Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?
A. Choose a teacher who pays attention to what your kid says and wants. There shouldn't be an assembly line, with every student doing the same material. Look for a dynamic teacher who engages with the student.
Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?
A. Over the years, I've gained a reputation as a teacher who goes the extra mile to work with students who have difficulties with their music studies for whatever reason. I don't cut off the lesson right in the middle of a teaching point, but will continue until the point has been covered. I am constantly providing specialized arrangements for my students, music that is not published, or is only published at an inappropriate level for the student requesting it. I try to teach students how to practice, and tell them that my goal is to help them improve their skills to the point that they don't need my help anymore.
Q. What do you like most about your job?
A. I tell people my job is making kids smile. However, it's just as likely that they'll make me smile.
Q. What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A. Customers ask: do you teach any other instruments? Although I play the flute and can play a few other instruments a little, I really only teach trumpet and piano. There is a lot of knowledge involved in teaching beginners, both in terms of the techniques needed to get students started right and also the appropriate repertoire for each level. I have twenty-six years of experience teaching trumpet (and learned something every minute of that time) and eleven years teaching piano, for which I also studied at the Suzuki Piano Institute of Cleveland. I am constantly asking my colleagues for advice and read books and articles about learning so that I can really excel at teaching both trumpet and piano. I just don't feel I can teach at that level for any other instrument.
Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?
A. It was a natural progression from performing to sharing my knowledge with others. When I began teaching, students found me, rather than me seeking them out. I had really great instructors and of course I wanted to share what they had taught me.
Q. Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest developments in your field?
A. I am constantly reviewing new repertoire for both piano and trumpet. I often evaluate published pieces and do my own arrangements at several levels that are appropriate for my students. It is essential to pique each student's interest by finding what excites them about music.
I also read many blogs devoted to piano teaching or the trumpet to see what cool ideas my colleagues have come up with. I also have a network of friends who I can depend on for advice with persistent issues. Any teacher who is unwilling to ask other teachers for advice should never be allowed to teach.
Q. What are the latest developments in your field? Are there any exciting things coming in the next few years or decade that will change your line of business?
A. iPads are the new wave in piano teaching. Right now I'm trying to cull apps to find ones that are very effective without taking too much valuable lesson time. It's a huge help to have free metronome apps (such as Steinway Metronome) on the app store. I tell kids to get their iPad or other device, we download it for free right then and there, and start working with it. There are apps that monitor practicing, play along with you, change the speed of recordings on the fly, etc.
I predict that the way we interact with written music is going to change dramatically over the next 20 years. All written music is going to be on a device instead of on paper. Things like repeats, D.C.'s, and page turns are just going to disappear. Written music was designed to be an economical use of space on an extremely expensive medium (paper) that was highly labor-intensive to produce (hand-written); none of those facts apply now, and paper music is going the way of the harpsichord.
Q. Write your own question and answer it.
A. Why should I hire a trumpet player to teach piano?
I began teaching piano at a music school I was affiliated with as a trumpet teacher. They had a need for a teacher for very young students, and I had been interested in the Suzuki method.
I have played classical piano since I was five, and studied jazz piano as an adjunct to my trumpet playing. In addition, I had taught a few piano students who were my neighbors. So I agreed to do the Suzuki training and try a few students.
Frankly, it was an experiment for the school and for me. I quickly saw that Suzuki was a burden for working moms, and yet traditional piano wasn't appropriate either, especially for the four- and five-year-olds that started taking lessons through the school. So I had to develop my own method. And I discovered that I really liked teaching young kids. Most of my trumpet students don't start until age 9 or 10, but the majority of my piano students were 4 or 5, and I found teaching them to be delightful and rewarding. I have a lot of patience and empathy, and I truly like little kids (and dogs and cats).
One of those four-year-olds is now a teenager and tearing it up--he always had an interest in pop music and we'll probably be hearing him on the radio (Sirius? Pandora?)
Give me a chance with a free lesson for your beginner or early intermediate student, and see if my teaching style is right for your child.