Piano Lessons are Not Just for Kids

 

 

When Paula Fay started taking piano lessons for the first time in her late fifties, it fulfilled a lifelong dream.

“I always wanted to learn how to play as a child, but my parents couldn’t afford it,” she said.

 

Today, four years later, Paula can play some of her favorite tunes. And she’s loving every minute of it.

 

Some adults may groan at childhood memories of lesson after lesson, practice after practice and a lot of teacher nagging, but many wish those days were back.

 

And more and more, these adults are turning wishful thinking into reality. According to the National Piano Foundation, adults ages 25-55 are the fastest-growing segment of people learning piano.

 

When Ruth Ann Laye started teaching an adult piano class at Mandarin’s Keyboard Connection, there was only one weekday class. Now, she’s up to seven classes. And of her own private practice of 28, 11 are adults.

 

One of her students is Belinda May from St. Augustine, who is in her 60s and in her second year of piano lessons.

Though her brothers played piano, she was more athletically inclined than musical. Then after years of “picking” at the pianos in her house, she recently resolved to start taking lessons. A beginner when she started, “now I’m playing Christmas carols,” she said.

“It tells me that you’re never too old to learn something new.”

 

Maureen Rhodes, a piano teacher on the Southside, would likely agree. She has more adults in her practice than she did 20 years ago.

“I think baby boomers are looking for ways to stay active,” she said. “Sometimes, kids come to me for lessons and then when they grow up and leave, their mother starts to take lessons,” says Rhodes. “Other adults have a specific goal in mind, like they want to play in church or accompany their grandson.”

 

Sandra Stewart, outgoing president of the Jacksonville Music Teachers Association and adjunct professor teaching a non-degree adult piano course at Florida State College, believes technology is a big part of the reason for the greater interest in piano among adults.

“Keyboards are more affordable, and that’s made all the difference,” she says.

 

But the piano is not always a succession of high notes for the adult student. Says Stewart: “Adults can have problems with finger dexterity. If they never played before, this can be frustrating. People who use computer a lot have an advantage. But if they don’t have this experience, they have to get over that hurdle.”

And some adults expect to transform into Mozart overnight.

 

“They may be symphony patrons or just love classical music and want to play instantly and do it like the pros,” Rhodes says. “But they have to develop the skills first, and it takes a lot of patience.”

 

But for adults committed to learning, it can be very satisfying for student and teacher alike.

“Adults are there for their own pleasure,” said Marc Hebda, president of the Florida State Music Teachers Association. “They have wonderful enthusiasm; it’s fun to see them get excited. It’s also interesting that with the economic downturn, they are not cutting back on lessons or buying instruments. Piano is a constant source of entertainment and personal development.”

 

The key to any student learning well, whether that student is an adult or child, is finding the right teacher. Hebda stresses the importance of taking lessons from a teacher with a music degree.

“Some people who took piano figure it’s easy to teach. But credentials are very important. You wouldn’t go to a doctor without certification or a lawyer who didn’t pass the bar. All our teachers have a music degree or demonstrate teaching ability.”

Hebda also notes that rapport between teacher and student is important.

“The student should interview the teacher, because not all students and teachers are a good match.”

 

For those who want to fast-track the learning process, there are alternatives. “The Piano Guy,” Scott Houston, has been teaching piano using a non-traditional method through his shows on public station WJCT.

“It seemed like there was a single path to the world of piano: this long process of taking lessons,” he said. “But people want to play the tunes they know.”

 

So Houston came up with a simple way for adults to learn quickly, based on the concept behind “lead sheets,” which are used by professional musicians. Houston’s technique is to teach adults a single line of notes on the treble clef with their right hand and chords with their left.

 

“My goal is not to teach adults to be the greatest players but to be able to play the tunes they want to play,” Houston says.

His approach has clearly struck a chord, as his book has sold 300,000 copies and he has taught many adults through his workshops in Indiana and master class “piano camp” from his beach home in Fort Myers.

 

There’s also a new trend gaining traction called “recreational music making” — RMM — which like Houston’s approach focuses on a simplified method to teaching music. The goal is not for a student to become accomplished at the piano and perform, but rather to just have fun making music. It is often taught to adults in group settings, such as music stores, churches and senior centers.

 

“Research has found that RMM is very helpful for seniors, promotes hand/eye coordination and keeps the brain working,” said Erin Bennett, assistant professor of piano and pedagogy at the University of North Florida. “Its asset is the ability to reach more people; it’s more inclusive and easier for the non-experienced.”

 

Whether learning piano through traditional or nontraditional means, its many benefits include boosting self-confidence.

“When I first started, I didn’t think I could do it,” Fay said. “And my friends and family were in disbelief that I was taking lessons. Then they wanted to hear a concert. In another year, I might just do it.”

 

She gets some measure of satisfaction in surprising those around her.

“Society puts restrictions on us as we get older that we stop learning,” she says. “But we are wiser, more patience and accept our limitations.”

 

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/music/2011-10-27/story/piano-lessons-not-just-kids#ixzz1l14hSFaV

Piano Exercises

hanon1

 

These tips work for more than just exercises!

  • Practice each hand separately first.
  • Practice slowly in the beginning (metronome on 60 or less). If you played it easily, and precisely with the metronome, move the tempo up one notch. Continue to practice in this way until you reach your goal speed.
  • Practice with various dynamics. Practice soft, loud and everything in between.
  • As you practice, vary the touch. Play staccato, play legato, and play two-note slurs.
  • Practice in different rhythms.
  • Try to practice Hanon Exercises in other keys, starting with the white keys (C, D, E, F, G, A, and B) and then going to the black keys (D-flat, E-flat, G-flat, A-flat, and B-flat).
  • And as Charles-Louis Hanon recommends it, practice his exercises by lifting the fingers high and with precision, playing each note very distinctly.

Carnegie Hall

carnegie-hall

You’ve all heard it before.  How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice.

We took the easier route with the tour December 1, 2014.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t posting much on my travel blog yet so I don’t remember everything that happened.  I do highly recommend the tour if you’re in New York City.

If you want to go, other than  practicing, Carnegie Hall  is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.

carnegie-hall-map

The tour was very inexpensive, maybe $10 each.  We were taken by elevator up to the Main Hall (Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage) first.  The stories that were told were fascinating!  I don’t remember most but I remember the guide telling us that after renovations audience members complained of a buzzing sound.  The floor had to be removed…

From 1995:

SOURCE OF CARNEGIE HALL COMPLAINTS DISCOVERED: CONCRETE UNDER STAGE
MARY CAMPBELL , Associated Press
Sep. 13, 1995 11:53 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) _ For nine years, the people who run Carnegie Hall insisted there was nothing wrong with the acoustics at the famed concert hall.

Wednesday, they sang a different tune

This summer, a layer of concrete, apparently left over from a major renovation job in 1986, was discovered under the stage. The concrete was ripped out and a new floor was installed that administrators say should improve acoustics.
Since the renovation, musicians and critics have complained about the acoustics, saying the sound the hall was world famous for wasn’t the same, that the bass had become washed out and the higher instruments harsh.

Executive Director Judith Arron said Wednesday she had been assured there was no concrete under the stage since arriving at the hall in 1986.

But the tongue-in-groove maple stage floor, which usually lasts 20 years, had warped so badly after just nine years, it was difficult to push a piano across it.

The hall closed for repairs after three Frank Sinatra tribute concerts the last week in July. “As we tore the whole floor up,” Arron said, “we learned we had a lot more hard substance than we had anticipated.”

She speculated the concrete was added to reinforce the stage while scaffolding was on it during the 1986 renovation and then simply left there in workers’ haste to finish.

The concrete had been placed under two layers of plywood, on which the maple stage floor rests.

“Concrete retains moisture,” Arron said. “As the moisture collected in the concrete, it went into the plywood, which expands with moisture and pushed up the floor.”

Jim Nomikos, the hall’s director of operations, compared the removal of hundreds of pounds of concrete to “an archeological dig.”

Nomikos said the floor is now constructed the way it was from Carnegie Hall’s opening in 1891 until 1986.

“In my opinion we’re not reconstructing the floor. We just restored it,” he said. “I think what we have now is a floor that will have some resonance, as opposed to a floor that was dead.”

The project cost $180,000.

Aaron said there are no plans to sue anybody for the way the floor was laid in 1986. “We’ve been focused on doing the job right,” she said. “We think this is going to be great.”

The new floor will meet its first test Sept. 26, when the Philadelphia Orchestra plays. The hall’s official gala opening for its 105th season will be Oct. 5 by the Boston Symphony.

I remember the guide not being happy with us because I knew the answers to some of the questions she asked such as Tchaikovsky conducting at the opening.  When she mentioned that Ignacy Jan Paderewski had made his debut there,  Tom piped up that he had lived near Steinway Hall (and that Michael and I had just played there in the final concert in the old building).  She gave us the evil eye and we stopped talking so much 🙂

padereski-me

Plaque on Steinwall Hall (old building). This was just after Michael and I played there.

 

Paderewski

Plaque on Steinwall Hall (old building).

There were many, many pictures on the walls of people who had performed there.  All in all, a fantastic tour.  Take it if you’re in NYC!

1891 Andrew Carnegie’s new Music Hall opened

Andrew Carnegie’s new Music Hall opened with a five-day music festival beginning on May 5.

Guest of honor Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted his Marche Solennelle on Opening Night and his Piano Concerto No. 1 several days later.

William Tuthill’s design reflects Gilded Age architectural tastes and engineering.  Since the Hall was built shortly before the advent of structural steel construction, its walls are made of fairly heavy brick and masonry, to carry the full load of the structure without the lighter support that a steel framework soon made possible. The Italian Renaissance design of the exterior reflects the eclectic architectural tastes of the period, which look to European models of earlier centuries for inspiration.  Tuthill deliberately chose to keep the styling and decorative elements simple, elegant, and functional, focusing his energies on designing an excellent acoustic environment.

I came across this interesting 1947 movie about Carnegie Hall for my Music Studio Blog and I’m posting it here, as well.

Jascha Heifetz (violinist) Tchaikovsky – “Violin Concerto in D, First Movement” – New York Philharmonic, Fritz Reiner, conductor
Harry James (trumpeter)
Vaughn Monroe (band leader)
Jan Peerce (vocalist)
Gregor Piatigorsky (cellist)
Ezio Pinza (vocalist)
Lily Pons (vocalist)
Fritz Reiner (conductor)
Artur Rodzinski (conductor)
Arthur Rubinstein (pianist)
Rise Stevens (vocalist)
Leopold Stokowski (conductor)
Bruno Walter (conductor)
Walter Damrosch (conductor)
Olin Downes (music critic)
New York Philharmonic Quintette (John Corigliano Sr., William Lincer, Nadia Reisenberg, Leonard Rose, Michael Rosenker)
New York Philharmonic

Storyline:
A mother (Marsha Hunt) wants her son (William Prince) to grow up to be a pianist good enough to play at Carnegie Hall but, when grown, the son prefers to play with Vaughan Monroe’s orchestra. But Mama’s wishes prevail and the son appears at Carnegie Hall as the composer-conductor-pianist of a modern horn concerto, with Harry James as the soloist. Frank McHugh is along as a Carnegie Hall porter and doorman, and Martha O’Driscoll is a singer who provides the love interest for Prince. Meanwhile and between while a brigade of classical music names from the 1940’s (and earlier and later) appear; the conductors Walter Damrosch, Bruno Walter, Artur Rodzinski, Fritz Reiner and Leopold Stokowski; singers Rise Stevens, Lily Pons, Jan Peerce and Ezio Pinza, plus pianist Arthur Rubinstein, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and violinist Jascha Heifetz.

iPad: Parent’s Guide to Piano Maestro

Piano Mania

It will be fun watching your child improve their piano skills all while having fun using Piano Maestro in lessons each week!

As your child’s teacher (or YOUR teacher!), I’m looking forward to seeing the progress they will make when they start using it at home each day. This guide will help you understand how this app will benefit your child and how to get it set up on your own iPad.

Overview
What is Piano Maestro?

Piano Maestro is the ultimate piano practice tool that will have students quickly playing their favorite classical, pop, rock, TV and video game songs and themes. It is available in the App Store and works on the iPad.

What skills does it improve?
• Note reading
• Sight reading
• Rhythm
• Inner pulse
• Confidence

What makes it so fun?
• Upbeat background tracks
• Stunning graphics
• Instant rewards and feed back
• Satisfaction of playing REAL music

It works with an acoustic piano?

Yes! Your child practices on your real acoustic or digital piano. Piano Maestro listens from the iPad’s built in microphone. No wires needed.

I’m already paying for lessons and books. What value does this add?

Sometimes I wish I could be there with your child to encourage them to keep practicing daily. I’m sure it’s not always easy, as unforeseen challenges will arise.

Since our time each week is just too short, this app will give me eyes on the ground and it will keep them practicing longer and improving more quickly.

How will it be used in lessons?

I will spend a few minutes of each lesson helping your child master a couple of new songs all while having fun! I will also teach them how to use the practice options at home.

At the end of the lesson, we will choose Home Challenge assignments within the app that will show up in your account at home. I’ll get updates when progress is made.

Getting Started
Wow, this sounds awesome. Now, how do I get started?

1) Download Piano Maestro on your iPad from the AppStore
2) Create a JoyTunes account with a parent’s email, under which, you can have multiple profiles for each member of the family.
3) Create a profile for each family member (that means you too Mom and Dad!) inside the Parent/Teacher zone (top right hand corner of main screen)
4) Connect to your teacher, me! After creating a profile in the “profiles” tab of the parent/teacher zone, select the student’s profile and click “connect to teacher.” Once I approve connection to your child, they will receive full access to all content for FREE! I will then also begin receiving weekly progress reports.
5) Start Playing – I will now start assigning you homework, meanwhile get started on Journey Mode.

When you connect to the O’Connor Music Studio, Piano Maestro is available for as long as you study here.

101 Piano Practice Tips: How to get your Kids to the Keyboard!

101

 

Let’s face it. Most kids don’t want to practice the piano. And if they do find the time to practice, it’s usually because their parent kept nagging them. How frustrating!

Piano teachers are frustrated too. It’s nearly impossible to teach students new concepts when they don’t understand the old ones–all because of a lack of practice.

If you’re a parent in this situation, I have just the solution you’re looking for.

In this upbeat book, I share all the tips I’ve discovered in my 14 years of teaching piano. You’ll learn fun, practical ways to get your kids to the keyboard.

But this easy-to-read guide goes one step further. I’ll show you simple ways to encourage better quality practice. Even if you’ve never had a music lesson in your life!

I wrote this book for kids of all ages. There are creative ideas for elementary students and also a section for teens.

There’s even a section for what to do if your child wants to stop taking piano lessons. That’s right, there is hope and my book will show you exactly how to get them interested in piano again.

Don’t be the kind of parent who sits on the sidelines waiting until their child wants to practice. Piano lessons are too expensive for you to let another “no-practice” day go by.

This book is your answer to get your child to the keyboard, have good quality practice and develop a life-long love of music.

Get it on Amazon