On Professionalism in Private Piano Teaching – presentation for The Oxford Piano Group

I was delighted to be invited to contribute to a very interesting and stimulating discussion on the subject of professionalism in piano teaching at the The Oxford Piano Group  on 29th October 2014. Other contributors to this important debate were Nigel Scaife (Syllabus Director, ABRSM), Lucinda Mackworth-Young and Sharon Mark-Teggart (Evoco) who each gave presentations which explored the many facets of professionalism, including proper accreditation, good business practice, membership of professional bodies and minimum standards of qualifications for piano teachers. After the presentations, there was a round table discussion about professionalism, which touched on other important aspects, including the setting of fees.

My own presentation was based on my personal views on this subject, discussions with friends and colleagues in the profession, and the results of my recent survey Perceptions of Independent Piano Teachers.  The slides which I used as a starting point for my presentation and discussion are below, and you can read the text on which I based my presentation here: OPG presentation (click to download the PDF file)


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  1. How to stop people with only diplomas and grade exams teaching piano. They really do not know enough to teach. You have to know about how compositions are put to together, style and historical context. You don’t get to do this in enough detail if you only take grade exams and diplomas and don’t study music either at music college or university as well. I spend all of my life telling people not to choose teachers who have not studied music and college of university and have only taken diplomas and grades. In fact no one needs any diplomas or grades to teach if they have been to university or better music college.

    • Thank you for your comment. While I agree that a music degree or conservatoire training gives one a deep knowledge of compositional style, structure, harmony, historical context, performance practice etc, a degree in music does not necessarily train a musician how to be a teacher. Piano Pedagogy is not a compulsory subject in conservatoire: at the Royal Academy and Trinity-Laban, it is offered to students as an option. Yet the vast majority of music graduates are likely to go into teaching and while they maybe highly trained musicians, they may not be trained as teachers. So you may be an expert on counterpoint but that doesn’t mean you can teach a beginning 5 or 7 year old about music. At the recent Oxford Piano Group meeting, one of the speakers, Lucinda Mackworth-Young, herself a highly regarded teacher, stated that she felt the only qualification worth having at the present time from a teaching perspective is the LRSM in teaching.

      • Hi, I came across your blog, looking for more information on my pieces for my LTCL diploma. I like what you write and how you write it! I agree with you entirely on the teaching subject. I myself graduated from a Music College in Estonia and I found it really difficult to adjust my knowledge of teaching piano to this country. While in most European and Eastern European Music Schools children are taught a wide variety of music related subjects (solfeggio, music history, ensemble etc.), here instrumental teachers are loaded with the whole responsibility of bringing the other knowledge to the child as well as teaching to play the piano (or any other instrument). Anyway, a lot comes from being a natural at teaching and also, taking a lot of advice and doing a lot of research. A person who is passionate about music and wanting to share this passion, will not go wrong. My teacher was like that, she didn’t go to Music Conservatoire, she only graduate same college as I did, but she gave me her passion, and that was enough for a little girl. The understanding of the music comes with personal maturity.
        Thank you for your blog, your entry on Mozart’s Rondo has blown me away!

      • Hi Elizabeth. Thank you very much for your kind and enthusiastic comments. I care very passionately about the piano and I think my enthusiasm is transferred to my students. I want them to love the piano too and to give them the tools to be able to sit down at the piano, open some music or play for memory, and simply ENJOY music.

        I love the Mozart A minor Rondo. It was part of my LTCL programme and I am planning to revisit it again soon as I find it endlessly fascinating. If you need any help or advice with LTCL programming etc do contact me (use the contact page and then we can correspond by email). Good luck with your study for the diploma – I enjoyed every minute of it (and the recital itself) and it was wonderful to fully immerse myself in lovely repertoire. And I think your comment about musical understanding coming from “personal maturity” is so valid: this is true of teaching and performing music.

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