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General Teaching Style
My teaching style is pretty casual, and I believe that music lessons should be fun. I make sure that my lessons are both engaging and challenging, because if it's too easy, it becomes boring -- and that isn't fun!
Curriculum-wise, I find that every student is different with regard to what works best for their music learning journey. I default to teaching students to play by ear, but I also think that being able to read music is an important skill to have. With that in mind, I use a method book for piano and guitar students to ensure that we cover the basics, and that we don’t skim over anything important. I supplement that book with a song or musical piece for which the student has a particular fondness.
Focus & Goals of the First Lesson
With adult students, the first thing I like to do is to find out if they've had lessons before and, if so, how long it's been since they last took regular lessons. Those who have had lessons in the past tend to know the musical skill(s) they'd like focus on first. Maybe they had classical piano lessons as a kid and now they'd like to learn how to improvise and play be ear. Or maybe they played guitar in a rock band in high school, never learned how to read music, and now they want to develop sight-reading skills. Some of them have unpleasant childhood memories of piano lessons that might have been too disciplined for them. I stress from the beginning that I believe their highest priority should be having fun! If it's not fun, you won't stick with it, and why would you?
If they've never had a lesson before, I have some fun and easy intro songs that I like to use. My goal here is to help them learn to read and play a simple melody with their right hand while they play a chord with their left hand. I love it when they're surprised by how much easier it is than they thought it would be. They usually leave pretty excited!
With children, I do pretty much the same thing but at a slower pace: Depending on how old the child is and whether they've had lessons before. The 'fun factor' is at least as important with kids. I believe it's particularly important for kids that they don't sense stress or impatience from their teacher. It's also really helpful to develop a good rapport with their parent(s).
Pop and Jazz particularly for students who like to both play and sing.
Additional Experience & Instruments
Becoming a dad 17 years ago totally changed how I relate to people (especially kids) in a positive way. And I’ve been blessed to come from a large extended family of very diverse and truly wonderful people. It would be easy to miss any family resemblance until you look closer. It’s very cool.
With 30 years of experience as a singing piano and guitar player, I’m very comfortable teaching people an instrument and voice at the same time.
I enjoy teaching students of all ages and all ability levels, but I am particularly enthusiastic about teaching folks who like to play and sing at the same time.
Most Inspirational Music Moment
I have so many inspiring memories. My most recent inspirational music moment came last night: I saw one of the most amazing and inspiring performances of my life. It was New York Voices at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley here in Seattle.
The first inspirational moment that I recall, however, was seeing footage of Paul McCartney sing Hey Jude with The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. It changed my life.
Top 3 Desert Island Albums
- The Beatles - Abbey Road
- Wendy Carlos - Switched on Bach
- The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
Listen to Robert
- Public Folder - This is where Robert posts files for his students