We cannot even remember a time when we haven’t been playing the piano. Because our dad works on pianos, there has always been at least one in our home. Since about the age of six, both of us have made piano playing a serious study, and we both started teaching at about age twelve. We both have had the great privilege of studying under Mrs. Sara Whitehouse in Loudon for most of those years. We have continued our professional development through intermittent priviate study, Kara under classical pianists George Lopez and Paul Dykstra, and Amy (currently) under Roxana Bajdechi.
We have also especially enjoyed performing concerts in various retirement facilities in Concord such as Granite Ledges, the Birches, and Pleasant View, as well as playing in weddings and private & public concerts. Over the years we have been able, because of our dad’s profession as a piano tuner-technician and rebuilder, to practice on several newly restored grand pianos. We practice primarily on a restored Steinway Model “O” grand piano (5’10-1/2″), and also have in our studios a Hardman 5’8″ grand and a Yamaha U1 upright.
We believe a child can derive great benefit from taking music lessons. It helps develop a taste for good music; it teaches discipline and responsibility by adding practice time to his or her schedule; it enhances his creativity, his confidence, his intellectual and social skills; and it helps him learn to follow directions. With all of these benefits, you can be assured his time is being used wisely.
We cannot stress enough how important it is for a student to become proficient at sight-reading, if for no other reason than the satisfaction that it grants. We try to help our students learn to sight-read by having them actually do it during the lesson. The more they practice it, the easier it will become. To some people, however, it may come more naturally than others, because all music-makers have different talents.
Another thing we like to stress, especially in the beginning years, is rhythm. To have good rhythm will help students to interpret the music and to hear the melody very clearly. It will help in their sight-reading also. We believe the best time for these skills to be instilled for life is when a child is young and has not yet developed all of his or her skills.
We would also like for our students to have a wide repertoire of music that they will be able to draw from. To have (1) many pieces to work on, (2) a few they would like to perfect, and (3) some easier and fun pieces, builds a good repertoire for each week as well as for life.
As for developing creativity, we have many students now who have a special talent for creativity and composition. If we see that in one of our students, we will do anything we can to help them continue down that path.
Currently, we are using the Faber method books in our teaching, along with other supplemental material depending on each individual’s needs or desires. These books have been especially great for children because of the big colorful pictures and large-print music. The pieces in each book are very melodic, which make them enjoyable. There are also books from this series that are for the older beginner on through the intermediate stages. Faber also produces its own supplemental material for each level that includes popular music, jazz, rock, classical, ragtime, and other styles. Normally, the amount of time a student will spend in the method books would be about 4-6 years. After that, we will be creative and think of different ways for that student to progress, depending on what kind of music that person likes.
We consider ourselves to be “classically trained.” The music we have been brought up on has been almost purely classical. Our grandmother was a professional pianist and organist, and taught classical music lessons just as we do. Our father was influenced by her and has influenced us in that direction also. We believe classical music provides the best foundation for any musical training, and therefore we stress it in our piano lessons. If students would like something besides that, we will help guide them down that path.
A true pianist is not merely a performer with all the techniques, but one who has a real joy for music and expresses that joy in his music. We would honestly say this to any of our piano students: You do not have to be playing Beethoven sonatas to consider yourself proficient. If you are making music that you enjoy and that other people enjoy, you are a “good pianist.” You do not have to be performing in concert halls around the world! But remember that if you want to, you can always learn more. As one fellow piano teacher has wisely observed, “Making music is for all, not just the elite and gifted.” How true that is.