More Than Just a Piano Teacher

Sharon and I are away planning the future development of The Curious Piano Teachers this week so we are delighted that Claire Bowes, one of our Curious Community, has written this post.

Often we undervalue ourselves as piano teachers, but if we actually think about exactly what we do and what is expected of us, we are much more than simply piano teachers.  When thinking about writing this blog article, I started to list some of the characteristics I bring to my teaching on a daily basis.  It highlighted how extensive and varied the role of a piano teacher actually is.

DIVERSITY

I teach 34 students ranging in age from 5 to 60 plus. As you can imagine, their needs and interests are extremely varied.  I spend time each week planning lessons for each student, with a particular focus and clear aims and objectives defined.  I take time to reflect on last week’s lesson, focusing on what went well and what could have went better and look at ways of improving my teaching approach.  Each of my students have very different learning styles, therefore each lesson plan is unique. 

Many students choose to sit graded piano exams, so again, I help them identify which exam board and style is right for them, before helping prepare them to sit their exams.  A vital part of exam preparation is encouraging students to have the confidence to believe in themselves and make their exam experience positive and enjoyable.  I have introduced a twenty piece challenge, based on Elissa Milne’s Forty Piece Challenge, for my students so I am continuously identifying appropriate repertoire for each student while encouraging them to meet this goal.

As a piano teacher, I have to be versatile, adaptable, creative, organised, confident and often have to think on the spot as often the lesson plan I have created is not appropriate at that particular time.  Maybe a student has struggled with their piece during the week, so we need to spend time looking at it a different way, sometimes students have a particular interest and have a plan themselves for what they would like to cover in a lesson or something has happened at school to upset them so we need to have a really fun lesson to help cheer them up.  I need to stay on top of current music and what is popular so I can suggest learning familiar pop songs, particularly to keep the interest of my teenage students.

Some of my students have a variety of learning difficulties so I make it my duty to find out more about their particular challenges and come up with strategies to aid their learning.  This includes memorising names that a student has given the notes on the piano, colour-coordinating notes to make it easier to understand, reinforce where notes live on the stave to try and help spacial awareness, to name but a few.

TIME SPENT

I spend 17 hours of my week teaching and a similar amount of time preparing lessons, materials and documenting student progress.  On top of this, I dedicate several hours a week to CPD, however this has increased in the past year thanks to the work of Sharon and Sally!  I also follow several blogs and podcasts of other piano teachers throughout the world and I try and make time each week to keep on top of these as I find it really interesting to learn about their approaches and teaching methods. 

These include:

Podcasts –

Blogs –

Other podcasts I enjoy are:

I run a music academy in my local town and have eight tutors working for me.  I make myself available to discuss any issues or concerns they may have and like to address these as soon as possible.  Often I have to deal with concerns involving some of the other 120 students at the music academy and again make myself available to speak to them or their parents if necessary.  General business administration also takes up a considerable portion of my time.  The last few weeks have been spent liaising with tutors and a local printing company to finalise this year’s summer programme and get it to print.  The music academy is also the local venue for London College of Music and Registry of Guitar Tutor exams so time has been spent liaising with local representatives finding suitable days to host the summer exam sessions.

I also deliver a Kindermusik programme which is a music and movement programme for very young children so have to slot planning these classes into my schedule each week.

As well as all of this I am a mum to three young children so juggle family life with my piano teaching business.  As you can imagine life is pretty busy but I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way.

ANY OTHER DUTIES

Being a good listener, empathetic, understanding and encouraging are some other important traits we piano teachers must possess.  We want what is best for our students and, for them to develop as pianists, we often have to help them overcome other issues they may have.

Our students often look up to us and often ask for advice.  They confide in us with concerns they may have, which is a privilege in a way, but we still have to fulfil our primary role of teaching them to play piano.

There are many more traits we share as piano teachers and I’m sure my fellow Curious Piano Teachers (CPTs) would agree that on a piano teacher’s job description the ‘any other duties’ section can be pretty extensive.

We all put a lot of time, effort and money into what we do for, as CPTs, we believe in our students and want what is best for them.  My life is no busier than many other piano teacher’s and an average working week would be considerably more than 40 hours but when you love what you do it is a pleasure to invest time in my career. 

Not everyone is as privileged as piano teachers, making a career out of something they are so passionate about.  So I think it is fair to say we are not just piano teachers … we are much more!

BIOGRAPHY

A very Curious Piano Teacher, Claire is from Northern Ireland and is the director of Omagh Music Academy, where she teaches piano and Kindermusik.  She is passionate about piano teaching, always wanting the best for her students.  Claire has a BA (Hons) in Music, PG Dip in Music and obtained her Licentiate in instrumental teaching from Trinity College London in November 2015.

When not teaching piano, Claire can usually be found at home with her young family, catching up with friends, relaxing in Donegal or (her latest pasttime) cycling.

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