February 20, 2015

Advice to a New Piano Teacher

Tomoko started giving piano lessons when she was a teenager, so it was no wonder that she first made money in the United States by giving piano lessons to Japanese families – and continues to this day as a piano teacher. With her lifetime experience, Tomoko is well positioned to give advice to a new piano teacher.

She begins by saying, “Don’t expect anything.” Remembering her long way to success, Tomoko asserts, “There’s no payoff right away. You need patience.” Tomoko uses an analogy to gardening, an activity that she increasingly enjoys. “You need to be well grounded in your music.” That takes deep roots in the knowledge of music and performance, daily toil in maintaining your skill, and ongoing weeding of bad habits. “Music is to be cultivated through preparation and development.”

Tomoko cautions, “As a teacher you will have bumpy feelings. Parents can be demanding. Student progress can be uneven. Sometimes it seems as if nothing is happening – and then there will be a spark.” She continues, “Think of this as positive pressure.” And that feeling can be transmitted to the students when they have a hard time. Tomoko knows that the teacher has to be a diagnostician, a problem solver, and an encourager. “Sometimes I trick students to do well, “Tomoko admits.  “Always give hope.” 

Over time, experience helps refine teaching. The variety and the fun sustain efforts. "You become classier; you become a better person." In any case, "Do your best," concludes Tomoko.