closeup of hands playing a piano

I have been teaching piano for five years, so it is a relatively recent career for me, but I have been playing the piano since kindergarten, and I would like to share the joy of playing music through my lessons.

Growing up in Japan, I took private piano lessons for 11 years. I was trained to play classical music, but I also enjoyed playing pop, jazz, and blues on my own.

While I decided not to pursue music as my major at college, I took pipe organ lessons on campus and served as one of student organists during my undergraduate years. When I moved to Hawai’i for advanced study, I took courses in Indonesian Gamelan instruments to supplement my studies in that area.

When I started working, I didn’t have space for my piano, so the first thing I did was to buy an electric piano. When we settled in a house in Austin, I was finally able to move my piano and sheet music from Japan, and that allowed me to finally enjoy playing the piano and my favorite music again. When one of my friends asked me to teach some of the neighborhood kids how to play the piano, I agreed and eventually became an instructor.

As I said earlier, I want to share the joy of playing music through my lessons. When it comes to the joy of playing music, people often think that it can only come after years of training when you are finally able to play a famous composer’s most challenging piece. Therefore, that must be something reserved only for talented people.

Spending time with my students, I can say that is not true. The joy of playing music, in this case piano, comes to students at any level when they are motivated with constant challenges.

I see my student’s face brighten when they succeed at a small challenge and realize that now they can do something they couldn’t do yesterday. I see their face sparkle when they overcome the challenge and are finally able to play the song they love.

Watching how students react to their music reminds me what is important as an instructor. I closely observe student’s progress every week and give them sufficient, level-appropriate assignments to tackle at home. I constantly talk with them about how the skill/technique they are learning is related to their “dream songs.”

That also helped to shape my methodology of having students write “their own arrangement of their favorite song” in my Advanced Lessons. At every level of development, they have something they are good at and something they need to work on. While combining those two together, I challenge students to copy phrases from their favorite song on piano and to write them down on manuscript paper. It is a slow process requiring a lot of discussion to bake their own level-appropriate arrangement, yet they see what they can do with what they learn in textbook. They have a piece to play and show off their talent at the end, too.

It has been a fun five years so far to see how every student who comes to my lesson has grown musically. I would like to continue to serve to nurture their skills to enjoy playing music as a life-long hobby.