How do you teach the more "serious" adult student?
When my adult students tell me they are "not serious" about their piano study, a red flag goes up- "serious" means different things to different people. Although students may
To see just how serious adults are about piano, visit the online Piano World Forums (
Teachers need to be equipped to help our adult students meet their goals, no matter what those goals are. Jill Dew, a
Other "serious students" want the breadth, depth, and structure found in the National Music Certificate Program. Some of my adult students really like the rigor and organization of this approach.
Adults need to take charge of their own lessons, and we are responsible for guiding them in whatever direction they want to go. Our primary goal should be the
I need to play the piano well
by Jill Dew
l am a returning piano student who wants to further my career by improving my piano skills. I'm a voice teacher-I have been for the past 18 years. Before that, I was an opera singer. Before that, I was a typographer (hey, we all gotta eat!).
I was born into a musical culture. My mother played the piano by ear, and my sis
Imagine my surprise when I found out some people didn't have a piano in their homes. Not having a piano in the house was up there with not having a refrigerator or television. In fact, I knew people who had a piano but didn't have a television!
So, music in general-piano music more specifically-was a part of my early life. I studied for years and years. I loved the piano. My mother had to pull me off of it and make me go play outside. I wanted to play everything I could get my hands on. Usually, I would play songs given to me by my teacher, but often I would play the Jerome Kern or Rodgers and Hammerstein so ng collections my mother had lying around. To get the full effect of the music, I would sing along as I played.
That's when I realized I could sing.
The piano, however, was my first love. I played for hours and hours, or so it seemed to me. Once, I drove my older brother to distraction wi th constant repetition of the opening lines of The Spinning Song by Ell
But slowly I discovered that I couldn't play the music the way that I felt it. My fin
The capper was the recital I played in when I was 12. I was the teacher's second best student in a studio of over twenty kids. The boy that was the best was some kind of phenomena at the time. Boys in a suburb of a
The worst possible thing that can happen, happened. I got halfway through my piece when I forgot my place. It was a rather large piece, and I just got lost. I was
NOT THAT IMPORTANT?!
It was to me. From that point on, I never wanted to play for anyone again. I still practiced at home, but usually when I was by myself. I continued to study through my undergraduate years until I was 25 years old. After that, I played less and less, until a time came when I quit
I went to a friend where I work, who is the accompanying teacher for singers there. He heard me talk; then he heard me play. His response was, "You need a piano teacher to loosen you up. Do you know Janet Smith?" Thus began a wonderful col
Janet taught me how to practice: so much time on strengthening exercises, so much time on flexibility exercises, time spent on playing pieces for fun, and time spent on tearing apart passages in the pieces that gave me trouble.
Every four to six months, we review the plan to see if we're on track or if changes need to be made. This way, I keep on task for my goal of accompanying. I like that she has included me in the teaching process. I'm not six years old anymore-I don't need to be spoon-fed information. Involving me in the process helps make me responsible for my own education.
An extra added benefit I didn't expect is the insight I have received. I see Janet every week, and every week I have an epiphany.
One of my first epiphanies was, "It's not my fault. I CAN do this!" I realized my past teachers never taught me technique-they taught me literature. I never learned scales or arpeggios. I never learned how to listen. Who knew different strokes of the keys could produce different sounds? Certainly not me! I COULD do this. I could play the piano the way I wanted to! This was an amazing revelation that, to this day, still gives me a shiver.
Janet understands that I am not doing this for my pleasure. This will help my ability to teach my voice students. I could anticipate their interpretations, but I simply couldn't play the notes, making me a pretty anemic accompanist. I used to say, "If you can sing with my playing, you can sing with anyone." I'm not that weak accompanist anymore.
In a recent studio recital, all my students sang better than they had ever sung before. I know I accompanied them better than I ever had before. I was proud on so many levels-I was proud that my students did so well, and I was proud that I was able to help them achieve their goals by being both a good voice teacher and a good accompanist.
I'm on my way. In forty years, I suspect I'll have this accompanying thing
National Music Certificate Program model
An adult student who says they are "serious" is usually
Included in the examination are grade appropriate scales and arpeggios, cadences, inversions, repertoire, etudes, ear training, and sight-reading. The examination is performed in front of trained examiners, who assign a "grade" for each part of the exam
There is a syllabus that contains the exact examination parts and procedures. The syllabus is available through the NMCP website: (http://www.nationalmusiccertificate.org/).
The critiques provide a "third-party" objective assessment within established standards, a quantified mark, and observations and suggestions in an encouraging tone. Most often the teacher's own observations are validated, yet a set of fresh and sympathetic ears benefits all participants. Surprisingly, my adult learners have found the examination experience rewarding and even enjoyable, albeit initially daunting.
There are many appealing qualities of this program for adult learners.
The organization into grade levels provides tangible goals and arrival points. There are two preparatory levels, followed by ten grade levels, finishing with the Associate Diploma. Each level allows for a gradual and measured increase in ability at a personal pace.
It is the philosophy of NMCP that the repertoire component is more successful when the other areas of the examination are played successfully. This translates beautifully into adult learning. Since cognitive skills come relatively easily for most adults, motor skills need to be carefully and sequentially developed.
The NMCP has developed coordinating materials for all the skills needed for the examination. All are published by the Frederick Harris Music Company and are both diverse in content and very affordable.
The College of Examiners
The repertoire requirement lists are divided chronologically by style periods - Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern era. Each examination level provides a vast array of repertoire choices, including a "Teacher's Choice/ Own Selection" option.
In Grades I and 2, inventions are com
The Celebration Series Perspectives (pub
Repertoire books contain carefully chosen literature, and the Etudes/Studies books provide the etudes required for the
The Piano Syllabus for NMCP also con
Co-requisite theory and music history examinations
Starting with Grade 5, the certificate program's co-requisites involve theoretical and music history examinations. It has been my experience that adult students are particularly intrigued by the notion of "putting it all together." In fact, many who are ambivalent about practical
There is a vast quantity (and quality) of literature available for study. Often adults have certain repertoire they really want to play. In the sidebar on page