What is your first memory of the piano?
My mother always played the piano. We had an old Aldrich upright that she played while she was pregnant with me and that I played until I was 13 years old. She was my teacher at that time.
Who or what inspired you to start teaching?
I was a performance major and first taught some students for a friend in her absence. I enjoyed teaching but did not have the training for it.
Who were your most memorable/significant teachers?
I studied with Franceen Downing, who took me through my early teen years and then with Dr. Bob L. Bennett through my last two years of high school and four undergraduate years at California State University, Fresno.
I studied with Ena Bronstein while working on my Master’s Degree. She had a beautiful way of imparting the Arrau technique. I also studied accompanying with Tait Barrows, a wonderful and humorous collaborative pianist and wife of the late John Barrows, horn player.
Who or what are the most important influences on your teaching?
By far the most important influence on my teaching was a one-year internship with Margaret Talcott who gave me a teaching curriculum specific to piano that introduces concepts and skills at appropriate age/cognitive levels. Curriculum-based teaching enables anyone who practices regularly a chance to play the piano with confidence.
Most memorable/significant teaching experiences?
Most lessons I teach are memorable (to me anyway). The only lessons I find difficult occur when a student loses interest and stops practicing for a period of time. Fortunately, this does not happen often.
What are the most exciting/challenging aspects of teaching adults?
I find it exciting to teach adults when they progress. Adults are a challenge because the business of life can easily get in the way of practice. Their time is not protected by their parents as a child’s would be.
What do you expect from your students?
I expect regular practice, the ability to work out a piece independently with correct notes, rhythms and dynamics, regular attendance at lessons, performance on some recitals, and a solid understanding of the theory behind their music.
What are your views on exams, festivals and competitions?
They are fine if they don’t interfere with the process of learning skills and concepts. If the extra activity throws off the curriculum or forces concepts to be taught before I would normally teach them, then it is not worth the imbalance it produces in my teaching. I have no personal stake in whether my students impress adjudicators or other teachers by their playing and I am more interested in how well they are learning. They are happiest and want to continue piano lessons when they feel confident in their ability to teach themselves.
What do you consider to be the most important concepts to impart to beginning students, and to advanced students?
To beginners: solid rhythmic playing, reading skills, the use of creative improvisation to reinforce concepts
To advanced students: persistence, technical ability to play what they want, freedom to choose the type of music they like to learn
What do you consider to be the best and worst aspects the job?
I think it’s wonderful to begin a student when they’re young and watch them grow up. The worst aspect is the pay.
What is your favourite music to teach? To play?
I like to teach any music and prefer to play “classical”, especially chamber music. I also enjoy singing and playing my own songs accompanying myself on the piano or guitar.
Who are your favourite pianists/pianist-teachers and why?
Claudio Arrau was my all-time favourite because he often took slower tempi, enabling the listener to hear everything that the composer wrote. Ena Bronstein is my favourite pianist-teacher.