Think back to your childhood. Did you take piano lessons? If so, did you stick with it? Did you enjoy them? Another thought, what was your first piano teacher like?
I remember sitting on the couch in silence, waiting, as my sisters went through their lessons, afraid to make a peep. I remember that my piano teacher wore long skirts, was fairly old, and had a hummingbird feeder. Do I remember what she taught me? Perhaps I learned the concepts, but I really don’t remember anything specific. Or was your piano teacher like my mother’s? Blind and not seeing as she (mother) snuck candy while taking a lesson? Or did she rap you on the knuckles when your fingers were not properly on their fingertips? Or was your teacher like my dad’s? He played by ear so he slid by, but never really learned to read music and it’s entirety (a lifetime frustration of his, as music was such in central part of his being).
Here’s another question. Were you a part of a band or chorus? Do you have any memories of making friends there? Of connecting with people? Of connecting with the director, or perhaps even shared musical experiences?
I looked at piano as a solo learning opportunity until I got to college. There, my piano professor had each student in his studio participate in master classes in which we learned together. Let me assure you, my practice increased because I did not want to be embarrassed in front of my peers. We were able to share practice ideas and tips. Listening to each other motivated me to be better, and I believe it did the same for the other students. I remember learning together, and sharing a musical bond.
What my take away is from the band model as well as the piano master class is this: we learn together, we create experiences together, we appreciate music together and our learning experience is higher when we do it together.
If you look at any other instrument, most are learned in the band or orchestra as a collaborative effort. This is not the case for piano, and I believe that it is simply the size of the instrument that has been the road block. With technology advancements, and the ability to use digital pianos that function as real ones, this road block has simply been removed. We are able to create a very effective piano classroom where music can be shared and we learn together. With the master class model extended, rather than just listening to each other, we teach each other, we assess each other, we critique each other, and we encourage each other. Piano lessons become another way in which music connects people!
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