Tuesday, September 04, 2012

PAGE TWENTY-SIX: my first piano students

The first piano lesson by Alabomba
French opera composer, Jules Massenet (1842-1912) said that piano teaching simply involves knowing four sentences:
1. Bonjour, Mademoiselle
2. Not so fast/slow
3. Less pedal, please
4. Give my regards to your mother
I think he was joking! Or maybe he was one of many musicians who think teaching Music is boring.

In 1968, we were given a book at school called Background to Careers. I immediately looked up Music and the very first sentence said:
Most musicians have to teach.
When I was in Fifth Form at school, my mother told me that the girl who used to live next door wanted some piano lessons. I was a bit overwhelmed by this. To me, Julie Heddles was old: she was twenty-three and I was sixteen! Julie lived in Bennetts Green, a suburb that was maybe five or six miles away. She was married and had a little boy called Philip, I think.

But she was a kind, understanding student and soon passed on another student to me. Linda, the girl across the road from Julie, was fourteen (I think). Her parents were pretty trusting: they had me teaching Linda on the piano in the back shed.

I was a pretty terrible teacher at first, and had to learn from my mistakes made on these these poor guinea pigs. Except for a couple of years at the beginning of the 1980s, I have taught piano continuously since my inglorious beginnings in 1969.

I love Poland's gift to Ireland, Alabomba's painting at the top of this page. Over the forty years I have been teaching, I have taught lots of lovely little girls like the one she has depicted, but have also taught many adult students, including a retired British submarine captain, university lecturers and people from many different walks of life.

Piano teaching is very special and is a great privilege and responsibility. It has been pointed out that the usually half an hour interaction with an adult may be the most attention that some children will receive all at once that day, or even all week.

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