How important is a teacher... : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I'm a parent of two young piano students, ages 7 and 9. I myself know nothing about music, so please forgive if my question seems ignorant or offensive.

Both of my children are learning piano for about 1.5 years. Their current pieces are the mix of Beethoven's Sonatinas, Schumann's Album for the Young, some folk tunes, Disney songs etc. I'm told that is very good progress considered their age and the length of time they've studied (45 min weekly lessons; about 45 min-1 hour daily practice).

Recently, I went to hear another teacher recital because he's reputed as the best one in town. His students blew me off my balance. They played so well and so wonderful. There's a girl who is about 10 and she played Clementi's Sonatinas after just three months of lessons. The students who has about 9 month worth of lesson play much more complicated music than that, musically and technically, not to mention those who have 1.5 - 2 years study! In short, my children would be playing at the same level of the other teacher's students who has about 3 to 6 months of lessons.

Now, I know we're born with different talents and such, but I can't help but think about the other teacher's students. All 24 of them play so well, progressed so impressive a rate. Of 18 or so students in my kids' piano teacher's studio, on the other hand, progress about or slower than my kids' pace. What am I missing? Teacher? Practice? Talent? ... I've paid top dollars for my kids' teacher so I've been wondering if I get my money (and time) worth... How much a teacher can do for your kids? Should I seek out this teacher? Should I just be content with my current teacher? Anyone care to opine?


-- A Parent (, May 02, 2002


Isn't the grass always greener on the other side??? there are some pressing questions you are posing. Underneath them I hear you wondering if you have placed your children with the finest teacher for the money. Every studio has its own flair and flavor. Perhaps you heard the cream of the other teacher's crop at that recital. Perhaps that teacher only accepts certain students. perhaps the goals each teacher follows are different.

I suggest you discuss your view with the your present piano teacher with which you have a relationship. Maybe s/he is doing a wonderful job and your children are enjoying music and moving at a pace that is suitable for them. Maybe your teacher is unaware of the aspirations you have for your children.

I would also find out more about how the other teacher goes about getting his results. Does he insist the children practice many hours? Do the parents sit in the lessons?

There are no secret elixers to playing well earlier than others. I like to rate a studio by how well the students sight read music and how well rounded they are. I am also curious whether the students you heard in recital played many pieces throughout the year or whether they only played the one piece you heard them perform.


-- Ellen Johansen (, May 02, 2002.

I agree with Ellen.

I once heard a student perform a Beethoven concerto at a workshop where I taught. He was only 12 and he played it like a pro. Turns out it was the only piece he studied for 1.5 years AND it was the only piece he could play because he couldn't read music. The teacher had taught it to him entirely by ear. He couldn't play a scale unless it was a passage from the concerto.

His teacher had a tremendous reputation for turning out contest winners. How sad for the students that they will never enjoy music on their own because they haven't learned anything but how to play one piece.

I would also ask, what do your children want out of piano? Do they enjoy their study? What are their goals?

As a teacher and as a parent, I would much rather have a child that loves music and has learned how to read it well than one who can perform a piece or two at a recital.

-- Arlene Steffen (, May 02, 2002.

I agree with Ellen and Arlene. Clementi Sonatinas after 3 months of lessons is most certainly rote playing. There is nothing wrong with teaching a child some rote playing, but it cannot be compared to a truly musical education.

I would like to add that there are some teachers who simply require a lot from their students. I know of several fine teachers who require at least 3 hours of practice every day, 2 lessons a week, and they give their students an excellent musical foundation: sightreeding, theory, technique, transposing and ensemble playing, and the students constantly learn new pieces and refine performance pieces. Because these teachers have the reputation of producing contest winners and excellent performers, the students who study with these teachers are prepared to work hard at the piano in order to meet their teacher's expectations. The parents are very involved in encouraging their children. If the students don't work well, they are dismissed.

Some students thrive in this challenging environment. They really do learn a lot and they enjoy it because they begin to play so well. But it only works for a small proportion of the young piano playing population. Very few young people spend 3 hours every day at the piano. And very few teachers get their students to work that hard and like it!

-- Alan (, May 02, 2002.

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