I have taught piano for five years now, and have never had a student not have a piano, or plans to get one right away, with current plans to go to an arranged house to practice until then.
Here is what I stammered to the mom, in a 15 second response, because another student was coming:
"well, it is a bit like air guitar vs. the real deal. I can offer some exercises and workbook pages and guide her during the weekly 30 minute lesson, but without practice, we will not get very far. I want to develop a sensitivity to touch and sound, proper hand posture, and let her play up and down the keyboard. Without practicing between lessons, it would be music lessons instead of piano lessons.”
Mom happily wandered off and I will see what happens next week. I have not spoken to the coordinator, as I know she would express extreme exasperation. I will see how next week goes with the girl.
My own letter sent a week before says that I expect you to practice, and to understand the difference between practicing, playing, and performing. I also say that there should be no tv near the piano, and no feeding the piano! I explain that a new student may need only 5-10 minutes a day at first to complete their work, but that it builds soon to 20, and then 30 or more minutes daily. I weekly will assign pages from a lesson book, a technique and artistry book, a warm-ups collection of my own creation, a theory book, and sometimes enhancement pages. I do sight-reading skills and ear-training during the lesson, plus review how and what they practiced, and move on from there. I use colored pencils to mark pages with dynamics and notes and the students choose fun stickers for their pages when done. We learn and review and demonstrate new vocabulary. Music, after all, is another language. We prepare for a recital, that will only be eleven lessons from now.
A bit from my letter to students:
My goal is to help you develop your musicianship and appreciation for practicing, as well as to enjoy piano music from your fingertips, as well as from others.
Our lessons will be (days) This does not mean to cram practicing in on (night before) nights, but to do a little each day.
I expect you to come prepared to every lesson. That means that you have all your piano books, your assignment notebook (any spiral bound lined notebook), a pencil, and a ready-to-go attitude. Write down your questions. We will work it out together!
Please follow the guidelines in the co-curricular policy handbook.
Here is some of the handbook:Lessons-
Lessons are designed for all levels of students.
They are 30 minute or more individual lessons, which meet weekly.
All students will be taught the fundamentals of technique, and theory.
Students will learn a variety of repertoire, which will be assigned according to level of playing ability.
Please be advised that we do not watch children left unattended on campus after school. Parents must supervise their students during after-school waiting periods for a lesson, and be prompt collecting them after lessons.
Students are expected to practice on a regular basis in accordance to their teacher’s expectations. Their performance in each lesson will reflect the quality of practice they did outside of the lesson.
School invoices each student based on the number of lessons for the semester. Payment is due as stated on the invoice. Refunds will only be given under extraordinary circumstances.
Admittedly, it does not expressly say, "You will need a camera for photography class/chessboard for chess class/violin for violin lessons/piano for piano lessons, etc..." but this policy handbook has remained unchanged in my three years teaching, and seems to be older than that.
This has not been an issue before. I guess there is always a first time! lol
From a piano lesson site-It’s a matter of attention span, physical size of the hands and above all the difficulty of learning a new “code” after learning the code of the ABC’s and reading. The code of music is much more complex, involving knowing the notes on the piano, on the staff lines and then coordinating the fingers to play them …. in time …. and with correct dynamics. Wow …. what a complex thing this is for a child!"
How many people do you know that have an old piano in their house, that just holds family photos and is just another piece of furniture?
If piano were that easy, everyone could and would do it.
How many people do you know that own and drive a car?
Vehicles can be thousands of dollars to purchase, and hundreds of dollars in upkeep, insurance, and gasoline, yearly.
A piano can be just a few hundred, requires tuning, preferably yearly, and that is that, mostly. A keyboard needs nothing, really. Plus, you can rent a piano for as little as $50/month.
I ask at the first lesson for three-four books to be purchased, and each book is around $7. Parents have never balked at the price. They may fuss at a trip to the store, but I will offer to go for them, with a surcharge of one dollar a book. Adds up for me! And they happily pay.
You witness drivers daily. You are learning about driving, however passively. To be a good driver, you have to practice. Plus, you already know how to read the street signs, and where your hands go, and how to follow in a line. You simply apply what you know from your years of experience as a passenger.
"Turn on the car. Adjust your mirrors. Release the brake, put it in drive, and follow the yellow line at 10 mph until the stop sign and turn right."
Compared to, "Prepare the proper fingers in the bass clef and treble clef for G major position. Look ahead for jumps and finger turns and accidentals. Begin in 4/4 time, and follow the dynamic and stylistic markings, beginning with forte and staccato until you end with the damper pedal and play legato and piano with ties and slurs. Do not take the repeat sign to the coda."
Would you take trumpet lessons without ever touching a trumpet except at your weekly lesson?
Sorry if I sound exasperated.
All my life, accompanying chorus and playing for church, I have been around pianos. My grandfather lived in half a house, a three room only duplex with a sleeping porch, and raised five poor kids, yet he had a piano.
If you want to pay me big bucks for a Kindermusik style babysitting class of one, so be it.
Also, while this is a nice private school, it does not have private practice rooms for 6-10 year old students to break away from the classroom to practice. My public high school had choir geeks hanging out during lunch in the choir room, but little music was done.
This school has several hundred students taking after school co-curricular lessons of some sort. There is NO way to offer during the school day time and space and supervision to practice dance, chess, trumpet, piano, violin, percussion, photography, etc...
Ok, time for bed.
I am bowing out, as I am sure I have irritated some posters.
For me, this was an "I cannot believe this mom did not realize a piano is a key part of piano lessons!"
But e-hell proved me wrong.
In researching this today, I simply searchengined, "Do I need a piano to take piano lessons?"
And I found this great article:http://elissamilne.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/10-things-you-should-do-before-your-child-begins-piano-lessons/
Maybe it will help future e-hellion pianists in waiting...