The Whole Story...
Here is more about my experience and background as a musician and the method I found in 2003 that forever impacted who I am as a teacher and the results my students get.
A bit more about me...
I loved music from as far back as I can remember. I recall sitting next to my mom at the piano playing songs when I was three years old and listening to music--in particular the rock 'n roll stations in Chicago (Super CFL and WLS) incessantly. My favorite band was The Monkees. When I was about five, my parents put me in Suzuki violin lessons and I loved it but the piano drew me more. At age 10, I changed to piano but really struggled. I had always played well by ear and it took three years and five teachers to find one who was willing to work with my developed ear and convince me to learn to read music. Learning to read music--particularly rhythm, was a challenge. I disliked reading and preferred playing, especially rock 'n roll. I played in rock bands, was the church pianist from age 13 until college, was the accompanist for an 80 voice touring choir when I was 14 and 15 and primarily did all of that by ear.
In college, I decided not to study music after my first semester of music theory but studied piano performance through college. I credit my persistent and patient professor, Dika Golovatchoff for continuing to challenge me with difficult pieces that I had to read. If only YouTube had been available then...
After college and graduate school, I married, moved to a very small town in Western Washington and found myself teaching Kindermusik. I loved the joyful participation and the program and naturally, when children completed the program, parents asked me to teach their children the piano.
My experience was not what I expected. Children who had been in groups, making music with their peers, were suddenly alone with me and not as much fun. The music that had come so naturally was a struggle because they had to read before they played. Their ability to read dictated their ability to play. I tried to incorporate the things I loved--improvising, playing by ear, playing chords, but I did not have the language to explain how I did things--how I just knew what to do.
In addition, I was teaching in my home and I didn't know how to set boundaries. People would come early, stay late, let their kids play with my kids while mine were trying to study (I homeschooled). I wasn't getting paid on time, sometimes not for weeks after tuition was due. Students were coming for glorified practice sessions, rarely having done the practicing I expected them to do. Parents were along for the ride but not taking responsibility for their student's progress.
The final straw...and the solution
The final straw came for me one Monday afternoon....I had three children at the time and my youngest was about one. My mom took my three kids to the park for the last hour of my teaching and that day, after my last lesson, I had a haircut scheduled. With three kids under five years old, that extra hour was something I was really looking forward to...That day, however, my last student who I adored, stayed. Her mom didn't come to pick her up. It was before cell phones and text messaging and so I waited. I waited with her while the minutes slipped by. After an hour, my mom returned with my children, shocked to see that Madison was coloring in my living room and I was near tears on the sofa. My mom told me that she'd seen Madison's mom playing with her other kids at the park....probably not noticing the time.
So, that was it. Due to all the other things that weren't working for me--the progress of my students primarily, I stopped teaching piano. And, I started looking very hard for a method that I could teach in groups with one piano where students interacted with each other and came prepared. I wanted something that covered all aspects of musicianship that I was unable to articulate. For five years I looked and then one day, I discovered Simply Music, thanks to a fellow Kindermusik Educator. I immediately jumped in, went through the training and started with 40 piano students in groups, working just two afternoons a week.
What is Simply Music? Simply Music is a playing-based piano method. Reading is temporarily delayed and students are immersed in playing the piano with both hands from the very beginning. Simply Music focuses on classical, contemporary, blues, jazz and accompaniment as well as on developing improvisation and compositions skills from the start. The Simply Music Teacher Training Program forever transformed my ability to get organized, set boundaries, have requirements so that students come on time, are prepared to move forward, don't question what we are doing or why (they trust me), with parents who are committed to and support the process and who pay me fairly and on time. I've been privileged to have been coached by and work for Neil Moore, the creator and director of Simply Music and I am forever changed and exceedingly grateful for what I've learned and who've I've become. And now, I look forward to passing what I've learned through experience, onto you.