get to know your teacher!

MTNA Questions.

The MTNA website recommends asking the following questions when looking for a music teacher. I have put together some replies to these questions. If you have any additional questions or would like any further information please use the online contact page.

contact the legends piano studioPiano student taking a lesson
What is your professional and educational experience in music?

My experience is outlined on a separate page of this website. Please click here to view this page.

How do you participate in ongoing professional development?

Professional development is very important to me. As a rule I have always tried to invest at least 10% of my time, energy and finances to professional development throughout my career. As a teacher in England a significant amount of my time was spent attending professional development courses. I continue my study personally on an ongoing basis. Books I have read within the past 12 months include, "Creative Piano Teaching", "The Professional Studio Teachers Handbook", "Raising an Amazing Musician" and "This is Your Brain on Music".  

Do you have a written studio policy? Will you review it with me?

My studio policy is available online. Click here to review the policy. A downloadable copy is also available for you to print and review. I am happy to review this policy with you and may occasionally make changes to the policy based on parent feedback, however, I do believe that a healthy music teaching studio does not bend the terms of the policies on an individual basis for selected parents or students.

What instructional materials do you use?

The materials I use are described in detail on my website here.

What kinds of music do you teach?

I consider myself to be quite unique in the broad range of styles I am able to teach. My own training was purely Classical for the first 10 years of lessons. I studied Jazz, Improvisation and Arranging at Music College and have professional experience playing all types of music. Lessons may be individually tailored to suit the musical style preferred by the student once the musical fundamentals are in place. I have always considered my main strength as a musician to be my musical versatility and this was the primary reason I was selected by Holland America Cruise Lines to be the pianist for their most prestigious contract - the "Grand World Voyage". My main strength as a teacher, by the way, is that fact that I have a natural ability to evaluate a students work and I instinctively know which areas of musicianship need to be worked on in order to give the student a well rounded musical education. When I work with a student I consider that I am helping a musician grow, not just helping someone to play "more difficult" notes on the piano.

Do you offer group lessons?

I am a very experienced group teacher of both piano and keyboard. A major part of my work as a piano teacher in England was working as a "peripatetic" piano teacher. This term is not often used in the USA. A peripatetic music teacher is a teacher that travels round to several different schools during the week in order to teach individual and group piano lessons. During this work I taught many groups of between 2 and 6 students in a school based setting. I developed courses and curriculum for students to follow. Much of this work was completed for a Surrey County Arts which is a Music Organization that is responsible for teaching 1000s of students instrumental music lessons at school every week. Click here to view an open reference on my website from Alita Mills who was the Head of the County Music Service demonstrating the excellent results I achieved during this time. I do not currently organize group lessons however if any parent is interested in group lessons I would be happy to discuss this.

Do you offer other performance opportunities for your students, such as festivals and competitions?

I do not currently enter students for competitions as I believe that this experience has very mixed results with students and some students do not react in a positive way to this experience. A much better use of the time would be to prepare for a piano exam which I believe is much more beneficial to everyone involved. However, I am delighted to assist in preparing any student for any type of public performance that they express an interest in attending.  

Are you nationally certified by MTNA?

I am from England. The UK equivalent of the MTNA in England is the ISM (www.ism.org). I was certified as a registered professional piano teacher by the ISM in 1991.  

Do you require students to perform in studio recitals during the year?

No student is required to perform in studio recitals however this is encouraged.

Do you use technology in your studio, such as computers, music instruction software, digital keyboards?

Yes, very much so. I consider myself to be a leader in the use of technology to support musical growth. Computer lab activities are correlated on a page by page basis to the music students are studying in their normal course of study. I was one of the first teachers to embrace technology when it first became available in the early 1990s. I was the first to use midi accompaniments to aid in musical learning and performance and one of the first to make use of aural and theory software. I have watched the development of this technology very closely over the years and continue to offer students the best advice possible regarding the best way to use technology to support their course of study. My own daughter, Emma, who is now 5 years old regularly enjoys creating her own musical compositions using Sibelius Groovy Shapes software. This software teaches the building blocks of musical compositions and introduces students in a fun way to essential musical concepts. The student is then able to take what they have learned and create their own composition in the form of a "Graphic Score". I have been very impressed with the results I have seen with all my students that have learned the basics of composition using this software and this approach is ideal for encouraging musical creativity at a very young age. As a student at Music College in the late 1980s I was awarded the College "Music Technology" award for my pioneering and innovative use of computers in music.

What is your teaching experience?  What age groups do you teach?

I have nearly 25 years piano teaching experience teaching piano lessons for beginners and advanced students. Piano styles taught in private piano lessons include Classical piano, Jazz piano, Popular Music, Music Theory, Harmony and Jazz Harmony. Piano lessons for children consist of a fun and friendly traditional approach to classical piano lessons and encourages composition, arranging and improvisation for more advanced students. Jazz piano lessons and popular music may also be studied. As a piano teacher I have taught all age groups from 4 to 84! As a school teacher I worked primarily in two schools. At my first school I taught students age 11 to 18. As a Head of Music in a private prep school in England I later taught students age 6 to 13.

Do you regularly evaluate student progress?

All students progress is monitored and recorded. I am available to discuss progress as often as necessary. Students progress is related to ABRSM standards which are an internationally recognized way to measure students progress and achievement. I am an experienced ABRSM teacher and have entered students for Piano and Theory examination at all levels up to the highest grade offered by the ABRSM. Students may enter musical examinations to demonstrate the progress they have made if they would like to do so. Please contact me for further details. Further information about the ABRSM can be found at www.abrsm.org. As I peripatetic piano teacher in the UK I prepared 3 reports per year to parents outlining in detail the students progress. As a private teacher of piano I find these reports unnecessary as every effort is made to ensure parents are always as fully involved in their child's progress as possible. If there are any aspects of the work we are doing that would benefit from parental help or support I immediately let them know.  

What other elements are part of your teaching curriculum?

As a teacher with a wide and varied experience of developing and delivering a wide range of musical curriculum including, piano, keyboard, theory, school music at all age levels from 6 to 18, including academic work, involvement in school music and drama productions, composition and group music lessons I believe I have a very thorough knowledge of all the aspects that come together to make a great musician. I draw on this experience in every lesson to help guide every student along their own unique path of learning that ultimately leads to them feeling a great sense of reward and achievement. My efforts over the years have earned me the gratitude and respect of many hundreds of parents, teachers and students. This is my reward. I am often very touched by the comments I receive from parents, many of whom express regular gratitude for having "found me" and appreciation for my efforts which they recognize often go way beyond their expectations of a music teacher.  

How much practice time do you require each day?

I do not "require" a set amount of practice but I do "recommend" certain minimum levels of practice depending on the students age and experience. As a rough guide I recommend practicing 7 days per week as much as possible. Each practice session would be between 10 and 15 minutes for a beginner. For every year studied add another 10 minutes of practice time per day. So for example a student who has studied the piano for 3 years would be recommended to practice for 15 minutes plus another 20 minutes which would be 35 minutes per day. A student who has studied the piano for 6 years would be recommended to practice for 15 minutes plus 50 minutes making 65 minutes of practice per day, etc. These times are given as a guide to what I believe an average student would need to do in order to make the most of their potential, however, a very motivated student will often want to do much more than this. 

What do you expect of your students? Their parents?

My expectations regarding the framework in which lessons are conducted are outlined in the Policies and Procedures section of this website. Click here to see the current Policies and Procedures. I believe that one of the main characteristics that separate a "good" piano teacher from a "great" piano teacher is the ability to set appropriate expectations for every student individually. My goal is to help and support all my students enjoy their musical journey regardless of their ability or the available time they have to practice. I will work with every student and parent individually to establish appropriate levels of expectations in lessons on an ongoing basis. Beginner students wishing to play mainly for fun will naturally benefit from different levels of expectation from those more serious students wishing to secure a place at a top music school and expectations are adjusted accordingly. I pride myself on achieving appropriate levels of expectation from all my students by working very closely with parents and students on a weekly basis to make sure everyone is happy with the level of progress being made and to make sure that we are all aware of the many factors that may affect this. No student will ever be given more work to complete than they can comfortably achieve in a week given their available time commitment to practice and no student will ever feel that they do not have a sufficient level of challenge in their lessons. No student should ever feel worried because they have not had chance to do as much practice as they would like and no student will ever feel that they do not have enough to do. Weekly assignments are designed in a flexible way so that students have the option and the opportunity to "go the extra mile" if they choose to do so. My main expectation of students is that we have fun and enjoy learning together. Good behavior from the students helps us keep lessons relaxed and friendly! The pupil teacher relationship is one that I work very hard to cultivate. One of the main ways I judge my success as a piano teacher is how long my students stay with me and I am delighted that I have had many, many students who I have been fortunate enough to work with for 10 or more years. My main expectation of parents is that we please follow the policies and procedures which have been designed with a true sense of fairness to all parties involved and are based on established best practice for music teaching professionals. These policies and procedures help ensure I can continue to give my best efforts to all my students and that I will, indeed, be around next year to continue working with you. Please contact me if you have any questions. I am always delighted to assist in any way.

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