June 08, 2008

What to look for in a teacher

Pianos fill the room: new pianos so shiny that they reflect faces bent over keys, older pianos with beautiful wood and carved details, and even a grand piano in the far corner. When they are waiting for their music lessons, my kids can't resist pulling up to a piano and playing for a bit. Piano Teacher, a beautiful woman with a Russian accent, always smiles when she comes out of the practice room and hears Shaggy Hair Boy improvising, just making up stuff as he goes.

"I don't know what makes me more jealous," she'll say, "his gorgeous hair or the way he can improvise."

Trained as a classical musician, long ago in Cold War Country, Piano Teacher says she never learned to improvise. When she sits down at the piano, she has to have sheet music, a specific song to play. She's always marveling at how my kids will just sit down at a piano and make up stuff or play bits of old songs they know or just fool around with music.

I love it that she thinks my kids are wonderful: it's a great quality for a teacher to have. When my shy youngest son With-a-Why first began lessons with her, I said to her anxiously, "Does he talk to you?" And she said, "Oh, you're lucky that he's shy! Shy kids are so great!"

The other day, she and I were sitting at table for a minute with our calendars, figuring out when we could schedule some summer lessons, and the two boys were, of course, fooling around on the pianos. With-a-Why started a piece I've heard him play before — it's called Solfeggietto or something like that. I'm so used to hearing piano music in my house that I wasn't really listening. But Piano Teacher looked over at him and then at me. "He's playing Bach, " she said, laughing. "He plays Bach for fun?"

I shrugged.

She turned back to the calendar we were looking at. "I just love your kids," she said.

A fine quality for a teacher to have.


Shaggy Hair Boy at the piano studio.


BlackenedBoy said...

I showed Powell the picture you just posted of Shaggy Hair Boy sleeping on the couch, and upon seeing the large mound of brown resting on the pillow beside Shaggy's head, my brother asked, "Is that his hair?"

Your children sound very talented. I can figure out a song on the piano without assistance, but it takes me a long time and I can usually only play sections.

I prefer to stick with singing so far as music is concerned.

Gawdess said...

it is nice to hear those things about your kids and this teacher and I liked the picture too.

Alexandra said...

Solfeggietto is the song I always make my boyfriend play for me :)

Cathy said...

I am assuming that this is the one your son was playing. I wanted to look it up to see what he was playing. Quite the showy piece. Talented child(ren)- and the kind of teacher to allow their students to grow and develop their talent.

Wish I could improvise.

lizardek said...

I think your kids sounds amazing...which is no wonder, since I think you do, too.

zelda1 said...

good teachers are a good thing. Especially for kids.

liz said...

Fantastic! I tried to find a video clip of a tv piano teacher that your description reminded me of, but alas, Oobi's teacher Inka is not to be found on teh interwebs.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I love your kids, too.

Silver Creek Mom said...

I love that they love to fool around with music. I wish MINE would fool around with music. Miranda can play but not without sheets. To me Natural talent comes from being able to fool around and feel the piece.

Love the picture.

Singing Owl said...

Lovely! I wish all students had such teachers.

Cloudscome said...

Have yo read Truica Tunstall's Note by Note? I just finished it and it is great. It's a memoir of a piano teacher and very lovely.

Magpie said...


(Yes, I went looking to see what you'd said about the piano teacher...)