Teaching Approach and FAQ


Teaching Approach

The goal of lessons is to train the student to become an independent musician who plays with confidence and artistic expression in order for music to become a source of life-long enjoyment.  I believe that students can achieve excellence without being demoralized.  Therefore, lessons are taught in a warm, caring environment with an emphasis on mutual respect between the teacher and the student.  Details of my approach are:

Playing duets develops ensemble skills, aural skills, and artistry- and it's fun!
Playing duets develops ensemble skills, aural skills, and artistry- and it's fun!
  • Artistic expression and the development of a healthy technique are emphasized for all students, beginner through advanced. 
  • When errors occur in a student's playing, the student is taught specific techniques for correcting the errors.
  • Students are taught effective practice techniques.
  • Students are encouraged to play music in many settings such as school, church, musical theater, and with friends who may play instruments or sing.  I am happy to help the students learn the music that they perform in these settings.
  • Because I am classically trained, instruction reflects the disciplined, sequential approach that is the hallmark of classical training.
  • Although classical music is the core, a wide variety of music is used for teaching.
  • Students do not all play the same music.  Music is selected for each individual student based on the following criteria:
    • The music will motivate the student to want to learn.
    • The music will further the student’s technical and artistic development.
    • The music will further the student’s music reading ability.
  • Training in scales, chords, and arpeggios is included at all levels.
  • Instruction in music theory and music history is woven seamlessly into the curriculum so students will be better able to understand and interpret the music that they are playing.
  • Organ students also receive instruction in hymnody, pedal technique, and registration.

What level students do you teach?

A student plays for her father's U.S. Navy retirement ceremony.
A student plays for her father's U.S. Navy retirement ceremony.

I welcome students of all abilities: beginners who want to develop good habits from the start, transfer students, intermediate students, and advanced students who wish to study the great works of the repertoire.  


Do you teach adults?

Joann leading a church choir retreat.
Joann leading a church choir retreat.

Yes.  I enjoy my adult students very much.  I have had the pleasure of teaching adult beginners as well as adult students who have returned to music study after some time away.  For more information, please see the page for adult students on my website.


What should I consider before committing to music lessons?

Performing music written for two pianos.
Performing music written for two pianos.

The primary reason for not succeeding in learning to play a musical instrument is not lack of talent.  It is lack of consistent, daily practice. 

 

Before starting music lessons, I strongly urge students (and their parents, if the student is a child) to evaluate whether or not the schedule will allow time for daily music practice.  Although everyone starts lessons with the best of intentions, the reality of a multitude of other activities often means that there is simply not enough time in the daily schedule to add one more thing.  Students who enter into lessons without the requisite amount of time available for practice become discouraged because they fail to make progress. 

 

Planning ahead for practice time in the schedule is the first step towards success as a musician.


How much time should I allot for practice?

Students having fun at the Kitsap Music Teachers Association Music Carnival.
Students having fun at the Kitsap Music Teachers Association Music Carnival.

Plan on 30 to 90 minutes per day.  Students who wish to enter competitions or who are planning for a career in music practice more.  Young beginners start with 10-20 minutes per day.  It is the reinforcement given by consistent daily practice that will ensure success.


Why is consistent practice so important?

At Central Washington University for State Solo and Ensemble Contest.
At Central Washington University for State Solo and Ensemble Contest.

There are no shortcuts when learning to play a musical instrument.  Musical proficiency requires effort over a long period of time.  The three components required for success are:

  1. Adequate time for practice
  2. Attention to detail when practicing
  3. A step-by-step progression that builds skills 

 

Learning to play a musical instrument involves a complex interaction of mental and physical training.  This training must be reinforced on a daily basis.  Once the daily habit of practicing has been established, however, the process of learning and playing music becomes quite enjoyable.


What performance and adjudication opportunities are available?

Her first recital!
Her first recital!

Through my active membership in the music teachers association and the organists guild, my students have access to the following performance and evaluation opportunities:

  • Kitsap Music Teachers Association Young Musicians Festival
  • Kitsap Music Teachers Association Holiday Performances at the Kitsap Mall
  • Washington State Music Teachers Association Music Literacy Program (formerly known as Musicianship Exams)
  • Kitsap Music Teachers Association Music Carnival and Ribbon Festival
  • Washington State Music Teachers Association Music Artistry Program (formerly known as Adjudications)
  • Washington State Music Teachers Association Young Composers Project
  • Music Teachers National Association Studio Festival Program
  • Recitals sponsored by the organists guild or the music teachers association

Studio recitals and other performances in the community may also be arranged.

 


Do I have to perform?

No-one is required to perform.  However, performance is encouraged as part of the educational process, especially for children and teenagers.  Students learn to communicate through the music that they play for others.  Students generally practice more carefully when they know that they have an upcoming performance.  Performing helps students develop poise under pressure.  Because there is no perfect performance, students learn how to recover from mishaps — they discover that the world does not end if they make a mistake.  Once students have tried performing, most find it enjoyable to play music for friends and loved ones.


I'm interested in organ lessons.  What can you tell me about your approach?

Sometimes organ lessons are held at local churches.  This allows the student to learn to play on different kinds of organs.
Sometimes organ lessons are held at local churches. This allows the student to learn to play on different kinds of organs.

As a teacher, my training is best suited to teach classical and church organ music.  I do not teach popular music intended to be played on small home organs.  

 

If you are a pianist who has been called into service to play at church, lessons will begin with a “crash course” in basic organ playing to allow you to become functional as an organist in as short a time as possible.  Pedaling, basic registration, and manual technique will primarily be taught using hymn playing and easy service music (preludes, postludes, etc.).  More advanced organ technique and learning standard organ repertoire will be gradually added as lessons progress.

 

 

If you do not need play for church, a step-by-step approach to build technique and learn organ repertoire will be followed from the start.  Materials will be chosen based on if the student already plays the piano or not and whether the student is a child or an adult.


Will you come to my home to teach?

I teach piano exclusively from my studio.  Organ lessons are taught on the pipe organ in my studio.  Should an organ student need me to give an on-site lesson in order to learn how to operate a particular organ, a small travel fee may be applied for that lesson.


Do you give discounts?

Longer lessons receive a discount in the tuition rate.  Families may choose to share a longer time-slot to receive this discount.


Do you give a free trial lesson?

The first time we meet will be for a free consultation.  The purpose of this consultation is to discuss the student's musical needs.  I will also evaluate the student's current level of musicianship and make recommendations for a course of study.  This consultation usually lasts between 20-30 minutes.  

 

Should you wish to take a trial lesson, the regular lesson fee will apply.  Based on scheduling, this lesson may occur immediately following the consultation, or it may be scheduled at a later date.   If you would like to schedule a paid-for lesson as a follow-on to the free consultation, please inform me of this when we arrange for our initial meeting.


Can I take lessons for a trial period to see if lessons with you are a good fit?

Yes.  Students who are not ready to commit to long-term lessons may arrange for a trial period of lessons, as my schedule permits, before they commit to a regular lesson time-slot.  These lessons are charged at the rate shown on my studio policy for individual lessons.


Are you a competition-based teacher?

My studio is not competition-based.  My focus is to help students develop well-rounded musical skills that will allow them to play a wide variety of music, both for their own enjoyment and also to be able to play in the community.  Having said that, I will consider entering highly-motivated students into carefully selected competitions if the competition will serve the purpose of furthering that student's musical goals and development.  Students who wish to enter many competitions and study in a highly-competitive atmosphere would be best served by another studio. 


What kind of instrument do I need?

For optimal progress, piano students need an acoustic piano that is kept in good tune and condition. Because touch and tone production are integral to classical piano training, progress will be held back if students do not have a responsive piano for practice.  Although electronic keyboards have improved, most do not have the touch sensitivity or the resonant tone that is necessary when undergoing classical training.  Therefore, even if the student begins lessons having only an electronic keyboard for home practice, plans should be made for the eventual purchase of an acoustic piano.

 

Organ students need to have access to an organ with a full pedalboard for practice.  Most organists do not have an organ at home. Arrangements for practice several days per week can usually be arranged with a local church.