The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 disrupted quite a few educational activities ranging from traditional classroom education to musical tutoring. While there has been a considerable increase in homeschooling and distance education enhanced by internet communications, music performance academies and personal tutoring sessions have been drastically reduced. Instrumental performance is one of those activities that are not well-suited to remote learning. Musical educators strongly believe in the aspect of fostering and transmitting knowledge in person. In the case of piano lessons, many have pivoted to remote tutoring via Skype and Zoom, but they are not definitely not the same.
Unless you are an experienced piano player familiar with the musical education process, chances are that you will eventually look for a piano teacher for your homeschooling student. If your children have already followed the Prodigies Music program, they are good candidates to increase their education through piano playing. There is more to the piano than just performance; some of the most illustrious composers in history were accomplished piano players, and they often envisioned their masterpieces by first sitting down at the piano. Let’s not forget that piano is just one of many keyboard instruments; this means that your homeschooling student may later pick up other instruments, including the very popular modern synthesizer, which is being preferred by many modern composers.
We strongly hope that traditional piano lessons will resume once solid treatments and maybe even a working vaccine emerge to combat the terrible COVID-19. Once things get back to normal, you will want to follow the recommendations below to find the right piano teacher for your homeschooling student:
Gauging the Interest of Children
The first step is to figure out if your child and the piano will make a good pair. Forcing children to learn how to play an instrument they are not interested in is counterproductive. The last thing you want is to breed resentment towards the instrument, the tutor, or your intentions. If there is already a piano in the household and your child seems to be happy to sit and play without being told, this is an excellent sign. If you ask your child to sit at the piano but he or she is more interested in percussion or wind instruments, this is not a good sign. There is always the strategy of introducing the piano to children; you can do this by playing sonatas from an early age before progressing into performance videos. The next step would be to observe them playing a toy piano.
Asserting Your Own Expectations
Liberal parents will probably decide on piano lessons based on the premise of letting their children try them out and taking things from there. This is an excellent strategy, but not all parents will follow it; in fact, most parents will think about goals. If this is the case, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you really want to achieve?
- What type of music would you want your child to learn?
- Why do you think your child should play the piano?
- How much time and effort should your child dedicate to piano lessons?
When contemplating the questions above, keep in mind that hopes are different from goals. We all dream about our child becoming a piano virtuoso, but how would we feel if she grows up to be a skilled player who prefers to play the bass in punk band instead? The most realistic expectation should always be centered on musical learning.
Preparing Your Search for a Piano Teacher
The teacher you settle on should be a good fit not only for your student but also for your family; to this effect, you should prepare for your search as follows:
- Always start by asking friends and family about their knowledge and experience with local academies and piano tutors.
- Inquire about local teachers and lessons at schools, music stores, and churches.
- Evaluate online reviews of tutors and academies.
- Attend a recital performance given by students of music schools or established tutors.
Even though word-of-mouth will always be one of the best tools for guiding your decision, don’t forget about your child’s own personality. You may think that a dynamic teacher will be a good fit for a dynamic student, but patient teachers tend to be better for all kinds of students.
The Teacher Interview Process
This is a crucial step that cannot be skipped. You always want to interview teachers whether they will be personal tutors or academy instructors; this is non-negotiable. Whenever possible, the interview should give you an opportunity to evaluate the premises. Here are some of the questions you should seek answers to:
- How much experience do you have as a piano teacher?
- What are your credentials? Where have you performed?
- Are you certified or do you belong to a professional organization of educators?
- Do you teach multiple instruments?
- What ages do you have more experience with?
- What methodology do you follow?
Attentiveness and enthusiasm are the traits that should stand out during your interview; you are looking for answers that make sense. Let’s say you decide to bring a piano teacher into your home and the first thing she says is that the instrument should be moved somewhere else; this is a good sign, but you should also inquire as to the rationale for this move. If the interview takes place at an academy, try to pay attention to the acoustics. If the sounds of other instruments are bleeding into the classroom, the school has not invested as much into soundproofing, and this may prove to be distracting.
Whenever possible, the interview should involve the student; in fact, if the teacher insists on meeting your child at the same time the meeting is arranged, this is another good sign. Observe how your child reacts to meeting his or her future teacher. If the teacher wants to jump straight into giving a quick lesson during the interview, he or she is either showing off or gauging what kind of student your child will be. Some teachers offer the first lesson for free as a trial not just for you but also for their prospective students; if you encounter this situation, be prepared to deal with the possibility of a teacher declining to teach.
Narrowing Your Options and Making a Decision
Good candidates are those that propose goals and do not deviate from them. If you run into a teacher who insists that he or she will not stop until your child can master playing Jelly Roll Morton’s “The Crave” by ear and to perfection, make sure this is something that you and your child can live with. Nearly all piano teachers can deliver lesson plans based on music theory, but many of them will insist on learning to play by ear and with the requisite emotion. On this topic, there will always be teachers who believe that scales and rhythms are synonymous even though they really aren’t, but younger students tend to enjoy this style of instruction. Finally, the terms and conditions set by piano teachers are traditionally negotiable to a certain extent. If a teacher tells you that she is busy and can only deliver a couple of lessons per week, you may not be able to negotiate pricing.