Frequently asked questions
What is your musical training? How long have you taught students?
This is a very important question to ask any prospective piano teacher! When choosing a piano teacher for your child, you want to make sure that the piano teacher you choose has at least a bachelors degree in piano performance, piano pedagogy, or music education with a focus on piano.
I have a bachelors degree in piano performance from the University of Southern Maine and a masters degree in piano performance from the University of Michigan. I have over fifteen years of private piano lesson instruction experience, have taught students off all levels of ability, and also have experience teaching classroom piano and group music classes.
What is a good age for my child to start taking lessons?
The answer to this is based on a case-by-case basis, which is why it's great to take advantage of the free trial piano lesson that Belmont Piano Academy offers! In order for an individual to get the most out of private, one-on-one piano lessons, I believe that a student should start no earlier than five year old. At this age, a child's attention span is such that they are able to focus and enjoy a 45 minute lesson, and are able to spend time diligently practicing at home. Although I agree that piano lessons and piano practice are challenging and require much effort on the part of parents, teacher, and student, I believe that piano lessons should also be enjoyable, and piano lessons should foster a life-long love for music. Trying to start piano lessons too young may, at times, only develop frustration on the part of the child. For younger children, I definitely recommend a group music class, such as Music Together or Kindermusik, to prepare them for private piano lessons.
Do you teach adult students?
At this time my studio is focused on providing top-quality piano lessons to children and young adults, ages 8-18. Although Belmont Piano Academy does not currently provide lessons for adult students, I am able to refer you to other teachers in the area.
How do I know if piano is the right instrument for my child?
Piano lessons are the BEST way to introduce your child to music. Unlike all other instruments, a keyboard has all of the notes of the staff laid out in front of you, in a patterned fashion. Also, no manual tuning while you play is required (such as what is required of string and wind instruments). As such, I tell parents that piano is the best (and easiest!) instrument on which to learn the fundamentals of music - rhythm, pitch, theory - and after good groundwork is laid with piano, the piano student may easily move on to another instrument.
Do I need to own a piano if my child is interested in lessons at Belmont Piano Academy?
Yes, you will need to own a piano of some kind if your child is in piano lessons at Belmont Piano Academy. There are two options. If your child is a beginner in piano lessons, I would recommend purchasing a full size, 88 weighted key keyboard - this is easy for apartment living, can have headphones plugged in for silent practice, and is easily moveable. If the student is a more serious pianist, I recommend buying an acoustic piano. I am in touch with several music stores and piano technicians in the Belmont/Boston area, and can help you purchase the kind of instrument that would be right for you!
What is my role as a parent of a piano student? How much should a student practice?
I greatly appreciate the parents of all my students at Belmont Piano Academy! Without a doubt the young students who have parents involved in the practice sessions at home are much more successful and definitely have a more enjoyable musical experience. I am here to answer any questions parents may have about piano lessons or piano practice, and to offer motivational advice. Lessons are certainly fun and engaging - but I do require every student, regardless of age, to practice a minimum of five days per week. A weekly practice chart will be in the student's notebook for them to fill out each week, and their parents are asked to sign off on the them. Practice lengths will vary depending on age and ability, of course - we will discuss successful practice habits in our lessons.
What is included in my tuition payment for piano lessons? Why do you charge semester tuition instead of payment by the lesson?
A custom lesson plan is designed each week for every student at Belmont Piano Academy. Piano method books, theory books, repertoire pieces, and sight-reading, rhythm, music history, and aural skill worksheets are all included in tuition to create a comprehensive musical education. For more advanced piano students, theory and technical studies are incorporated into their lessons, as well as selected repertoire appropriate for their level and specific interest. In addition, any piece of music that a student wishes to play will be purchased for them by Belmont Piano Academy, at no additional cost to you! Outside of purchasing a piano, parents/students won't ever need to make a trip to the music store for materials.
My goal as your piano teacher at Belmont Piano Academy is to be totally focused on producing quality piano instruction for your child. As a self-employed instructor, it is quite easy to get bogged down in monthly administrative details, scheduling, billing, phone calls - all of which detract from my focus on the students. By charging tuition instead of payment by the lesson, you are purchasing a learning package and experience instead of a weekly lesson time. This enables books and materials to be purchased for each student as needed, without you needing to reimburse me. Tuition also takes into account that I maintain a yearly membership in NEPTA (New England Piano Teachers' Association) and MTNA (Music Teachers National Association). I also include an extensive amount of research, professional development, and planning outside of each piano lesson in order to make every lesson as interesting and productive as possible.
What emphasis do you put on note reading, technique, theory, improvisation or composition, memorization, and musical expression?
First of all, I should say that I believe that studying piano is about more than just learning to play the notes on the page. I am not in the business of making sure that every student I teach ends up in a first tier music conservatory. Of course, I am equipped to provide them with the skills needed to get them there if a student of mine has that goal and drive. But I am just as excited to provide a well-rounded music education for those who have no desire to end up in music school. I believe studying piano stretches you physically and mentally and emotionally, and is a wonderful medium through which to learn how to learn and problem solve. That being said, approaching the study of piano through accurate note-reading and rhythm, age-appropriate technique, solid understanding of music theory, creative composition and imaginative improvisation, expression, and memorization are integral to the study of piano at Belmont Piano Academy.
Does Belmont Piano Academy have recitals? Is it a requirement that all students perform?
Belmont Piano Academy has yearly recitals in the Spring. Piano recital preparation will be required of all students, because I see that the preparation and memorization process brings up some valuable learning opportunities. As the recital date draws close I will decide if a student is prepared enough or not to perform. I require my students to perform from memory, and want the performance experience to be as positive as possible. I will work closely with each student to aid them in the learning, memory and practice performance of their recital piece(s). The recital preparation process is a valuable experience even if the student doesn't end up performing.
Do you use a specific piano teaching method, such as Suzuki?
I don't teach Suzuki method. I place great emphasis on many different qualities - note reading, technique, theory, improvisation, composition, memorization, and musical expression - to create a comprehensive music education for each piano student. For beginner students, I tend to use the Faber method books as a base and draw from many supplemental sources depending on their particular needs and interests. I usually use the KITS theory methods once the piano student is in the late elementary piano stage, and also add sight-reading, rhythm, music history, listening skill worksheets, and aural skill worksheets to their lessons and practice. Each student practices five-finger patterns or scales/chords each week, depending on their level of ability. Once the very beginner basics are mastered, I work with each piano student to select repertoire appropriate for their level and specific interest. I love Beethoven and Mozart, but I also love Coldplay and Adele!
Are there opportunities to perform for larger audiences?
There are competitive and non-competitive performances. The former is where students compete to perform at music festivals, or compete to win awards and competitions. There are many local, national, and international piano competitions held all year round that I am happy to train my students for. One of the world renown piano competitions is the Peabody Mason International Piano Competition that is held here in Boston, MA. Belmont Piano Academy has several students who have competed and won first place prizes in the American Guild of Music. There are also many music festivals during the summer where students audition for a spot to perform. The Tanglewood Music Festival is one of the most premier music festivals, and is held every summer in western Massachusetts. There are also many other top music festivals such as the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine. I performed at the Bowdoin International Music Festival and still have many connections to the performers and administration there. I will be happy to help my piano students audition for these music festivals should they be qualified.
Non-competitive performances include recitals and community outreach programs. Belmont Piano Academy has yearly recitals held in the Spring. I am also a member of The Volunteer Musicians for the Arts, a not-for-profit classical music performance organization in Boston. We conduct community outreach programs and perform the finest classical music repertoire and make those performances widely accessible to the Boston community. If you follow my teaching blog, you will also notice that there are many other opportunities to perform in public.