Tomoko teaches students of all ages; “Age is not an excuse for not learning how to play the piano; as long as you are physical able to sit and move your fingers, you can learn.” And she has a special regard for older students. Tomoko says to them, “It’s OK if your parents didn’t let you plan the piano. Now you have the freedom.” In addition, Tomoko realizes that some of her students come from other countries where they might not have had an opportunity to take piano lessons.
Tomoko uses a different psychological approach with them: “They are not children. I don’t have to be as strict with them. Instead, I have to give them hope.” If they apologize that they started as a child but stopped, she is likely to say: “You weren’t ready then.”
Adults are more likely to be self- motivated if pursuing piano lessons, and are more realistic than children. “Grown ups know how hard practice is,” comments Tomoko, “They understand the challenge.” She also tells them, “You might not see the results immediately, but you can feel the change.”
Adult piano students also ask more often for feedback: “Am I doing all right??” When it comes to critiquing their playing, Tomoko asks them questions that draw upon their experience and emotional maturity. “What kind of character do you think is the person playing?” Tomoko might give some context for the piece, such as the composition was for a politician or that it was commissioned for a special occasion. Tomoko also asks the adult student to think about the composer’s personality, and to feel the rhythmic pattern and expression.
Tomoko has an annual recital just for her older students. “When Pablo was 96 he performed. I want to honor these lifelong learners.”