Piano Lessons PLUS — Information

A parent’s group dedicated to young students and pre-schoolers wanted to feature me in their monthly newsletter concerning my teaching program.  She asked me several questions via an email conversation we had.  I thought the questions and answers would give a good background as to what they could expect from choosing Piano Lessons PLUS for their children’s piano lessons.

What is your background in music, professionally and educationally?

I began formal lessons at age 11 on the organ.  My first “professional” engagement was three years later playing organ at fairs and shows.  It was common for organists to arrange their own music so it was on the organ that I began my first arranging and composing.  I began piano a couple years later mostly for developing my technical skills.  My first college degree was in liberal arts and it was after that that I decided to study music and piano performance.  It was here that I received my classical training and learned more formally about composition and arranging.

I began my first piano studio after graduation from college.  I continued studying piano, composition and orchestration after my degrees.  I became involved in professional piano teaching organizations holding leadership positions and established 3 Audition Centers for the National Guild of Piano Teachers.  I became a judge for their yearly sponsored auditions.  I also began writing articles for Keyboard Companion on various aspects of piano pedagogy.

In 1988 I became very interested in what computer technology was doing in music to enhance music education so I began Severino’s Piano Keyboard Lab in Wexford.  I developed some software programs in conjunction with a software developer in Ohio.  As technology advanced I got involved in “desktop publishing” at started Piano Teacher Press as an outlet for my compositions, arrangements and books I developed for my students.

What kinds of music do you teach?
Since I’m classically trained I tend to move students in a traditional classical direction but with my background in organ I also identify with a lot of popular music; anything from Cole Porter to Oscar and Hammerstein, from The Beatles to Billy Joel, from Andrew Lloyd Weber to John Williams.

Why might piano be a good choice for a young child?

Piano has become the standard instrument for teaching music.  Pianos are everywhere; churches, restaurants, community centers, recreational rooms.  Most all professional musicians have had some sort of piano training.  And, you’ll find that many professional people, not involved in the arts, has had some piano background in their educational resume.

Piano develops so much in terms of mental development.  It develops muscular coordination.  It develops ones sense of hearing.  It develops hand/eye coordination.  It develops ones artistic sense.  Playing piano gives one a great sense of accomplishment.  Almost everyone would love to play the piano; more so than any other instrument.  Music gives one the awareness to appreciate life in terms of beauty and order and helps one move out of the ordinary.

Can you talk about how a preschool piano student is different from, say, a school-aged child or adult?

For me the difference is only a difference in development which requires a different pacing of learning.  One who teaches a young beginner has to do a lot of rudimentary work; teaching basic counting, teaching alphabet letters, teaching right and left, developing the very young, yet very supple, hand.  If one has studied this young age and knows what their capabilities are they are very teachable.

The older the student the quicker the pace; but everyone begins at ground zero.  When I started teaching professionally I got very involved in teaching the pre school student.  I developed a pre school music program called Dan Dan the Music Man.  At this time people began asking me if I would teach their pre schooler piano so I developed a pre school piano method, the Keyboard Kids.  I wrote this method to match the learning pace of a pre school piano student.  I have been using my Keyboard Kids books successfully since I first wrote them in the early 90’s

What types of instructional materials do you use that are specific to a preschool learner? Why?
Beyond Keyboard Kids it is important to understand how to work with students and their developing attention span.  It is best to have a wide variety of activities where the teacher doesn’t max out the student’s ability to concentrate.  Playing rhythm instruments, playing musical games, playing computer games, having listening activities, not taught randomly without a direction, but taught purposely toward the goal understanding music, to play the piano intelligently.

Do you provide performance opportunities for students? What are the benefits or drawbacks of children performing at a young age?

Performing should be developed in a very natural way.  Parents and teachers provide the best first audience.  If students learn that you are interested in what they are doing in their piano study performing becomes a very natural part of what they do.  Nurture self confidence.

The major drawback of performing is that it can easily become negatively competitive.  Music is something to be shared with another. Students need to be taught they don’t compete with others, they compete with their personal best and even this has to be approached in a healthy manner.

Finding the “middle ground” in piano performance is a challenge.  We don’t want self confidence to become over confidence and we don’t want competing with ones self to become obsessive.

Personally, I do provide incentives for student performances.  I have recitals.  I make recordings of students performances, both video and audio.  I have performance incentives where students earn certificates for seeking out performance opportunities.

How much time is appropriate for a preschooler to spend practicing?
I wrote a blog on the very topic.  The first goal is to establish the habit of daily practice.  The second goal is to slowly build the duration given to this daily practice.  It’s a methodical process.  Details can be found by follow this link …


Can music lessons, or specifically piano lessons, enhance a child’s development in other areas? If so, how?

I already touched on this subject but I think the most important thing music and piano can teach is the development of a sense of beauty.  This is something that’s missing in sports but it’s not missed in learning to expressing something artistic in music.  Piano is centered on making beautiful sounds.  It is centered on form and proportion and the balancing of contrasting parts.  It is about imbuing their performance with expression that not only draws on the emotional, but the intellectual, the artistic and the beautiful.  In a technical world, music almost becomes a necessity to aid us in becoming a whole person.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
Yes!  If you have any other questions or are interested in piano lessons please call me at (724) 935-2840

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