What My Adult Students Have Taught Me

Be Willing to Change Your Idea of Success "Don't worry. I know my playing jerks along. I probably won't get much better, but that's OK. I simply love playing the piano, and I love coming here every week to learn more about it."  This wise advice from my 75-year-old student, Katie, came to me many years ago. After three years of weekly, hour-lo...

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Whose Assignment Is it Anyway?

It happened again this week. I had used the word "heartbeat" to suggest the way the left- hand chords in the B section of Burgmüller's Ballade should sound. Every teacher knows the usual klunk-klunk sound most students first make when playing them. Owen had immediately responded to this image with exactly the right two-chord phrasing. Ah, success,...

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September/October 2018: Variations

The music of life Serious illness visited my husband last winter. Our lives suddenly became a round of doctor appointments, surgery, tests, treatments, and continual bad news. My husband and I have received thoughts, prayers, food, visits, gifts both serious and funny, cards, and people's heartfelt love. We are gratefu...

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May/June 2018: Variations


Rediscovering the joy of music  1950.  Rediscovering the Joy of Music Lincoln, Nebraska. I am four years old, living with my parents in a new GI-Bill financed tract house, dancing around my bedroom to Side B of my Golden Record of The Five Little Firemen. It is a 5-inch 78 RPM made of yellow plastic, and I am quickly wearing down its groo...

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Jan/Feb 2018 Variations: A nickel for every mistake


Seven-year-old Serena's mother describes her daughter's first piano practice of every week. "We always have tears! If she makes even one mistake, she is ready to give up. She expects herself to be able to the play the piece perfectly the first time. No matter what I say, she gets upset. Eventually, she turns her frustration on me, which means she e...

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Studios are not just in living rooms anymore


Sometimes the world brings people into your life who ignite your energy and restore your passion for teaching. Last February, on a sunny morning in Austin, Texas, last February, I met two such individuals, Wendy Kuo and Klondike Steadman, the executive directors and owners of The Orpheus Academy, a music school with 410 students employing more than...

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Perfectly managing imperfection

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. ---Vaclav Havel I am listening to seventeen-year-old Olivia play her college audition pieces: a Chopin Ballade and a Bach Prelude and Fugue. I am not her teacher; Olivia has an outstanding mentor at a renowned ...

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Closer Look: The Music of Teaching

The Music of Teaching: Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development by Barbara Kreader Skalinder By inverting two words—teaching and music—Barbara Kreader Skalinder changes what could have been a fairly mundane title to one that intrigues and gives us pause. But it is her subtitle, Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development, that grabs you ...

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Variations: Being comfortable in your teacher skin

I recently met a passionate young teacher who told me this story: "One of my students came up to me the other day and observed: 'Mrs. L., you either love what you do, or you just can't find another job!' The child, only seven years old, had already intuited society's adage: 'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.'" We laughed together over this...

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When students quit

I quit piano twice. During my last year of high school, I left my long-time teacher a handwritten note in an envelope on her desk. In it I detailed the reasons I was "quitting piano." I no longer remember what those reasons were, but I suspect they were related to feeling I had let her down by losing a then-recent contest. I don't remember that she...

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Make parents your partners

​In her book ​The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, ​Jessica Laney writes,"... why do so many teachers cite the challenge of dealing with their students' parents as their main reason for abandoning the classroom?" 1 Throughout the public and private school systems, the relationships between parents...

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How do you know when a student is ready to perform a piece?

One of my studio recitals just ended. As I write this, I am eating a leftover brownie and may snarf down a couple more. Would wine be better? Probably, but it is only four in the afternoon. The recital went well. For one thing, everyone showed up. This doesn't always happen. For another, no one was wearing a sports uniform. While I am not...

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Variations: Take the leap

Do you remember your first piano student? I certainly do. His name was Steve Glickman, and I was his fifth piano teacher in four years. It was 1974. I had just completed my Master's degree in Piano Performance at Northwestern. True, I had studied Piano Pedagogy with the legendary Fran Larimer, and had already taught several students as part of her ...

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I have a student who...

I have a student who graduated from my studio this year. Leah began study with me as a curly-haired, precocious five-year old. Today she is a vibrant young woman of eighteen. Leah chose three pieces for her final performance: "Footfalls," by Wayne Shorter, which included a luminous jazz improvisation; the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" S...

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What Do We Do When Our Students Forget?

At my house, it takes a ladder to reach Richard Chronister's book, A Piano Teacher's Legacy. It is on the top shelf of the floor-to-ceiling bookcase next to my grand piano. This seems like the perfect resting place for it, because I always did put Richard on a high pedestal. I still do.  This fall I began my forty-fourth year of teaching. My s...

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She always wore a cherry-red coat... She always wore a cherry-red coat. At least that is what I remember she wore, whether that fact is true or not. Her gray hair surrounded her head in a fluff that looked like a halo pushed slightly askew, and she walked quickly, her back bent slightly forward in what looked like anticipation, but was probably ost...

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Teaching Music in a Virtual World

On this overly-warm Autumn afternoon, I am attempting to teach a Net-Gener1 how to play Bill Boyd's "Swing-a-Ling." How do I know eight-year-old Panagiotis is a Net-Gener? Because he stuffs his iPod and earbuds into his pocket, carefully places his iPhone on the music rack, and begins to fidget the minute I put the music in front of ...

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How do we honor a child’s musical voice?

My eleven-year old student Corey arrived at the year-end recital dusty and sweaty from playing two tournament soccer games. With fifteen minutes to start time and no audience yet present (graduation parties, other soccer and baseball games), Corey sat down at the piano to try out his pieces. He ran through the ABRSM Jazz Piano arrangement of Duke E...

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C.P.E. Bach meets Death Cab for Cutie

I think I have finally reached an age where I can say: "Teaching today just isn't like it used to be." In the "good old days," my way of working with a high-school sophomore went like this: I would peruse the MTNA Syllabus and choose several appropriate pieces listed at my student's current performance level. At the next lesson, I would demons...

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Tackling a twelve-year old's slump

Katherine, one of my more talented students, recently gave me this honest description of a typical practice session. She is twelve.  "It takes me forever to get myself to stop what I am doing and go to the piano. When and if I do get there, I usually begin my practice by playing a chromatic scale the entire length of the keyboard— first with m...

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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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