Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jillian has two lessons under her belt now

Hi everyone. Sorry for the blog silence. Busy, busy times.

We're underway with the piano teacher. To review, she is a woman who attends our church; we learned about her through the church grapevine, met with her, talked to her on the phone about the logistics, methods, and goals of her piano instruction, and decided to go with her through June. She teaches Monday through Thursday, from 3:00 to 8:00 PM, in 30 minute sessions. Jillian's appointed time slot is Monday, 6:30.

Like the woman who taught Jillian's first set of lessons, PT is a very nice woman. And there the comparisons end. PT is very outgoing, and talks a LOT. Curiously, this has had a resonant effect on Jillian, who is normally very reserved. After just two 30* minute sessions, Jillian has discovered her inner extrovert, who wants to show off and tell stories. For those of you who know her, you'd be surprised at her demeanor. She's almost giddy at piano lessons. You know, like a typical 6, er, 7 year old.

* - In theory, the lesson is 30 minutes, but nobody has booked the time slot after Jillian.** Since there is not a hard stop at the top of the hour, and since nobody is banging on the front door to say "Off the bench, my turn", that means we've tended to linger a little extra longer each of these first two lessons.*** Monday, in fact, we didn't leave until 7:25.

** - Yes, I am fully aware this creates an opening for me. Quiet, you!

*** - At no extra charge!

PT's instrument is an Emerson Baby Grand. As you know, I am no expert on these things, but I'd estimate it to be maybe 60, 80 years old. It sounds like it is in good shape. PT says the touch is a little firmer than most, but apparently Jillian isn't having any trouble with it.

At this point, PT is in an evaluation stage with Jillian, discerning what she can do, what she can't, strengths, weaknesses, that sort of thing. As she moves through the lesson, she takes moments to tell me what she is doing, and why she is doing it. As with our visit to the Suzuki teacher back in December, it is almost embarassing to have the teacher engage me while teaching another... but I understand her motivation. It might otherwise seem they're sort of all over the place, playing pieces from Jillian's old Schaum book, from her new Bastien book (Primer B), and various sheets of music we've had laying around. From these activities, PT has concluded the following about Jillian's development on the piano:

  • She's quite good at translating printed notes into keystrokes, but...
  • She's just OK at reading notes. Better on the Treble Clef.
  • She needs work on counting and rythmn.
  • As I've mentioned before, she can be creative with finger positioning. This is a mixed blessing, in that over time, she'll have the flexibility to do what she needs to do to play a difficult passage. But for now, we need to be sure that she CAN play using prescribed fingerings, so that needs some work.

In sum, she's off to a good start, but there are some foundational things on which Jillian's first teacher may have been overly permissive. We need to get those things on par with her strengths before we can make serious progress. Therefore, some of Jillian's first assignments seem trivial to her, but we're encouraging her to focus on the subtle points she's supposed to take away from them, like counting and finger position.

PT also knows what I'm up to in terms of the piano. She's even offered to split Jillian's lesson into a 25/5 ratio, giving me the last five minutes to play something, and/or ask questions. Thus far, we haven't been able to manage that, since, as I wrote earlier, the time seems to have gotten away from us each week. (Did I mention PT talks a lot? Well, she does. Not that there is anything wrong with that...) I'm considering asking for that 7:00 PM time slot, but money needs to loosen up a little first. Which could happen in the next month or so; stay tuned. I had I Due Fiumi ready to play for her, as part of determining where I am at, and how best to progress. Had I played it for her, it probably would have sounded something like this:

i due fiumi 1-5-2009 - Aw2pp

Which is to say, passable, with a couple of errors (you'll hear them) but probably not good enough for a PW ABF Recital, and not nearly as good as Anthony B's or Monica's recordings of the same piece. But still not bad for me. (And I really like the Pianissimo virtual piano!)

Back to PT. I think the odds are REALLY good that we're going to stay with her for the time being. Years, in fact. It's difficult, but possible to envision a scenario in which we might outgrow her. Her strength is not so much teaching piano / music per se, but rather in the Cognitive Development area, where she has a Master's Degree. (She's played piano her whole life, but only had five years of lessons herself. By her own admission, she's no virtuoso.)

And to answer Mom3Gram's question, yes, I think Jason will take lessons from her, too, probably starting in the Fall. And Jillian? Our little extrovert can't wait for her next lesson. She's making marks on the calendar for every day she practices. She gets up in the morning, puts on the headphones, and plays her assigned pieces. She loves it. Really, isn't that the point of all this?

Oh, and she is already excited about playing her recital piece in June. Who knew she had THAT in her?

- Aw2pp, who is Sooper, Sooper Serial about ManBearPig.


ral said...

Congratulations. It sounds like you've found the right teacher.

My experience: enjoying practice is more than half the battle. If you're enjoying practicing you will improve. Sounds like Jillian has passed that hurdle.

Michelle Himes said...

I'm glad that the new teacher is working out so well. :-)

AnthonyB said...

It's fun to see that the piano lesson is already turning into something beyond a piano lesson.

I hope that you'll be able to join in with some lessons in the near future even if it is only for a short time.