I have been a piano teacher and performer for more than four decades. I began taking piano lessons at the age of seven and almost immediately started passing on my enthusiasm to friends and family by giving them free piano lessons! In high school, I was already taking courses at the nearby music conservatory and after graduation, earned a scholarship to that school. After completing my Bachelor of Music degree in piano and voice, I taught in the public schools.
After a few years of teaching, I returned to school, beginning graduate studies. I received a teaching assistantship at The Ohio State University, where I taught while working on my Masters and Doctorate degrees in piano pedagogy.
Doctoral Research and Thesis Publication
Students at the Ph.D. level are required to write a research thesis and to defend that thesis in a front of a faculty panel. My thesis presented results from my research on how the human brain functions and the ways we learn new concepts. One of my findings was that music students each have a preferred way to learn. My thesis suggested that, given this preference for a particular kind of instruction, piano teachers could get better results if they chose teaching methods and materials that matched the student’s preferred learning style. In other words, the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to teaching the piano would not, according to my research, be the most effective way to teach.
The faculty panel at The Ohio State University accepted my doctoral thesis and since that time, music publishers have introduced a variety of piano method books designed to match different kinds of student learning styles. Now, piano teachers can choose different method books for different students, making it easier for students to learn to play the piano.
Application to My Teaching Practice
I use the knowledge gained in my doctoral studies to help my students in their pursuit of their piano goals. At the beginning of a student’s course of student, and then at regular intervals, I look carefully at the ways the student grasps new piano concepts. Then, I tailor the student’s curriculum to that preferred learning style. This approach results in faster learning and a more enjoyable piano experience.
In addition to my background as a piano teacher, I have work and educational experience outside of the arts, which has sharpened my critical thinking and made me a better communicator. After earning my Ph.D. degree, I enrolled in law school, where I graduated with honors. I passed the bar examinations in Ohio and Arizona and practiced law, concentrating in corporate law and litigation. Today, I maintain an inactive status as a lawyer and concentrate on teaching the piano.