Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Future of Piano Playing

There seems to be a movement toward closing stores that sell pianos and supplies. There may be many reasons for it in the United States. Whenever someone contacts me about piano lessons, undoubtedly they have a keyboard or digital piano at home, rather than an acoustic piano. The main reason is that it is expensive to move a used piano from one location to another. The other reason is because of the relatively inexpensive price of a digital piano, as opposed to a brand new acoustic piano, grand piano, or baby grand piano, even though an acoustic piano sounds better.

There has also been a resurgence in piano craftsmanship. Piano craftsmen are building or repairing pianos, for those who have a limited budget for a piano or some who desire a superior product. Some piano dealers blame their reduced sales on the depressed housing market. Others say there is still a vivacious market for pianos and are still successfully selling pianos. It would depend on the demographics of the area where the pianos are being sold. If there are many school aged children in the area, then the possibility of a thriving market for pianos exists. If not, there may not be enough interest in purchasing pianos and the sales would diminish.

Additionally, there are numerous, and I want to emphasize, numerous tutorial videos on You Tube for anyone who wants to learn how to play the piano or at least listen to someone playing it. There apparently is a demand for hearing and seeing piano players. This could lead one to believe that there is still a vital interest in the piano.

However, funding for music programs in the public schools has declined, again. Some schools are not encouraging children to learn how to play the piano and others have reduced their music programs. There is an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instead of music programs. Many girls are enrolling in these programs instead of music programs. As a result, parents who want their children to play the piano are involving their children in private lessons. But, not all parents can afford the private lessons.

Many educators have observed that children who are exposed to music education score better on standardized tests and have better reading and math skills. It would appear that these students whose parents desire them to pursue the STEM subjects, would perform better with the music instruction, but many schools are not including music programs in their curriculum.

For this reason, the After School Alliance Program has indicated there is a need for after school programs, as “for every child enrolled in a program, two are waiting to get in.” More music programs after school would enable more children to pursue a music program.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Preparing for Performances

Since I have had so many students in the past, we are planning to bring some of them together to do a performance somewhere in the community. This means my most advanced student has three months to learn the easy version of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." We are arranging for the students to play on a grand piano.

This should be a very rewarding experience for the students because of the opportunity to play on a grand piano, rather than a keyboard, which many of them have at home. Additionally, the songs which we select will be on a higher level that they are currently performing. For many of the students, this will be the first time they will be playing for an unknown audience. I am opening up the opportunity for new students, who will have plenty of time to learn a new song between now and then. My former students learned six or seven songs in seven weeks. If you happen to reside in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts and would like to enroll your child in my program, please contact me through the website contact form. It is imperative that you contact me before the end of the year to allow a sufficient amount of time to learn how to play the song. Beginners and intermediate students are welcomed to apply.

When I was running an after school program at one of the local community centers about ten years ago, we held a formal dinner for the students and donors of the community center to raise money for the center. The dinner was held at a major hotel chain. I had some very talented children in my program and I wanted to give them an opportunity to let the donors know that their donations had served a purpose.

Having attended various functions at hotels during my employment in the insurance industry, I became cognizant that there is usually a grand piano around in one of the rooms for wedding ceremonies. When the waitress cam to serve us, I asked if it was possible to bring a grand piano into the room for two of the students to play. The waitress joyfully replied that she would ask to have one brought in. Upon informing the director of what I had just done, she told me she did not think they would accommodate us at such late notice. However, to her surprise, they wheeled in a grand piano, and the children played, joyfully.

The two students happened to be brother and sister. The sister played "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin and the other played a Walt Disney song from the "Lion King." Needless to say, it was a nice surprise, the children played skillfully and joyfully, and received a booming applause. In the future, we will plan for the students to play at events like this on a grand piano.

Monday, December 8, 2014

New Music Books, New Skills

It is amazing what we can do with social media. I had the opportunity to meet an award winning, neoclassical composer, Stephan Beneking, from Berlin, Germany. Under ordinary circumstances, our paths would never have crossed. He has composed over three hundred songs. After listening to them and studying the music sheets, I became cognizant that I could use several of them form his “Zita in Wonderland,” for one of my students.

My student is learning an easy version of Moonlight Sonata, by Beethoven. She has a real passion for playing the piano, swiftly. Her only challenge is in being able to read the music as quickly as she plays. These selections available in the books I ordered are perfect for improving her sight reading skills. I was able to show her the correct notes and upon my return, she had memorized them well enough to play the first stanza with accuracy.

It is very rewarding to work with someone who takes her piano playing as seriously as she does. Tim Noble, a fifteen year old gospel pianist, is another child who has passion for playing the piano. He is already creating his own arrangements and background tracks.

Music education is considered a learning style and many of the STEM schools, (science, technology, engineering, and math) are including music in their curriculum. Scientists and philosophers have long recognized music as an important factor in education. As a piano teacher, I am looking forward to hearing more about this.