Peoples' choice - What do they want?

Talk with other teachers, exchange tips, participate in polls regarding a teaching studio business

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Aug 01, 2007 10:32 am

Many beginning students, upon entering a studio, come in with specific requests, in addition to simply learning to play piano. Some will want to learn to play a keyboard, perform a specific piece of music, learn by means of a certain method they've heard about, avoid (or participate in) public performance, and a host of others. I thought it might be interesting to talk about the requests beginning students (or their parents) make when they start lessons. What attracts them to lessons and/or your studio. What "turns them off"? Are there any trends in these requests? Which are most common in your studio. Any strange or funny ones?
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Stretto » Thu Aug 02, 2007 1:38 pm

The main request I receive from parents is that they just want piano lessons to be fun so their child will stay interested. The word "fun" and "staying interested" seem to be equated together. While I am a firm believer in trying to make lessons fun, I'm afraid that people might bank too much on the thinking that fun lessons will mean their child will stay interested and if their child loses interest then lessons must not be fun. I'm not sure fun lessons always equal a child staying interested. I try to make lessons fun. (I've had 3 students who told me they thought I should be stricter! All 3 quit because their parents said they "lost interest".) I think students have fun at my lessons and I could have the best lessons in the world in the area of fun, but students still lose interest. I feel it's when students don't practice enough at home (practice isn't always fun), so they aren't pleased with their playing ability and lose interest. I'm not sure "fun" lessons can be equated with motivating students to practice hard. What do others of you think on this?

As far as what attracts people to want to sign up for lesson with me or base their choice on is primarily that they are acquainted with one of my other students who they have heard and are impressed with how well they can play, they would like their child to be able to play as well. I had one student whose best friend takes from another teacher and the friend's mom wondered why her child who has been taking lessons longer isn't playing as well as my student. I'm afraid, however, wrong conclusions can be drawn from this sort of thinking - "that student plays well, so my child will be able to play well with the same teacher". This doesn't necessarily go hand in hand. It is those more "few and far" between students who are very diligent, independent, hard workers that practice regularly without being asked who people tend to equate with "they can play well, so they must have a good teacher". While there is some degree of truth to that, these types of diligent students could practically teach themselves. (I read a statistic once I don't know if true -sorry I forgot the source -that only about 14% of students in music are "independent" workers.) Another student might come expecting to be "that good" but not be as diligent in their practice, whine when parents remind them to practice, or have more activities outside of piano and less time for practice, etc. that leads them to not progress and be able to play as well as that student that impressed them to sign up with me in the beginning. While choice of teacher is important, how well a student can play I feel is more dependent on how hard they are willing to work at it. I'm concerned if parents bank all their expectations on their child being able to play well because "so and so" that takes lessons from me plays really well. It has much more to do with the fact that "so and so" practices like gangbusters.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Aug 03, 2007 8:06 am

One of the common ones here, and, perhaps, elsewhere is an expressed desire to learn to play only "music for church." This seems to include hymns mostly, rather than the huge classical repertoire of sacred music. Some will simply go someplace else if you tell them that they must learn some theory and technique before they take on something like the great Reformation anthem, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Stretto » Fri Aug 03, 2007 3:08 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:One of the common ones here, and, perhaps, elsewhere is an expressed desire to learn to play only "music for church." This seems to include hymns mostly, rather than the huge classical repertoire of sacred music. Some will simply go someplace else if you tell them that they must learn some theory and technique before they take on something like the great Reformation anthem, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).

Do you they mean learning to read hymns straight from a hymnal then I am guessing? Or do they mean improvising or playing from lead sheets like Praise and Worship or both hymns and Praise and Worship. Many of my students ask to learn Praise and Worship. Many of the churches students I've had attend they say have a traditional service and a contemporary service.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Aug 03, 2007 4:34 pm

Stretto wrote:
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:One of the common ones here, and, perhaps, elsewhere is an expressed desire to learn to play only "music for church." This seems to include hymns mostly, rather than the huge classical repertoire of sacred music. Some will simply go someplace else if you tell them that they must learn some theory and technique before they take on something like the great Reformation anthem, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).

Do you they mean learning to read hymns straight from a hymnal then I am guessing? Or do they mean improvising or playing from lead sheets like Praise and Worship or both hymns and Praise and Worship. Many of my students ask to learn Praise and Worship. Many of the churches students I've had attend they say have a traditional service and a contemporary service.

As best I can tell, it's a little of both. One situation is that the church's organist, pianist or choir director leaves the congregation, so somebody with some extra time volunteers to learn so that they can play at services. Each request seems slightly different, but church music is a common theme. Some parents or students want to learn only church music. I'm sure that one could be taught that way, but, offhand, I don't know of any teaching methods that use only sacred music - of any type.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Stretto » Sat Aug 04, 2007 8:16 am

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
Stretto wrote:
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:One of the common ones here, and, perhaps, elsewhere is an expressed desire to learn to play only "music for church." This seems to include hymns mostly, rather than the huge classical repertoire of sacred music. Some will simply go someplace else if you tell them that they must learn some theory and technique before they take on something like the great Reformation anthem, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).

Do you they mean learning to read hymns straight from a hymnal then I am guessing? Or do they mean improvising or playing from lead sheets like Praise and Worship or both hymns and Praise and Worship. Many of my students ask to learn Praise and Worship. Many of the churches students I've had attend they say have a traditional service and a contemporary service.

As best I can tell, it's a little of both. One situation is that the church's organist, pianist or choir director leaves the congregation, so somebody with some extra time volunteers to learn so that they can play at services. Each request seems slightly different, but church music is a common theme. Some parents or students want to learn only church music. I'm sure that one could be taught that way, but, offhand, I don't know of any teaching methods that use only sacred music - of any type.

I think I may have seen a method series by Alfred's of sacred music starting with the primer level or some other method series of church music by level at the music store before. My most recent teacher (was classically trained) worked full time in the music office at our church at played the piano/keyboard at church and coordinated all the pianists/keyboardists for all the services. I asked her about how they select the music for church and how they primarily play the Praise and Worship songs. She said, the Praise and Worship songs for our church are all done using lead sheets/and or improv. but primarily lead sheets. My recommendation if someone wanted to learn church music only would be to find a teacher who plays for a church and make sure they teach the types/styles and specific pieces of church music that you are most interested in learning. For example, if Praise and Worship is mostly done with lead sheets and improv., you would need a teacher that can teach playing from lead sheets and teach improv. as not all teachers do. Whether Praise and Worship, hymns, or other traditional church music, I would try to find a teacher who plays at a church that use the specific pieces and types of music one is most interested in. One of the problems I run into with this is students want to learn Praise and Worship but the selection of songs they sing at their church may be one's I'm not familiar with while the selection of songs I know, the student is not familiar with although a student can bring books or hymnals with those pieces they know or the teacher find those pieces or teach them improv., I would think it easier and better for the student if strictly learning church music was the goal to take lessons from someone who played at a church that did the same music as you want to learn. A teacher like me that knows a ton and variety of church music but has never played for church still wouldn't be as effective in helping one reach their goals.
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Postby Stretto » Sat Aug 04, 2007 8:25 am

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:Many beginning students, upon entering a studio, come in with specific requests, in addition to simply learning to play piano. Some will want to learn to play a keyboard, perform a specific piece of music, learn by means of a certain method they've heard about, avoid (or participate in) public performance, and a host of others. I thought it might be interesting to talk about the requests beginning students (or their parents) make when they start lessons. What attracts them to lessons and/or your studio. What "turns them off"? Are there any trends in these requests? Which are most common in your studio. Any strange or funny ones?

On this I usually have students fill out a questionarre I hand out to take home and return at their first lesson, the last question being, "What would you like to get out of piano or what are your goals, why do you want to learn piano?" (I forgot the exact wording on it off hand). My most recent student (at age 9) wrote to perform and be a professional pianist. I also have places where a student can put a check next to styles they want to learn and a place they can write specific songs they would like to learn.

I think that over time of lessons, a teacher might want to now and then review goals and types of music and specific songs a student wants to learn as these things would change with age and as they continued to learn piano.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:50 am

Stretto wrote:I usually have students fill out a questionaire I hand out to take home and return at their first lesson, the last question being, "What would you like to get out of piano or what are your goals, why do you want to learn piano?" (I forgot the exact wording on it off hand). My most recent student (at age 9) wrote to perform and be a professional pianist. I also have places where a student can put a check next to styles they want to learn and a place they can write specific songs they would like to learn.

I think that over time of lessons, a teacher might want to now and then review goals and types of music and specific songs a student wants to learn as these things would change with age and as they continued to learn piano.

I think these are really good ideas, in that they encourage the student to think about what they really want from lessons and allow them to communicate their interests to the teacher. Do you implement the forms as "multiple choice" or "essay" questions, to use the vernacular. (For those used to teaching or learning in the public schools, no, this will not be on the test!) :D




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu Aug 09, 2007 11:09 am

I have tried a short questionaire, but it is not always helpful. The young ones do not always know what they want and my older ones don't want to fill it out, or as one 12 year old told me last year, when I asked," I know what you want want me to say"!

I talk to them, instead, and find out as we go along and I get to know them better.

At an interview or first lessons, I ask if they have a favorite song. Lately I have heard "Jingle Bells", "Star Wars", "The Entertainer", Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony", Theme from "Titanic", to name a few. Some can play the melody right away, others take more time. If interest keeps up, harmony is added, beginning with chords.
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Postby Stretto » Thu Aug 09, 2007 12:33 pm

I've only taught 7 yrs. old and up so far so maybe parents could fill out a questionarre for the smaller kids like 4 - 6 yr. olds? Also, the smaller one's like just about everything! - that's what so great about that age.

loveapiano, funny, I've had the opposite experience of kids not verbalizing but saying "it doesn't matter", or "I don't know" or "just anything" when asking these questions but fill out likes and goals on paper. Just about every paper that has been filled out so far has been from ages 7 - 9 which is just how it worked out for ages that usually start with me. Maybe you are better at bringing out the answers in communicating than I am! Well, whatever works.

The questionarre I use is fill in the blank and a list that a check can be made by. The only question that is "essay" is the one re: Why would you like to learn piano? I start out with non-music questions so perhaps the student is having fun writing answers about themselves and maybe aren't thinking about it leading into music questions - who knows. Here's how it goes:

First there are blanks to fill in for name, birthday, favorite color, favorite animal, hobbies/activities.

Then these questions with space for each answer: What kind of music do you listen to? What are your favorite songs? Are there any songs you would like to learn sometime?

Then a list of styles of music with blanks next to each one to put a check by entitled "styles of music you like" (check each one that applies): classical, hymns, blues, rock, children's songs, tv themes, praise and worship, jazz, country, folk, disney themes, other.

Then the question: "What would you like to get out of learning piano? (For example, Learn basics?, Be able to perform? Learn just for fun?) - most students write answers out of the examples I gave so maybe a checklist type question for this too would work where they could check next to each item reasons for wanting to learn.

One reason I do the form is I have had trouble getting kids to verbalize what they would like when asked. I have had a student or two turn their noses up at about every piece of music I came up with and didn't seem to like anything. So the questions gives me some ideas to go by. A student right now age 10 wanting to play "all classical" which is fine with me but I am a big advocate of variety so I keep asking her, "would you like to do a Disney song or praise and worship, etc. in addition to your classical piece?" She just says, "it doesn't matter". But when I look back at her list, there is several of these other styles checked. I probably do need to have this student update her list or go over it to see if her tastes have changed.

Also, I think some students might really want to perform but maybe don't want to come out and say. I used to sort of be that way - in a way acting shy about performing, but deep down I really sort of wanted to but wouldn't come out and say for myself, so the question gives a student a chance to write their dreams or goals perhaps where they would feel funny verbalizing them. Also, if someone wrote they wanted to perform, I might send them to a more diehard performance geared teacher earlier on.

One other reason I have the form is to keep track of birthdays, and favorites for little gifts or prizes at Christmas or Birthdays, so I can impress kids that I automatically remembered their birthday and remember what some of their specific likes are - like cats, or horses, or for example, a pen or pencil or other prize of their favorite color.

I need to re-do this form a little as I haven't updated it for a while. Any ideas to add or change?




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:59 pm

I do have a few questions on a card. Sometimes the answers are funny. One 6 year old said she wanted to be a famous pianist someday. Another one wanted to sing at at Red Sox game. I do ask what they enjoy doing, and a check off of favorite music, and a couple more.

For other information, I have the parents fill out a card - family information and age, grade in school, other activities, siblings, piano or keyboard, other instruments, and any allergies and an emergency phone.

As you say, whatever works is the best.
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Postby Tranquillo » Sun Sep 09, 2007 3:33 am

I questionaire sounds awesome ... I'm a piano teen student but thought I'd put my two cents in ... as far as knowing what ones like I have always been asked though the phone what I like... Some teachers only just arranged a time and because of that after the first few lessons I decide that I have had enough. The teacher I am currently with asked me what style of music do I like and I did respond ... (classical opera mainly) ... he seemed to have a background on classical opera so we had quite a convo ...
As far as kids/teens if they dont know what they like perhaps its because they havent put much thought ... here's just an idea ... I thought why not ask what radio station do they listen to or who/what are their fave bands/singers/performers ... if they have no idea list a few ...
Just an idea...
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