Today’s post is by Inner Circle member and all-round superstar teacher, Marie Lee, who I had the pleasure of finally meeting at this year’s MTNA and who is kicking some serious goals in her piano teaching studio.
Marie has totally revolutionised her studio from private teaching to only group teaching and has seen a massive payoff in engagement, enrollments, excitement and community and so I was delighted to hear that she was keen to share some of her ideas with us.
Thanks for all your contributions to the blog and our members community, Marie! If you’d like to connect with Marie personally, join the crew of amazing teachers in my Inner Circle.
Over to you, Marie!
Thirteen years ago I did something completely radical and transitioned my 30-student private piano studio into a group piano class studio.
Since that time, it’s grown to over 100 students, ages three to adult.
Over the past years, prospective students’ parents and fellow piano teachers have asked me the same question many times, “What is a group piano class like?”
To answer, I use the senses of sight, sound and emotion, along with sharing a typical class outline and lesson planning tips.
This shouldn’t be an out-of-control noisy loud, but the combined effort of musicians coming together. Instead of a school classroom’s cacophony, think of a head-nodding jam session.
Students learn to listen to each other while playing, developing a better sense of rhythm and tempo. This ensemble playing in every class refines their ability to accompany others or play in a band. They also shout out in friendly competition through games and incentive programs.
Students are more relaxed because the spotlight isn’t directly on them. The teacher isn’t sitting right next to them — listening to and watching their every move. Students feel free to answer questions and share observations, participate better and can focus on the fun and joy of making music, still with a teacher close by.
Students feel a connection and loyalty to their “piano team.” They love making music with their friends. I currently have a class of high-schoolers that have been together since they were six years old. They’re busy and have very little time to practice, but don’t want to give up their “team.” They’ve become the best of friends!
My typical 45 minute class schedule (I don’t do everything each week):
As you’d suspect, a successful group piano class doesn’t just happen. It requires significant preparation beforehand, ensuring the best use of class time. I find that I spend at least thirty minutes per class on lesson planning.
Here are some ideas I’ve found helpful:
Are you liking what you see, hear and feel?
Perhaps it’s time to incorporate some group piano into your own studio — maybe a once-a-month group piano class for your private students or group workshops this summer?
Consider how many of us are more consistent in documenting our lives on Facebook than we are in our own personal journals. It’s the live interaction with others that motivates us. We want to see what others are doing, share what we’re personally experiencing, be enveloped in a sense of community, and find support through it all.
Similarly, both from formal studies and my personal experience, students that see, hear and feel a sense of community tend to stick with music instruction longer, giving teachers more time to turn students into life-long music makers. Group piano classes do that.
What’s holding you back? What do you need to know?
Leave your questions for Marie below.
Owner of Musicality Schools in the Las Vegas area with over 100 students. Marie uses group piano classes to motivate and inspire musicians so they can enjoy a lifetime of creative and beautiful music making. Her patient, but high-energy teaching style leverages encouraging motivation for students along with the strengthening positive peer pressure of the class. She encourages creative performance methods and effective musicianship goal setting and awards to develop life-long skills of confidence and self-discipline. Private piano teacher for 25 years. Group piano teacher for 13 years.