I teach piano performance. Whether teaching young children, advanced students, or adults, it is my goal to develop the skills necessary to reach a high level of musical achievement—a level at which I believe my students will be most capable of experiencing the joy and power that music offers. Some of the skills required are of obvious importance to music, such as sight-reading, technique, a discerning ear and interpretation. These are the areas of emphasis for advanced students. However, other skills are required too (as advanced students already know!) such as patience, perseverance, discipline, courage, commitment, and focus. These “life skills" are just as important and indispensable as the musical skills and, for young students, are essential to their growth amidst the challenges of life, just as they are key to a musician's growth amidst the challenges of music. Through the acquisition of these two sets of skills a young musician can grow and bloom into a mature, highly accomplished, and multi-faceted artist, who can truly feel and experience the awesome joy and riveting power of music at the deepest and most rewarding level.

Even for my very youngest students my priorities are guided by the goal of developing the most satisfying level of musicianship possible by the time the youngster becomes a teenager and starts making his/her own decisions about the future. However, every student comes to me with unique needs and talents. In order to address these needs and maximize his or her potential, I always maintain a flexible teaching style and tailor my teaching to each particular child. This is vital to ensuring their musical and personal growth.

Although my teaching is highly individualized, and my specific approach can differ greatly from one student to the next, some fundamentals remain paramount. For example, I teach all beginning students the basics of appropriate musical phrasing as soon as they are able to play simple pieces. At the same time I stress the ability to sing the phrases, as this helps the student to transcend the essentially percussive nature of the piano and create the illusion of fluid musical lines. The more advanced aspects of musical interpretation are introduced as the student becomes ready. However, even more fundamental than these, and underlying all ability to engage in true musical expression, is the development of a solid technical foundation. Indeed, the development of strong technical fundamentals is my top priority for young students because this is when the muscles can be most effectively trained.

The importance of a strong technique cannot be overemphasized. On several occasions, accomplished adult students have come to me wishing to work on musical interpretation. Almost immediately they learn that it is inadequate technique, rather than deficient musical understanding, that is holding back their ability to project the emotions they feel. It is my goal to prepare my students, even from the youngest age, for a lifetime of fulfilling artistic expression.

Of course, learning piano is hard work and, for children, practicing may not always be “fun"—but the results must always feel rewarding. Therefore, I strive to guide my young students toward taking pride in accomplishment. Only with this outlook will the student ever reach the level of achievement necessary to express him/herself satisfyingly at the piano. Thus, both rapid progress and a healthy interest must be maintained and, indeed, they are linked. If I don’t push the young student hard enough, progress will not be satisfying and the student will lose interest when s/he gets older. If I push too hard, the student will burn out, and s/he will lose interest because the enjoyment is gone. This is a delicate balance but, fortunately, even young children can learn to value the joy of accomplishment, as distinguished from simple “fun", and thereby be motivated to make rapid progress. Of course, for very young children, the incorporation of numerous “fun" elements into the lesson is important in order to make the lesson an experience to look forward to.

It is my strong belief that, from the standpoint of the student, the cornerstone to making rapid progress is consistent, high quality practicing. Practicing must become an automatic part of the daily schedule. Young students rarely “enjoy" practicing the same way as they enjoy playtime activities. However, they respond well if piano practice is required of them in the same spirit as homework from school. I work hard with parents to develop motivating strategies for practice at home. First and foremost among these is parental interest. Parental interest is essential to the development of an enthusiastic child. The child will not perceive the piano as important enough to work on if the parents adopt a laissez faire approach to practicing at home. For this reason alone, it is important for parents to practice with their young children (10 yrs of age and younger). Of equal importance, however, is the fact that young children absolutely require guidance during home practice for any significant progress to be made. Parent-teacher collaboration is critical to a successful learning experience for the young child. I urge parents to participate fully in the lessons so that I can provide them with detailed, step-by-step, guidance for the practice at home.

Thus, for my young students, I envision parent, teacher and child working together as a team to provide a structured learning environment in which the child learns to love the piano, but also learns the discipline required to master it. A young child, who shows interest and aptitude, does not understand that hard work now will give way to a lifetime of pleasure later. It is the responsibility of the teacher and the parents to help the talented child achieve the skills needed to realize the transformative power of music.