What is your typical process for working with a new student?
Lessons begin with an assessment of skills, learning style, musical goals, life stage, and time availability for study. A curriculum is then devised to meet students goals within the available time for study, within the time frame determined necessary to achieve said goals. Special consideration is made to accommodate the specific learning style of the individual student, whether they are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners, intuitive or rational, ear-based or reading-based learners.
After the beginner stage a student will need to choose a path suitable to their learning style and goals. They can either pursue a classical education, or one that is improvisation based and settling on a genre of study. This course of study will chart the path toward their advanced studies.
Typical time frames for the various levels are:
• Beginner to Intermediate: childhood 5 years; adult 2-3 year
• Intermediate to Advanced: pre-teen/teen 3 years; adult 1-2 years
• Jazz curriculum including theory 2-3 years
• Composition/Arranging/Applied Theory 1-2 years
• Bebop and advanced improvisation 2-10 years
How did you get started teaching?
I started teaching beginner lessons at 16 years old traveling all over the Twin Cities metro. At that point I had been playing piano for 12 years. I continued at that level of teaching all the way through my undergraduate years, where upon graduating I was recruited to teach improvisation and synthesizer methods at North Central University, my Alma Mater. I will be starting my 18th school year at NCU this fall.
I went on to get my Master's Degree in 2012, which greatly revolutionized my teaching having learned about how to develop curriculum based on different learning styles of students, with considerations in psychology, sociology, and coaching techniques. My graduate specialty was curriculum design.
What types of students have you worked with?
The youngest I have ever taught was a 3 year old, although my preferred start age is 7 years old. My eldest student is in her early 60's. They range in abilities from fresh beginner, to the hobbist musician, to the undergraduate music major, to the graduate level ethnomusicology student, all the way to 30-year touring professional musicians.
What advice would you give a new student?
Come ready to work. It will be a blast. You WILL learn to play the piano. Make the life changes necessary to carve out the practice time you need to meet your goals. Learning to play an instrument is a lifelong endeavor with lifelong rewards. This is not a quick fix kind of thing. It will take YEARS, not months. Here are the practice guidelines:
Beginner: 2.5-5 hrs/week
Intermediate: 2.5-10 hrs/week
Advanced: 1-5 hrs/day
What questions should student think through before talking to teachers about their needs?
Ask yourself why you are interested in playing an instrument? What or who was inspired you in this decision? Who do you want to play like? What style of music do you want to make on your instrument? What kinds of things do you want to ACHIEVE musically?
Go search on YouTube and find your answers. Hold on to these initial finds, as gaining these insights into what INSPIRES you will be really important as the days turn into weeks, weeks into months. Students flame out without inspiration, goals, and dreams.
Do you require a lesson contract?
Yes. All students sign a contract for either the school year commitment or by semester: Fall (September to December) and Spring (January through May). Summer terms are optional for all students and contracted separately from the rest of the school year.
What do you enjoy about the work you do?
My proudest moments as a teacher/mentor/professor are to see a musician achieve their dreams and goals. When dreams and passions are met with a work ethic, drive, and determination amazing things can be achieved in an amazingly short time.
Examples of goals:
– A beginner student having no previous experience to graduate the beginner level courses and performing their first full sonatina in front of an audience within 2 years.
– An intermediate classical student who has never improvised learns a song off the radio by ear.
– A beginning improviser joins a jazz combo for the first time.
– A music major writes their first original arrangement.
– A music major wins their first award at a jazz festival.
– A touring musician discovers the joys of learning how the music he has been making all his life actually works.