Piano Lessons and Tuition
I have been involved in Music Education for over 40 years, and for the last 15 years I have concentrated on teaching piano to children and young people from age 7 upwards and to any interested adults when room can be found to accomodate them. Although I encourage my pupils to take music exams, and I run ABRSM exams three times a year at my house, I do not see exams as the only reason for learning to play the piano. Music is first and foremost a craft, and therefore it is the passing on of the skills, knowledge, understanding and appreciation of that craft which is my primary purpose. I also see that piano playing and music can have beneficial effects on a child's general education and development as well as an appreciation of the wider muscical experience of performance and listening. It is interesting that at a moment when the current political direction in this country is pushing music and the arts to a peripheral position in education throughout the whole state provided schooling system, current neurological, psychological and educational research is demonstrating more and more the beneficial impact and influence of the arts and music in the educational process (see this article for instance) and in the early development of the brain, and also the positive long term effects of learning a musical intstrument (see this article in National Geographic).
For those pupils who wish study for the higher grades, ie. Grades 6,7 & 8, I also offer a crash course in Grade 5 Theory, for which I have a 100% pass rate, which I will normally start after they have completed Grade 5 Practical. I also offer this to pupils other than my own, who have attained Grade 5 on other intsruments.
Books and Methods
I do not follow a particular method or pedagogy, and I am always open to new ideas and approaches to teaching. But as a musician I know that it is incumbent upon me to pass on the skills and knowledge I have learnt from others and practised over the years, to the best of my ability. Like many teachers I use Tutor books with beginners and up to about Grade 4, and although I have used a variety books over the years, I have tended to revert back the first two books of Waterman and Harewood: Piano Lessons Book 1 and 2. Although by todays standards they are a little 'old-fashioned', I think nevertheless they are the most thorough and in many ways challenging of current tutor books. Too many either go too quickly or too slowly, revolve around Middle C for too long, put too much emphasis on fingering over the notes. Whilst not perfect, these are the tutor books I feel most happy with. However, I am always open to new approaches and new music. Whilst many people buy music online, I would encourage everyone to buy music from our local music shop: Richard Behrend. Richard stocks tutor books as well as a comprehensive selection of ABRSM and Trinity College publications. And it is wonderful to have a music shop so close, as otherwise it would necessitate an awkward journey to Liverpool City Centre to visit Music Notes, an excellent shop for sheet music.
Once past Grade 4, my pupils will not only be encouraged to work at the technical side of piano playing but to study a wide range of the piano repertoire, so that when starting work towards an exam, they are at the right level of musical and technical competency to find the exam well within their ability. Many pupils taking GCSE and A Level music are required to provide performance as part of the exam, and I have for many years been preparing pupils for these performances and the requirements that are deemed necessary.
Concerts and Performance
Music is performance, it's purpose, it's raison d'etre. When a pupil plays for me in a lesson, it is a performance, just as an exam is as much a performance as playing at a concert, or playing for friends or family, or even just for ourselves. As a member of EPTA, our local Merseyside Branch holds an annual Pupils Concert at St Nicholas' Parish Church every March, for which pupils of every level of attainment are encouraged to perform. EPTA also hold an annual competition, which again has classes for every level. Some of my pupils, if they have the musical ability and tenacity to work hard, are encouraged to take part. The local competition usually takes place in January, and any pupils who are judged to be of sufficient calibre are invited to take part in the Regional Final at Chetham's School, Manchester. All my pupils are encouraged and supported in taking part in concerts at the schools they attend, although solo piano is not that common in school concerts, it has to be said. Sadly the Liverpool Music and Drama Festival ceased to function immediately the cuts started a few years ago, so a great opportunity for local people to perform in public, whatever their ability or talent was removed, to the diminishment of the cultural life of this City.
Current rates are: £34 p.h., £17 per half hour. This is for lessons and rehearsals. Examination accompaniments are charged at £13, except for some Grade 8's or higher level performances where the charge is negotiable. For full-time University or College students there are special rates, details on enquiry.