METHODOLOGY

We must never be afraid to go too far, for success lies just beyond.
-Marcel Proust

The study of music, especially jazz, requires active participation. Most, if not all, musicians pursuing the serious study of jazz, make a conscience decision to devote regular time, study, and energy towards their goals. Successful musicians make a concerted effort to continually challenge themselves on a regular basis, through practicing, learning and performing.

The trick to learning jazz is not so much learning how to play, but learning how to listen. Jazz is a language, and just like learning a spoken language, jazz has its own unique system of communication. Musicians working together use this language to communicate with each other while they’re playing. When learning a spoken language, one studies words and sentences, but its only through listening and participation in conversation that one learns the essence and subtleties of dialog. Jazz is the same way; consistent and acute listening increases understanding and fluency. A systematic practice routine carried out regularly allow students to enjoy pursuing jazz, the result of which is richly rewarded.

I direct students to listen to as much jazz as they can. Not just pianists, but other instruments as well. Almost the entire jazz repertoire is available on YouTube, iTunes, Google Music, and other music streaming services.  A selection of jazz CDs may be available at the public library. Many scores are available through a Google search, and those that aren’t can be ordered on Amazon. This lowers the access bar and eliminates a frustration musicians traditionally had to deal with.

Since these are key element to musical success, I teach tried-and-true routines that have been used by professional musicians for many years. This allows a student to maximize their time, work smartly and achieve goals on a regular basis.

PRACTICING

“Miss one day of practice, I notice; miss two, the critics notice; miss three, the audience notices.”  – Ignacy Jan Paderewski

In order to consistently progress, all students must adhere to a regular regimen of practicing. A little practice each day is better than trying to cram a week’s worth of practicing an hour before the lesson. This concept cannot be stressed enough. Daily practice reinforces technique, skills, memory, song acquisition and performance. Brains and muscles commit repetitive actions deep into memory, and this regular, daily skill is key to success in learning piano, especially jazz. Besides, students should exhibit self-interest and responsibility/direction to take on an endeavor like music training.

Part of the great thing about taking music lessons is adding structure to learning. I cannot suggest a more important learning tool as constructive practice. For a professional musician, practicing never stops. A pitcher practices their whole life to get into the major leagues. What do they do before they walk onto the field? They’re warming up. That’s practicing. If it’s not a game day, they’re still on the field, practicing…right next to the batters hitting ball after ball. Ice skaters show up at the rink at 5 am every day to perfect their skill and routine. An actor repeats their lines again and again, every day, to engrain their script so they can perfect their delivery. These are the telltale activities of a serious practitioner of their craft.

Practicing doesn’t just perfect and hone skills. Practicing diligently reveals fresh perspectives and ideas that convey through knowledge and performance.

“Time to practice” shouldn’t evoke eye rolling; it should be seen as the next opportunity to better ones self through structure and routine. This is one of the reasons why music improves academics. Sure, you learn a lot more information, but you learn to work smart, study smart, and perform (or test) smart. You also learn the most important skill of all, called “guts”. Guts gives the extra push you need when you don’t have it. Guts teaches persistence, diligence, and stick-to-it-ness. Guts makes you practice the hard stuff, not the stuff you already know. Guts makes you practice on the days you don’t want to. Who can’t use a little more guts in their lives? There’s nothing more satisfying and exhilarating than getting past the obstacles and pushing through.

One person who knows about music education, especially jazz, is Jamey Abersold. He was, and still is, at the forefront of music methodologies. His play-along jazz recordings that premiered over 50 years ago, have taught a multitude of musicians, many successful, professional, working musicians. I met Jamey several years ago at a teachers’ workshop and  you can’t find a more dedicated devotee and teacher of the craft. He learned first-hand from the world’s greatest jazz musicians how to learn and how to practice.

Jamey said this about saxophonist Charlie Parker:

“(Charlie) is an excellent example of someone who seemingly, in jazz, has made it to the top but can still lean over and help the beginner and give encouragement when all else seems to fail. I would like to think one of the finest things jazz education can offer is the dissemination of valuable information to each corner of the musical world without any thought of return…” Parker’s contribution to the lexicon of jazz has done just that.

LESSON SCHEDULE, STRUCTURE, AND POLICIES

I offer instruction in piano and music theory in a dedicated teaching studio/recording space in my home, or via Skype. Ensemble instruction and participation is with either a digital or live rhythm section (bass and drums).

Lessons take place on a weekly basis, and last one hour for adults and children above the age of 12 (middle school). Children younger than 12 will be evaluated to ensure successful instruction and musical experience.

Lesson are scheduled around specific, regular times. It’s my endeavor to accommodate piano lessons at a variety of times during the day or evening, or during the weekend.

Lessons are paid for in month-to-month commitments, and are paid 30 days in advance to guarantee a regularly scheduled time slot. Monthly scheduled lessons can be cancelled with 30 days notice (from the beginning of the month). Payments for piano lessons are made online by debit/credit card, and I send invoices by e-mail once per calendar month. Fees for lessons cancelled with suitable notice are credited to your next invoice, or refunded to you.

If something comes up, or if you are ill and cannot attend your piano lesson as planned, let me know at least 24 hours before your piano lesson, and we can reschedule your piano lesson to a different day and time that same week, or make up the missed piano lesson by doing a few longer piano lessons in subsequent weeks.

There are, on occasion, incidences where students must cancel at the last minute. I recognize that these cancellations are often due to circumstances beyond their control, but to be fair to my time I am unable to make up piano lessons cancelled without suitable notice.

Your very first payment is for one piano lesson only. All new piano students start off with one trial piano lesson, to meet their piano teacher and get a sense of their piano teacher’s personality and approach to piano lessons before deciding whether to continue on a regular basis.

Before confirming your trial piano lesson booking, I will ask you to register by submitting some contact details as well as reading and agreeing to our policies on payments, cancellations, and other important details.


PRACTICING AND LISTENING REQUIREMENTS

Modern family life has turned into a full-time job, leaving students and families scrambling to find time to cover all the bases. Music lessons are no different. I want to share a secret here: the best time to practice is right after a piano lesson (same day, that is). This galvanizes the instruction into memory immediately and allows immediate application. It doesn’t have to be a long session per se, but using this procedure can help students progress quicker and greatly advances the acquisition of skills.

Daily practice time is usually devoted several distinct areas of learning:

Ear training (identification of notes, intervals, chords, melody and harmony away from the piano)

Finger exercises (scales, intervals, chords, arpeggios, runs, licks)

Scored musical selections

Improvisational exercises

Improvisation based on lead sheets

Solo performance/ensemble skills

Some of these techniques are: [For those that require it, remedial training in note/key signature/ keyboard orientation will be recommended]

Lesson time will be devoted to:

 

Weekly practice assignments will be assigned based on the current level of weekly instruction. The culmination of lessons and practice is a recital ( a “gig”).

For those that require it, remedial training in note /key signature recognition and keyboard orientation will be recommended.

As part of any professional musicians consistent training, students are assigned specific active listening requirements to enhance their understanding of music and performance. All of these performances will be available. This allows for a path, a logical journey that can be immediately applied.

Live Performance Requirements

All students are required to attend four live musical performances per year. Attending live music gives students a fresh perspective and teaches proper performance protocols and routines.

STUDENT PIANO RECITALS

Student recitals provide opportunities for piano students to perform in a friendly, low-pressure environment, meet other piano students, share ideas and stories, and hear each other play.

Piano students can learn and play a wide variety of styles, from jazz to rock to pop, and at all levels from beginner to advanced. Taking part in the student piano recitals offers the chance to gain inspiration and new ideas for music-making. It’s also a celebration of music and the piano, and the student’s accomplishments.

All students are required to perform in student recitals. If a recital must be missed, a recording project will be considered for fulfillment.

HOW WE BEGIN

Students come from a wide scope of experiences in music (or no experience in music), so part of my job is to match the student’s musical interests. I listen carefully to the needs of my piano students, asking them about their musical interests, previous experience on the piano, aspirations in music, learning style, and practical requirements, in order to carefully match them with their ideal instruction path.

All new piano students start off with one trial piano lesson to get a sense of my approach and for me to get a sense of the students personality in order to meet their specific musical needs.

After their initial piano lesson, if the students feel they have found the right piano teacher for them, they can continue on with regular, weekly piano lessons. Choosing a piano teacher is a delicate matter, and occasionally our students will have several trial piano lessons before settling into a regular piano lesson schedule.