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OT: Piano lessons for a 6yo boy

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    OT: Piano lessons for a 6yo boy

    Back story....I started my son with piano lessons back in April right around his 6th birthday. My older son takes violin and the accompanist was excellent, one of her students played as he was also a violinist with our teacher, but she didn’t teach beginners. The lady (20 something I would guess) taught st the music store near us and had one opening. At our last lesson she announced that she was too busy with other commitments that she was no longer going to be teaching on Mondays and that it was our last lesson and she was full on other days. The store would not allow her to let us know until that day. A replacement teacher came in part way through the lesson to observe, but there was no real introduction. To say I was furious would be an understatement. My son held it together during his lesson, but was crying in the parking lot. He was very sad that his teacher left him. We are not returning to anyone from that store. Last week I started searching the music teacher association for potential teachers and I have heard back from a few of them.

    What I need...I think that my son could do well at piano so I want a good teacher, but selecting teachers sort of freaks me out. From those of you who have had kids progress well in piano, do you have advice for questions to ask at the interview? The three that have contacted me all have masters degrees, two in pedagogy and one in performance. The one with a performance degree appears to have been teaching for 40 years so he isn’t young. His website shows he only has 30 or 45 min lessons for K-8 students while the other two want to start with 45 minutes. Any thoughts? I really intend to be serious about piano and consider it part of his school day. He has a good attention span, but 45 minutes seems long to me. Any words to the wise would be greatly appreciated.
    Dorinda

    For 2019-2020
    DD 16 - 11th with MPOA(AP Latin), Lukeion (Greek4 & Adv. NT Greek), Thinkwell (Economics and Chemistry), plus Pre-Calculus, American G’ment, Early Church History set, and British Lit
    DS 14 - 8th with MPOA(Fourth Form), CLRC(Intro Lit and Comp), plus Algebra, Field Biology, Classical Studies 1
    DS 11 - 6th with Right Start Level G online class
    DS 6 - 1st with Prima Latina

    #2
    Hi Dorinda!

    We have a little bit of experience with this but not with someone as little as your son. Ours was 14 when he had his first teacher.

    Couple things we have learned though. Having proper technique as early as possible is invaluable. Amazingly, our son did okay teaching himself after two years of my getting him started. His first teacher (a third year doctoral student at a university with a great music program) had to fix a few things, but it wasn’t terrible. As long as you are doing what you are doing and going through the teachers in the national association you should find someone who can focus on good technique.

    Having your son feel like he likes the teacher is a good thing, but at the same time it’s not a deal breaker. What is more important is that you and the teacher are on the same page about your goals for your son. Prior to selecting our first teacher, we met with a different one who was a full professor at a much larger university. Our boy went through two lessons with her and we realized it was not going to be a good fit. Her mindset was to push push push, and lecture, lecture, lecture throughout the lesson. That turned my son off immediately. Also, she was a very petite person with tiny hands - so she could not even play the things my 6’ son wanted to play. We kept looking and found the one I mentioned above and he was excellent. Totally different approach. He spent the first couple weeks figuring my son out, and then tailored his approach to him. Worked wonders.

    Then we moved after a year and started again. But we have a college here with an excellent conservatory so we were able to find a teacher pretty easily. She is amazing, and has a doctorate from Jacob’s in Indiana. Again, very laid back, no pressure, but she has the ability to do whatever level of progress your child wants to do. My son has not yet decided if music is the route he wants to hit for college, but she could get him there if he wanted it (her words). But she is also teaching our next two children who were closer to a beginner level and she is wonderful with them, too.

    From our experience I would say that you don’t need more than a half hour because kids hands and arms are young. They need time to develop just like a ballerina’s. Push too hard too fast (or have a youngster with a surprising talent who plays things before he’s ready for them) and you can end up with painful muscle injuries that take time and OT to heal - or worse, with a promising young pianist who ends up not being able to play at all (horror story shared by our first teacher). Our kids practice half hour to 45 minutes and only go over that if they are working on figuring something out - but that’s not forced, it’s out of stubbornness!

    Also, we were told by the first person we talked to that to the competition side of things was a necessary part of pursuing music to a collegiate level, and that by 14 we had already gotten way behind. Yet when we arrived here, with a teacher who is part of an even better-known college program, she said that’s hogwash. It’s totally up to the student and his or her repertoire. I know you are a long way from those types of decisions, but it might help in conversations with prospective teachers. Ask questions and then gauge their responses. Then decide if their answers mesh with you desires for what you want to get out of the lessons for your son.

    HTHs!
    AMDG,
    Sarah
    2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
    DD, 19, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
    DS, 16
    DD, 14
    DD, 12
    DD, 10
    DD, 8
    DD, 6
    +DS+
    DS, 2

    Comment


      #3
      I'll echo what Sarah said, and add that with a younger student, a personality match matters a bit more.

      We drive almost an hour for a teacher, although we tried to avoid that for a while. I feel like we sort of lost a couple of years trying to stay local. We are also seeing a teacher affiliated with university program. Driving has the benefit that she's been able to pick up a semester of voice lessons, too, because it's an organization with 900 music students and lots of teachers.

      Seven-eight years into piano, dd had to master her scales and cords because no one made her do that before. It has really brought her playing to the next level. My dd will never compete, but wants to be able to do music as a side job.
      Bean. Long time MP user.

      DD- 9th grade aerospace enthusiast. Using a mix of dual credit, online and classical materials for 2019-2020.

      Comment


        #4
        Hi! I have a degrees in music education and performance and both my sons have taken piano for a long time. I think 45 minutes for a 6 year old boy is too long. Thirty minutes is typical for that age and I just can't understand why the teachers would want longer than that for a beginner. That's something I would ask. You can also ask about recitals, payment policies, summer schedules, whether or not they teach theory (which they should). Finding a teacher who is tough, yet caring, and makes lessons enjoyable is something I've always looked for in teachers. I would also ask how they handle fidgety boys. My oldest stopped taking lessons in the spring because he would rather focus on trumpet, but his wonderful teacher had him playing a variety of styles to keep him interested as long as possible. It's a rare kid who only wants to learn to play classical music. I hope this helps a little.
        DS, 13, 8th grade
        DS, 10, 5th grade

        Comment


          #5
          Has anyone tried any online piano programs? I saw one with Harry Connick Jr at Playground Sensations. I'm not saying to avoid a face to face teacher at all because I believe a quality teacher is ideal with music. I'm just throwing an "in the interim" time idea out. It could be something kind of fun and off the beaten path and distract your little guy a bit from the heartache of moving on from one teacher to the next and put him back in the mindset of the fun of the instrument and all it can do.

          Good luck Mama.
          Melissa

          DS (MP3) - 9
          DS (MP2) - 7/8
          DS (K) - 6
          DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2

          Comment


            #6
            Thank you all so much for your insights! I am not good at multi-quotes and I haven’t had much coffee yet so I am not going to try..

            Sarah, I had a similar experience when we were looking for a new teacher for my daughter. She indicated my daughter was too far behind where her other middle school students were playing and didn’t really want to deal with us. My daughter doesn’t want music as a profession, but it is nice to know tiger mom isn’t the only route there.

            Bean, I hadn’t really thought about driving to a university program, but that does open up more options in the future. He is the baby so by the time he gets close to high school I won’t have as many schedules to balance (hopefully!).

            Sugarbelle, I appreciate the professional opinion that a half hour is enough. 45 minutes seemed to long, yet some of the “better” teachers start kids out with an hour. Maybe they can get more money out of fewer families, not sure, maybe it just makes their scheduling easier.

            Melissa, I have never tried online piano, but I have heard some people here use Hoffman Academy. Knowing myself, I think it would quickly fall by the wayside, but I could see it being a great option if you didn’t have a good selection of teachers close by.

            I had three interviews set up, but my little guy liked the first one and declared we should keep him. It is an older man, 80 if he’s a day, very sweet and patient. He has a PhD in piano performance from Indiana, but said he leaves the performance to the youngsters these days. He doesn’t use a theory workbook at this age, but says he works it into the lesson. His goal with the little ones is to have them love piano and play a lot of music. He gets more formal with the theory around third grade. He has four recitals a year to give them experience performing. He also teaches 30 minute lessons through 8th grade and gives 45 minute or hour lessons to high school students or adult students. He seemed a bit startled by the concept of homeschooling, and seemed surprised but pleased that there was a huge homeschool music program that met just down the street. I doubt with his age this will be my son’s forever teacher, but I don’t think it will be “I’m too busy” that stops him from teaching. Bonus was he could take my son while two of my other kids were at that homeschool choir program a mile away -yea for consolidation!
            Dorinda

            For 2019-2020
            DD 16 - 11th with MPOA(AP Latin), Lukeion (Greek4 & Adv. NT Greek), Thinkwell (Economics and Chemistry), plus Pre-Calculus, American G’ment, Early Church History set, and British Lit
            DS 14 - 8th with MPOA(Fourth Form), CLRC(Intro Lit and Comp), plus Algebra, Field Biology, Classical Studies 1
            DS 11 - 6th with Right Start Level G online class
            DS 6 - 1st with Prima Latina

            Comment


              #7
              That sounds perfect, Dorinda!

              AMDG,
              Sarah
              2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
              DD, 19, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
              DS, 16
              DD, 14
              DD, 12
              DD, 10
              DD, 8
              DD, 6
              +DS+
              DS, 2

              Comment


                #8
                Excellent! I'm so glad you've found a good first teacher.
                Bean. Long time MP user.

                DD- 9th grade aerospace enthusiast. Using a mix of dual credit, online and classical materials for 2019-2020.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Sounds like a great fit, Dorinda. And a PhD from Indiana isn't too shabby!
                  DS, 13, 8th grade
                  DS, 10, 5th grade

                  Comment

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