Friday, February 8, 2013

Adult Piano Students- Part 1

Teaching piano to the adult community can be so different in so many ways than teaching children, but no less rewarding for the teacher.

Adults often come to a decision to take piano because it something they've been either doing for years, or wanting to do for years.

"I took piano lessons when I was a kid. My parents let me quit and I'm so sorry I did!" 

How many of us have heard these words from our adult students? I don't think I have ever had an adult tell me they were glad they quit when they were young. But they sure are glad to come back to piano. Their reasons for coming back to it are as individual as the students themselves. Some have been struggling to continue to progress on their own, others try to learn via YouTube videos, or other online sites that claim "you can learn piano without a teacher and the expense"....oh boy....

I think all adults are excited about learning piano
- from a real teacher
- the right way this time
- officially
- again after so many years
- to improve their overall skill
- to improve their musicianship, rhythm, sight-reading,

You name it. They are ready! Then comes the reality of practice, homework, flashcards, lesson books, and suddenly, its not so easy.

I've taught adult students over the years who were wonderful, long term, wanting to learn, and ready to work. I presently have some fantastic adult students who practice, do their homework, and come to lessons each and every week prepared. These student are decidedly getting their money's worth. Some are retired, some work full time.

In our instant society, many young adults these days aren't hard-wired for weekly lessons, daily practice, drilling notes or scales. In other words, traditional piano lessons. Although some are, many would prefer a quick 6-lesson plan and that's all. Kind of like dieting or going to the gym. They want to do this for a short, finite period of time and loose those extra pounds, get in shape, and learn to play the piano.

Many young adults will come for an interview, talk about their dedication to learning, get their books, practice, prepare, write me a check and come to lessons......for 2 weeks. Then begin cancelling, and within 1 or 2 more weeks, have already quit. This can also coincidentally occur when its time to write the next check, as piano lessons aren't cheap. Especially for a young adult. Even after thoroughly talking over what it takes to play and become proficient, and how much it costs, they had other pressing matters that just didn't permit them to continue with something this long-term.

What can we do as traditional piano teachers? Are there shortcuts to learning piano, should we advertise 6-weeks of lessons for just $19.95 and compromise our professional standards to take in that extra cash, or fill up our studios with students that can't read or count, but just play familiar tunes and with root position chords in the bass?  Is there a Rosetta Stone piano equivalent? There are many adult students who would probably genuinely love this. Maybe thats why YouTube videos and lessons for $19.95 are so popular.

In our button-pressing world, all a student needs to do is press the demo button and hear piano music on the keyboard....btw, I did have an adult student who learned "Fur Elise" this way, thought this meant he knew how to play piano, and contacted me for instruction. But after only 4 lessons, he quickly realized there was alot more to playing piano than simple typing skills, and quit.

I don't have the answers to many of my own questions, but I do know that Adult Rep Classes have helped with my adult students. Once a month, or how ever often we can- given work schedules and busy lives- we gather together to play for each other. Spouses are not invited- this is a student only, no pressure, cocktail and hors d'oeuvres gathering, to play our songs for each other in whatever condition they are in. This keeps my adult students performing and lets them know they aren't alone in their struggles as adult piano players.

I try to make it as fun as I can- without turning it into a lecture-type of class experience. Last time, we played name that tune, and the winner received a "Bach's Wine". (Boxed We had a lot of fun, enjoyed each others company and can't wait to do it again.

My recipe? fun, friends, food, and music.
Maybe it makes piano a little less of a solo sport.

Click here for Adult Students Part 2:
What the adult student will bring to piano lessons.

1 comment:

  1. I have definitely had my fair share of adults who eagerly started lessons, only to quit 2-4 weeks later. At first, I took it all very personally, but soon realized that they weren't quitting because of me, but simply because they realized how much work it takes, how little time they have, etc. etc. etc.

    Holding Adult Rep Classes is such a wonderful idea--why have I never thought of this? I currently have four adult female students who would absolutely love this. They have all participated in studio recitals (brave women!!) and are all around the same-ish level, so I'm sure that they would really enjoy this! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on adult students. This is such a help right now. :)