How and Why I Teach

August 4, 2011 Comments Off on How and Why I Teach

Thirty years ago I finished graduate school and got my dream job.It was a university faculty position, well paid, a month of vacation every year, every benefit imaginable, an expense account and a huge bureaucracy above, below and all around me.
If I’d kept that job, I could be retired now, on a full federal pension.Problem is, I hated that job. If I’d kept it I’d be sick and bitter. I might not have lived long enough to collect the great pension.
I quit that job to become a piano teacher. I apprenticed to my own teacher, the master teacher Don Lehmann, student of  Alexander Raab, part of a lineage that reaches back to Beethoven in only 3 generations. From him I learned the art and craft of teaching.
I have never regretted changing careers. Not even once. Oh, sure, I have fretted about my income.  I get annoyed by the scheduling headaches. But regret teaching the piano? Never! If I were rich, I would teach for free.

Thirty years later, I am working harder than ever. Every student is a fascinating new challenge. Each of us learns so differently! Whether I am teaching the nuts and bolts of music reading or the joys of making a finished performance, every student is a bit different. I have yet to get bored.

Often piano teachers just fire students who aren’t perfect. Not only is this repellant, but it deprives the world of unique musical voices. I have learned how to teach people of all sorts, regardless of age, prior experiences, learning disabilities, coördination problems, reading problems, ADHD-whatever.

New research is coming out every week on how we learn  and remember and what motivates us to excel. I’ve been incorporating many of these findings into my lessons to make them lively and motivating. I use games and activities, many of my invention, to wake up my students’ brains and make things stick.  I teach all kinds of music,  especially after the first levels. There is so much music available, there is never a need to play something you hate.

Here are my goals for all my students: To acquire durable piano skills. To learn and practice collaborative problem-solving skills. To find their own meaning in music-making.  To have a lifetime enthusiasm for music and music study, for themselves and  their  children and grandchildren. To have fun and make real music at every lesson.

If you are looking for a traditional teacher whose main tools are guilt and star charts, I’m not the one for you. But if you or your kids want  a teacher who will work tirelessly with you to find your place in the kingdom of music, check me out. Email me: or call (503)246-7944

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