Encouraging and Shaping Curiosity Within the Structure of Piano Lessons | Lessons Provide an Approach to Both Classical Piano and Jazz Piano Development | Classical Piano Lessons | Jazz Piano Lessons | Music Theory Lessons | Composition Lessons | Learning Through Structured Improvisation | Piano Recitals
Kato Music Studio
Piano Lessons & Teaching Philosophy
Piano Lessons & Teaching Philopshy
Piano Recital at age eight

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Piano Teaching Philosophy

I work with students within the framework and structure of private piano lessons to help the student to achieve their personal and musical goals within piano, while fostering good work habits, and always making an effort to uncover, encourage and develop the student's own inherent talents. I work to expose the student to wider musical and personal possibilities by encouraging my piano students to participate in music ensembles at school (or to form their own!), to participate in my own studio piano recitals and workshops (held about three times a year), and to consider enrolling in well-respected programs such as Certificate of Merit and Southern California Junior Bach Festival (offered by the Long Beach Branch of the Music Teachers Association of California), Southwestern Youth Music Festival (SYMF), and National Piano Guild Auditions. As a member of the Long Beach Branch of the Music Teachers Association, the National Guild of Piano Teachers and SYMF, the aforementioned activities are just a sampling of the programs which are available to my piano students.

My Experience as a Piano Student:
Classical Piano Versus Jazz Piano in the Old Days

My biggest peeve growing up taking piano lessons was the wall that seemed to exist between classical piano music and jazz and other styles of "popular" music. While I was capable of formally analyzing classical piano repertoire, the process seemed disconnected with the myriad of other styles of music which were also in my environment. While I had regularly performed at piano recitals, Certificate of Merit, the Southern California Junior Bach Festival, the Southwest Youth Music Festival, and other festivals, I found that I had relatively little preparation for the world of jazz piano, blues piano, improvisation, and composition. The good news is that these venerable programs now offer "jazz" categories, and are including structured improvisation within their curricula.

"To educe means to draw out or evoke that which is latent: education then means drawing out the person's latent capacities for understanding and living, not stuffing a (passive) person full of preconceived knowledge." -- Stephen Nachmanovich, Free Play, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990. (p. 118)

Since that time, I have sought out a diverse array of classical piano, jazz piano, composition teachers and other professional musicians to get real-world perspective and information. I am proud to teach from a broad perspective, transmitting passion for music theory, the disciplines of composition and performance, and a wholistic approach towards music. Through regular weekly lessons, students gradually uncover skills and insights that build towards a much wider artistic and personal goal.

Encouraging and Shaping Curiosity Within the Structure of Piano Lessons

For students who demonstrate interest, I tie in music theory concepts with fun (yes, music theory can actually be fun!) and with an eye on the eventual goal of the student improvising and composing his or her own compositions.

One-Dimensional Training: A Recipe For Frustration

Certain piano teachers insist on squeezing all students into a cookie-cutter lesson structure, rather than viewing each piano student has a wide diversity of musical strengths / weaknesses, ambitions, and goals. The classic example is the piano teacher who teaches as if all students are headed towards a career as a classical concert pianist. It needs to be acknowledged most students are not headed towards such a career.

Other piano teachers behave as though there is a wall between the worlds of classical, jazz and popular music, dismissing outright any style of music with which they have not had enough experience. When piano lessons focus solely on classical piano repertoire, musicianship skills and music theory critical to the understanding of jazz piano typically fall by the wayside. This winds up discouraging far too many piano students who are truly curious and creative.

Piano Lessons Today: Building Towards Understanding
Classical Piano and Jazz Piano

A student studying music for any respectable length of time should be taught how to play jazz and classical piano. The following major categories are what I consider required topics during the course of regular piano lessons:

  • How to play jazz piano (including improvisation, blues and other standard song forms, memorization of jazz standards, chord chart reading, comping patterns and soloing)
  • How to play classical piano (sightreading, ear training, music theory, music history and performance of standard repertoire from the four historical periods)

From the beginning, lessons prepare students to be versatile. While areas like jazz and composition are essentially more advanced, I still teach beginners concepts so that as they grow more advanced, they can immediately click in with what we've been doing all along.

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Encouraging and Shaping Curiosity Within the Structure of Piano Lessons | Lessons Provide an Approach to Both Classical Piano and Jazz Piano Development | Classical Piano Lessons | Jazz Piano Lessons | Music Theory Lessons | Composition Lessons | Learning Through Structured Improvisation | Piano Recitals
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