Time to Change Piano Teachers?

The Princess has been taking piano lessons for the last six months. This past Sunday she had her first piano recital. She didn’t play perfectly, but I was happy that she did her part—both as a performer and part of the audience. However, the piano recital was an eye-opener for me. It made me realize that perhaps I need to find another teacher.

The piano recital was a reflection of the teacher as well as her students. I could tell that the students didn’t practice very well or just seemed to be “doing the time” vs. actually dedicating themselves to learning how to play the best way possible. Even from listening to the more advanced, older students, I found a lot wanting in their performance.

First was technique—I was really appalled to see incorrect hand positions/weak fingers, especially for some of the older students—and then musicality—the ability to be able to shape and form a piece so that it’s music and not just a bunch of notes. It seemed like many of the students never learned how to listen to what they were playing, let alone, how to practice correctly in order to achieve a certain sound.

Did I want this for my daughter? No.

So what do I want? Ultimately, I’d like my daughter to be able to play whenever and whatever she wants—even after she stops taking formal lessons. I want her to be able to say, “Yes, I play a little,” and wow her unsuspecting audience with a bit of Chopin or Beethoven if she felt like it—kind of like me. 😉

Although I would have liked to have her take lessons from my old piano teacher, I realized that it wouldn’t make much sense, as she’s now in her eighties, and I heard that she was dealing with Parkinson’s. So yesterday I looked up the piano competitions I used to compete in and noted the teachers whose students won them. I’ve decided that I want to find the best teacher possible for the Princess so that she can compete in the same competitions that I did and do well. (OK, let’s be honest—I want her to be able to kick ass, and I know that she can do it.)

I’m proud of what the Princess has done so far. She’s accomplished a lot—already finishing two levels—and seems to enjoy playing. She has a great ear for music, fantastic memory, and good piano fingers. Like many students, she doesn’t like practicing, but lucky for her, she has a mother who knows the basics and can guide her through the proper technique, make sure she’s playing the right notes, as well as make the most of her practice time.

She may not practice every day, but the 2 to 4 days that she does manage to do are well spent. Each practice session is practically a piano lesson in itself. However, I am not a professional piano teacher, and I don’t remember my beginning years—how I learned what I learned—because I was five when I started. Plus, I’m running out of ideas on how to stoke the fire in her belly so she can push herself to play well. Hence my need for a professional piano teacher.

I’m hoping the new teacher would be the “master class” teacher who can get her to that level so that if the Princess chooses to go professional, she can. Of course, this would probably mean more practicing for the Princess, too. Dum-dum-dum-dummmm.

Today I heard back from the teacher that caught my eye. We’re going to interview/audition with her to see if the Princess might be someone she would consider taking on. I was forewarned that she’s booked solid—working 7 days a week, sometimes teaching until midnight—and wasn’t planning on taking any more students, but she’s still open to interview. I figured it’s worthwhile to try.

Regardless of whether this teacher accepts the Princess or not, I know what I need to do—find a new teacher.

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2 thoughts on “Time to Change Piano Teachers?

  1. I am in the same boat. How did you break the news to the then current teacher that you are about to switch teacher? My child is cruising along ok but that’s because I have music background and I didn’t like what I saw at the teacher’s students recital…

    Many thanks,
    C

  2. Definitely, the hardest part is breaking up. I would say, first talk to the teacher and let her know your concerns—e.g., that your child is not motivated to play/practice, does not seem to be learning what you’d like her to be learning, does not like piano, needs to be challenged more, be exposed to pieces that she might enjoy more and yet still get something out of. If you think it’s worthwhile to give the teacher another chance after The Talk, then do so.

    If you know for sure you’ve had enough, then tell the teacher “Thank you for your time and effort in teaching my child. We appreciate what you’ve done. I think it’s time for us to move on/try something new.”

    It is your investment. You’re paying for the lessons so your child can learn as much as she can and as best as she can. If you know that s/he could be doing better with someone else, then you have the right to seek that out.

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