My method is based on 40 years of teaching experience, and on research into the neurobiology of music, brain asymmetry, learning styles, expert memory, language acquisition theory and historical pedagogical practices.
For young beginners I have a “sound before symbol” approach. Students begin by learning familiar melodies by ear and transposing them into several keys, first as melodies and later with accompaniments that build in complexity.
In the first stages students proceed according to the development of their musical ear and pianistic skills rather than their reading ability. In this way they gain confidence on the instrument, develop their musical memory, gain comprehension of the music they play, establish a technical foundation, and experience the satisfaction of learning and creating music that is meaningful to them.
After the initial stages, students progress through a broad spectrum of high quality repertoire in a variety of classical styles. Repertoire is chosen for each student on an individual basis for its artistic value and toward the development of their pianistic technique. Students are encouraged to articulate their opinions in choosing new repertoire so they are always playing music they love.
Reading is taught from the beginning, but is not the gateway to their first musical experiences. Preparatory exercises include clapping rhythms, taking dictation, and writing out some of the songs they can already play. Reading is integrated into the process of learning repertoire at an appropriate time for each student. In all aspects of musicianship, students gain comprehension and proficiency with musical concepts before they learn it as "theory."
Technique is established through a series of warm-ups, which are slow relaxed movements that bring about an ergonomic approach to the instrument and freedom of motion in the whole body. These movements are designed to prevent the formation of bad habits, to lead to beautiful tone production and agility, and build neural pathways between the hemispheres of the brain. They develop coordination for pianistic techniques before they are required in the repertoire so the learning process is less stressful and more enjoyable. The warm-ups eventually become the foundation for the development of advanced pianistic techniques.
In addition to their repertoire, reading, theory and technique, students are encouraged to create their own music and develop their own unique voice. Several activities are used to help students find their creative flow and develop their musical ideas.
In addition to weekly individual lessons, two Saturday workshops are scheduled per term, where students have the opportunity to play their current repertoire for each other in an informal master class format. Through participation in the workshops, students gain performance confidence and develop stage presence in preparation for bigger audiences or exams. Regular performance goals motivate students to practice more effectively. Social contact with others who share their passion creates additional motivation. Classroom time is also devoted to ear training, theory, music appreciation, improvisation and playing in ensembles.
Historical pedagogical practices
Advanced students incorporate historical pedagogical practices from the time leading up to and during the Golden Age of Pianism. My research has shown that these practices lead to greater comprehension of their repertoire, which in turn leads to greater memory security, performance confidence, creative proficiency, enjoyment of the learning process, and depth of musical expression.