Turn My Brain Off
I look out the window of the room where the lessons take place. Outside, it’s sprinkling and dreary. The house I’m in is not my own, though the more I visit, the more I feel at home, the more I feel invested here. My student is playing the piano- a piece she’s been working on for a few weeks- and as I look outside at the Houston sky, I realize that I’m actually listening. Not listening in preparation to critique but listening like I’m in the audience. My student has done for me what I hope any good musician can do for me: take me away and turn my brain off.
My piano lessons in Houston or Dallas are always leading up to this goal. Teaching the student how to be a musician. Teaching them how to play music in a way that reverses the role for me. From teacher to listener. There is always that potential in a student for them to bring something to the lesson where I have almost nothing to say because they have captured me with their notes. And how rewarding and enjoyable it is to sit there and smile and listen instead of grumble and correct. For the teacher it can be about the state of mind as well. Let’s say the student starts the lesson fumbling for their piano book, or searching every room in the house for their music. This leads us to the logical conclusion that the student may not be particularly prepared this week. This is going to be one of those lessons. Then, let’s say the student is sitting at the piano when I walk in the door, so eager to show their work to me that before I sit down they have already started playing. This is a student who I want to listen to. This is a sparkly student!
Teaching a student to play like a robot is easy. Just nitpick every detail on the page and obsess on perfection. Teaching musicality is tough. Sure, there are dynamics and slurs and pedal and all kinds of other markings which I can point to and say, “Hey, do that,” but there is also that joy which really brings things to life. That is intangible. You don’t go to a concert to hear a good forte after all. When I’m teaching piano lessons in Houston, I am always waiting to hear that little spark of unique energy a student can create, and when I find it, I attack (aka positively reinforce). The second the student is done I’ll jump up and maybe even rudely point at them, saying, “there! you see what you did?” I want to make sure that they know that that feeling they had just now was not just in their heads, but something that is almost the most important part. I want them to know that I heard it, and that they should do it again.
A Great Lesson
So now, in this lesson, I’m just sitting here next to the piano, enjoying the rainy view. I don’t have to say a word, because my piano student has found what it’s all about. I can see that for her, I might as well not even be here. She’s in that place we all go when everything lines up, and we forget what’s on the page. He’s in that place where each note is connected, and is part of a whole. For now, I’m just going to listen, and I’ll ignore the fact that the piece is supposed to have ‘e’ flats in it.
If your child is ready to begin learning how to play the piano, we’re here to provide the teacher. Lessons in Your Home is designed around doing everything in your home. Our teachers will come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. However, our online music lessons are being taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your child! Contact us today to learn more.