I was initially going to attempt to learn how to play without actually finding a teacher. After all, I’m 51 and I know that I’m far too old to really ever become a great pianist. My plan was just to enroll in an online program and maybe use an AI type of program as well. If it works for kids, I can do it, right?
However, after speaking with some experienced pianists online, I decided to follow their advice and to seek out a live instructor. I don’t want to develop bad habits that will limit my ability to play more difficult pieces in the future.
So, I started the daunting task of finding a teacher, which is a complicated process while in the throes of a pandemic. I wasn’t able to talk to any teachers face-to-face, and, to be honest, I have no yearning to right now. Travelling to a complete stranger’s house, knowing nothing about the person doesn’t seem wise right now.
I interviewed a few teachers this week, and was very disappointed. It seems that they’re only interested in teaching children or just teaching adults to play popular songs from fake books. While I definitely want to learn chords and want to be able to play Billy Joel or Ben Fold’s song, i also want to develop my piano skills so that I can also play Beethoven, Chopin, DeBussey or Mozart.
Luckily, the last teacher I met with online was one that I really felt comfortable with. She originally trained in the former Soviet Union in what is considered their 2nd most famous music school and obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in piano pedagogy and performance. She brings an interesting mix of Russian and American teaching styles, and what she provides seems perfectly suited to my personality and needs.
In an effort to have something to play for her, if she asked, I tried to learn part of an easy piano piece the night before the interview. It was a two-page song from “Love Actually” entitled “Glasgow Love Theme” by Craig Armstrong, and played it for her… albeit poorly. I got incredibly nervous, and it showed in my playing. I felt like I had hands of stone — all of the tension in my body seemed to congregate in my hands.
She was kind, and she did actually say that my wrist movement and touch on the keys was really good. It surprised the hell out of me. I was not pleased with how I did at all. I was only able to play three-fourths of the first page. Now granted, I’m not at all good at piano, but it was an easy piece, and it was pathetic that I didn’t play better. Overcoming my nerves and anxiety is going to be a huge part of the learning process for me.
My teacher then started me off on scales and told me what to work on for our next class. It was just a quick half hour meeting, but I felt like it was a great start to my life in piano.