance at a nearby university (say, George Mason University, for example).  Piano pedagogy graduate students need students and you will often find ads by such graduate students in the hallways of the music department.  Some of the best piano instruction I ever had was from a graduate student in piano pedagogy.  You could call up a piano professor at one of the universities (just look them up on their webpages) and ask if they would recommend one of their students to be your instructor.  Once you find such a person, you should explain your musical goals to them and see how flexible they are in crafting a "method" that is specifically designed for you, given your background and aspirations.
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy, next to my wife; it is my most absorbing interest, next to my work." ...Charles Cooke

Offline HarleyMan

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #2 on: January 09, 2005, 07:14:16 PM
....  Ideally, you should find a graduate student in piano pedagogy or piano performance at a nearby university (say, George Mason University, for example).  Piano pedagogy graduate students need students and you will often find ads by such graduate students in the hallways of the music department.  Some of the best piano instruction I ever had was from a graduate student in piano pedagogy. 


Thanks JazzyProf
An excellent suggestion....several of my current co-workers attend GMU in the evening.  Only a short distance from my work location (Fr. Belvoir).   

I wonder....would taking an introductory music class (Music/Piano 101) be of any real benefit to me in acheiving my limited goals with piano?

Thanks again for your response.

Have a GREAT day!
HarleyMan

Offline janice

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #3 on: January 09, 2005, 09:00:39 PM
I TOTALLY agree with Jazzy Prof, and ditch the idea of a community college.  Also, while it is nice to have a list of pieces that you would like to learn, then that should be secondary to the fact that you are learning how to play the piano, and you are learning correctly.  That's just my opinion.  I say this because I once knew an older lady who said "can you teach me how to play Mozart? I just LOVE Mozart."  I said "yes".  Then she continued to go on and on about Mozart.  She had some sort of fantasy or obsession with Mozart.  No other composer or style--just Mozart.  (I can just picture her now, she sort of swooned as she spoke of Mozart! LOL)  Ok, so she comes to her first lesson.  She was very good, but had alot of bad habits.  IMO, that was the first thing to be addressed.  Well, she lasted about 4 lessons, because she wasn't playing Mozart!!

Seriously, go to a college, like Jazzy Prof said.  And if you have to travel, then that's fine, and you should probably take lessons for an hour, as opposed to 30 minute lessons.  IMO, there should be many teachers willing to take you.  Personally, I used to LOVE my adult students because they would ask intellectual questions, just like you.
Co-president of the Bernhard fan club!

Offline Mycroft

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #4 on: January 09, 2005, 10:23:34 PM
I'm in the same boat myself HarleyMan.  Excellent idea to check at the local uni.

Janice, just curious, but Mozart wrote some very easy and simple stuff.  You couldn't get her into one of those in a couple of lessons?

Offline jazzyprof

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #5 on: January 10, 2005, 01:29:54 AM
I wonder....would taking an introductory music class (Music/Piano 101) be of any real benefit to me in acheiving my limited goals with piano?

Anything that makes you a better musician makes you a better pianist.  So, if you can find an introductory class that teaches you intervals, scales, harmony, solfegge, rhythm, listening skills...by all means take it if you have the time.  On the hand, group piano classes I don't think are that useful for adults so I would recommend a Music 101 class as opposed to Piano 101, unless the latter also involved individual instruction.
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy, next to my wife; it is my most absorbing interest, next to my work." ...Charles Cooke

Offline dorfmouse

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #6 on: January 10, 2005, 09:12:38 AM
Quote
On the hand, group piano classes I don't think are that useful for adults

When I resumed piano as an adult it was with a group evening class and for me it was a really good experience. I got to hear lots of repertoire I didn't know and had to overcome self-consciousness playing/learning in front of a group. It was a nice change from the usual private lessons/prepare for a grade exam typical in the UK which is a rather solitary experience. It was a good way of getting to know teachers who enjoyed teaching adult students and that's how I found a teacher when I eventually had the time/money for private lessons again. And that's great too :)
"I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."
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Offline richard w

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #7 on: January 10, 2005, 06:00:47 PM
Quote
And one more thing here.  If I get a list of piano teacher names and/or phone numbers:  Do piano teachers find it offensive or objectionable to be asked 'how' they teach?  (ie. Do I need to be very tactful and careful about how I ask if they are willing to look at my list of piano pieces and tailor a course of study that will get me to my desired destination?)
  As a teacher I personally would never have objected to a student questioning me about my teaching methods in the classroom....but I did know more than one college professors who would have taken it as an insult to be asked about their teaching methodology.


Interesting question. Out of interest, why do you think these college professors would have taken it as an insult? I'd say that any teacher who wasn't prepared to talk about their teaching methods in detail probably hadn't thought about them greatly, and would be more likely to follow a pre-set teaching method showing a general lack of imagination and pro-active thinking.

To put it into 'consumer' language, you are about to become the customer of a service and I think you have every entitlement to ask questions about the service you are getting. It is the teacher's responsibility to give answers that will attract you as a customer, if they want your custom. If you are worried about offending ask 'Can I ask you a few questions about your methods?'. If they agree, then it would be churlish for them to take offence, and if they don't they will realise that they will be unlikely to gain you as a 'customer'. You are only likely to be speaking to each teacher (you reject) once, so why worry if you offend them with polite questions?

My thoughts on this aspect of your question. Good luck with your search, and with your playing.



Richard.

Offline djbrak

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #8 on: January 11, 2005, 06:21:22 AM
I TOTALLY agree with Jazzy Prof, and ditch the idea of a community college.  Also, while it is nice to have a list of pieces that you would like to learn, then that should be secondary to the fact that you are learning how to play the piano, and you are learning correctly.  That's just my opinion.  I say this because I once knew an older lady who said "can you teach me how to play Mozart? I just LOVE Mozart."  I said "yes".  Then she continued to go on and on about Mozart.  She had some sort of fantasy or obsession with Mozart.  No other composer or style--just Mozart.  (I can just picture her now, she sort of swooned as she spoke of Mozart! LOL)  Ok, so she comes to her first lesson.  She was very good, but had alot of bad habits.  IMO, that was the first thing to be addressed.  Well, she lasted about 4 lessons, because she wasn't playing Mozart!!

Seriously, go to a college, like Jazzy Prof said.  And if you have to travel, then that's fine, and you should probably take lessons for an hour, as opposed to 30 minute lessons.  IMO, there should be many teachers willing to take you.  Personally, I used to LOVE my adult students because they would ask intellectual questions, just like you.

Sorry, I have to disagree with you about the community college.  If you do a little more research on Universities, you'll find that you must AUDITION to enter their school of music (as if we all started learning when we were little, right??).  I encountered this dilemma when I decided to transfer out of my community college (because of too many credits and degree changes, Financial Aid wouldn't fund tuition there) to an upper-level university (such as Florida International University or University of Miami).  Community colleges give you the opportunity to study music without having to be already musicly inclined since the age of 3.  I know I'm exaggerating a little bit, but that's reality, Universities don't want to deal with adults who want to 'learn' music or 'explore' their dreams of being a musician, they want to get the credit of putting out the best musicians.

Sorry folks, I had to vent there.
:)
-Renato
"If music be the food of love...sing on sing on!"

Offline will

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #9 on: January 11, 2005, 10:19:23 AM
Universities don't want to deal with adults who want to 'learn' music or 'explore' their dreams of being a musician, they want to get the credit of putting out the best musicians.

And they want money too...

Sorry folks, I had to vent there.

No worries. I hope you feel better. I know I do.  ;)

Offline HarleyMan

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....(update)
Reply #10 on: January 13, 2005, 03:03:16 AM



Interesting question. Out of interest, why do you think these college professors would have taken it as an insult? I'd say that any teacher who wasn't prepared to talk about their teaching methods in detail probably hadn't thought about them greatly, and would be more likely to follow a pre-set teaching method showing a general lack of imagination and pro-active thinking.



Richard.

I agree with you totally Richard.  Unfortunately, I have met several Mathematics professors who became offended when questioned about their teaching methods. Those memories were the 'source' of that question. 

All...Thanks again for the feedback.  It was very helpful.

I visited the local University (GMU) and yes auditions are required to take any classes in the Music department.  And yes, they seem to assume that anyone wanting to enroll in their classes has been playing their insturment of choice for quiet some time....if not age 3.  They did provide a very limited list of advanced undergratuate students who were interested in teaching.  Unfortuantely all were booked. 

But once I got started asking questions at GMU, I also began asking EVERYONE I know and visited the local Community College too.  The 'auditions' there are much less rigirous.  But I did not find the 'right' teacher for me at the local community college either.

Fortunately, one of my co-workers suggested I talk with another co-worker...who just happens to be an organist (and a piano teacher). Although he lives and teaches north of the DC beltway (30-40 mile drive),  he did provide me with names of several different piano teachers in my area and I expect that, within a few weeks, I will locate someone closer to me.  During the meantime I will meet with him on Saturday mornings every two weeks for advice on 'bad habits', appropriate pieces to work on...etc.     

Lesson learned #1: When looking for a teacher: Ask everyone you know.  The co-worker sitting right down the hallway from you may be or know an excellent piano teacher!


Lesson learned #2: About 70% of the email address I found on the internet for piano teachers in my area were invalid addresses(email returned, unknown user).   The same was true of the phone numbers listed.  The other 30% of valid email/phones I contacted stated they only worked with children of high school age or younger.


HarleyMan




Have a GREAT day!
HarleyMan

Offline bob331

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Re: Finding a piano teacher.....( ...where does Bernhard live?)
Reply #11 on: January 13, 2005, 05:59:09 PM
I am looking for a piano teacher in my area and just wondering which of the following options I should explore or avoid.  Any and all suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.


I have talked with the local Music Stores, but they strongly urge me to enroll in their ‘classes’ and they preach ‘you must learn the basics first’ ….using OUR method books.  . . .

Do piano teachers find it offensive or objectionable to be asked 'how' they teach?  (ie. Do I need to be very tactful and careful about how I ask if they are willing to look at my list of piano pieces and tailor a course of study that will get me to my desired destination?)



I'm surprised at your experience with local music stores.  I got my teacher from a music store that, when I asked, showed me a list of about 100 teachers in a 50-mile radius.  After explaining to them exactly what kind of music I was interested in playing (jazz/pop), and that I wanted a teacher who would  be able to relate to an over-50 beginner, they narrowed it down to 3 teachers who lived in my area. 

I then spoke with 2 of them about what I was looking for and asked "how they teach".  (There is nothing wrong with doing this.)  The teacher I chose has been teaching me for almost a year, and I am very, very happy with my choice.  In fact, I have switched my 12-year old daughter to her and that has worked out very well.

               Bob

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