“Did you know…” asked Val’s teenage student, “That this piece is older than my mum?”
Usually, a comment like that would have sparked a witty comeback from Val, but today it hit differently.
Instead, it was added to an ever-growing list of “Ways Val Is Out Of Touch With Her Piano Students.”
“Well, I still think it’s a very hip and cool song!” replied Val.
“Yeah, it’s like old-school. Vintage. I like it,” reassured her student.
“But it’s no Britney Spears or Justin Beaver, is it?” worried Val.
Table Of Contents:
- Val’s Realisation
- The Music Shop
- Meet Bev
- Bev’s Backstory
- PRESTO Framework
5.1 P Stands for Pedagogy
5.2 Ready For R? That Stands for Repertoire
5.3 E Stands for Educational Journey
5.4 S Stands For Studio Set-Up
5.5 Ah Yes, T Stands For Technique
5.6 Last Letter Now. O Stands for Outreach
- I’ll See You In The Membership
After her last lesson of the day, Val started tidying up her studio. She picked up her copy of Charlotte’s method book and smiled. She remembered learning from this when she was Charlotte’s age! Happy memories. Even though that time feels like an age ago.
The realization suddenly hit. It was quite a while ago.
Would Charlotte prefer to learn something more modern? Something that wasn’t written before her parents were born.
Val walked to her local music store to look for inspiration.
The Music Shop
Before she opened the door she could hear music – someone having a load of fun singing and playing the piano. She vaguely recognized the pop song, possibly from a TV advert.
“Must be one of the young shop workers,” Val thought.
The door opened and revealed the vocalist and pianist – a lady only a couple of years younger than her!
Val sauntered over to have a peek at the music but couldn’t see anything. The musician noticed Val’s confused face.
“You alright?” she asked.
“I was just looking for your music but you don’t have any – I guess you’re playing from memory?”
“Oh, I’m playing from this!” explained the woman, gesturing to a piece of paper.
“What on earth…?” Val was baffled.
“It’s a chord chart! I’m just practicing it for one of my piano students.”
“Oh, this piano teacher is far too old to understand this,” sighed Val.
The woman patted the piano stool next to her for Val to sit down.
The two women got talking and Val learned the lady was Bev, a piano teacher on a trip to visit her family. They’d both been teaching piano for roughly the same amount of time, but whereas Val was feeling weary and out-of-touch, Bev was full of energy and enthusiasm.
“So, which method book have you found works for everyone?” quizzed Val.
“Oh, honey, no!” exclaimed Bev. “Your students aren’t all the same, so don’t try and teach them all the same way!”
“But isn’t that how you were taught?” asked Val. “I remember I had the same books as both my sisters.”
“That’s absolutely how I was taught,” agreed Bev. “But that doesn’t mean it’s how I should teach.”
Val was confused. “But it worked well for you – you’re very talented.
“It worked for me back then. Back when kids were happy playing hide and seek outside or showing off their latest marbles! But now kids are playing video games and watching TikTok. It’s a completely different time,” explained Bev.
Val thought. This all made sense.
“I see your point. I’ve noticed kids aren’t impressed with the same things nowadays. It’s hard to keep them engaged – I’ve even had several quit because they just want to teach themselves using YouTube,” sighed Val. “I figured I’m just past it. Can’t compete with new technologies.”
“Why should you compete?” asked Bev, her eyes glistening. “Join in! Embrace technology. Adapt to teaching in modern ways. Find ways to engage your students. Learning on YouTube is great, but it’s no replacement for an actual teacher. Show them that!”
“Look, I was you a couple of years ago. I felt I was getting old and boring. At my summer recital, I had five kids playing the exact same piece. And all the other pieces were pieces that had been played at all my previous recitals.
But it was hearing an audience member say, ‘This concert is fine, but in the same way a house where all the rooms are beige is fine. It does the job but it’s nothing special.’
I decided I didn’t want to be a beige teacher.”
“Hence the hair!” Val gestured to the bright purple streak in Bev’s hair.
“Exactly! And I can tell you you have color in you. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Val nodded. She knew she was colorful.
“So, what’s your secret, Bev?”
“I was hoping you’d ask!” Bev beamed, holding out her phone.
“TopMusic PRESTO Framework?” Val read out loud.
“Let me talk you through it!” Bev exclaimed, excited.
“PRESTO Framework. PRESTO is an acronym for all the topics that make up piano teaching. So we can pick and choose what we need help with, or what we’re interested in improving.
P stands for Pedagogy.
Now, I feel you know your stuff. But it’s how you teach it that really matters. For example, you have a brand new beginner student. What do you do?
“Start them on the first book,” answered Val.
“That’s what I thought you’d say. But you’re missing out on the opportunity to make connections with your students! This is the perfect time to encourage them to get creative.”
“…That makes a lot of sense.”
“So, under pedagogy, you can find all sorts of resources to help you see things from a different perspective. Like I said – you know what to teach, but the key is teaching it in different ways to different students.”
“That sounds useful. What sort of resources?”
Val’s ears pricked up at the mention of courses. Learning new skills is something she’s always interested in. But teaching piano was something she thought she already knew. Turns out you never stop learning.
“Ready for R? That stands for Repertoire.”
“Oh, I have a lot of sheet music and books,” reassured Val.
“Let me ask you a question. Can you tell me the name of the most up-to-date piece you’ve taught?”
“There’s your answer. Kids respond really well to current pieces and songs. Especially teenagers. The ones leaving to learn with YouTube? They’ll be wanting to learn current songs!”
“But I don’t know what’s current. How do I know what students want to learn?”
“TopMusic has you covered there too! They’re always sharing the latest songs students want to learn. They even share tips on ways to teach the songs.”
“Oh, that sounds useful. Teaching pop songs is definitely not my forte. I can’t remember the last pop song I played!”
“Exactly! And that ties into the next pillar of the PRESTO Framework.
E stands for Educational Journey.
And this is a big one. It’s about designing a curriculum tailored to each individual student. No more putting everyone on the exact same method book and doing the exact same thing.
I’ll be honest, this was a big change for me. I had my set pieces that students learned at certain levels at specific times of the year. But just because this worked for me didn’t mean it worked for my students.”
“What do you do now?” asked Val, her mind full of so many ideas and questions.
“Everything! I get to know each student and ask what they want to do. Why do they want to learn the piano?”
“To be able to sit at the piano and play pieces, surely?”
“That’s just the start! I have students who want to…
- Get good at sight reading so they can accompany singers at school
- Be able to play by ear so they can listen to a song and figure out how to play it without any music
- Improvise and compose – express themselves through music
It’s more than just teaching students to read the notes on the page so they can perform a piece. It’s about providing them with skills to be creative and develop a passion for music in their own way.”
“Wow. That’s a lot. But I’m not sure I know how to do that.”
“Exactly what I thought. But after spending time digesting lots of TopMusic resources and courses, I felt a lot more confident. TopMusic has everything to help me help my students.”
“But what if I don’t know the answer to something my student asks?”
“Again, that was exactly my worry. But you know what TopMusic has taught me? Teachers don’t have to know everything. We just have to be open to learning new things. That’s what counts. And showing your students you don’t know everything makes you seem more human. And they respect that.”
“That’ll take some time to get used to,” mused Val.
“S is for Studio Set Up.”
“But my studio is already set up. Is this an area of the PRESTO Framework I don’t need?” questioned Val.
“Yes and no. Do you just teach one-to-one lessons?”
“Most of the time, but sometimes I’ll have siblings together because it saves the parent coming backward and forwards. Thinking about it, those lessons are always the most fun…”
“Yes! Do more of those! Group lessons are a great way to engage students and you’ll get more money coming in because you’ll have more students!” explained Bev.
“More money definitely sounds good.”
“Speaking of money for a second, do you feel comfortable working on your finances?”
“My brother-in-law is a financial advisor, so any questions I just ask him! But it would be good to be more independent with those matters. TopMusic can help me with that?”
“Oh, jealous about that connection – I bet that’s useful! But TopMusic has plenty of ways to help you feel more confident with financial matters. Have I mentioned TopMusicPro yet?”
“TopMusicPro has been my savior. How do I explain it? It’s a community of teachers all over the world who are ready and willing to answer any questions or provide support. I’ve met lots of lovely teachers who I chat to all the time!”
“Oh, that sounds lovely. Teaching can feel a bit lonely at times. No one else I know understands what I do.”
“Exactly! TopMusicPro is also where you access all those courses I mentioned. I don’t even know how many there are, but there’s a LOT! Everything from business to how to teach chords, you’ll find an absolute goldmine that’ll give you ideas and inspiration for teaching. So no need to bring out the same method books and pieces over and over again.”
“This sounds exactly what I need,” agreed Val.
“It’s exactly what I needed! Where have I got to on the PRESTO Framework?
Ah yes, T stands for Technique.”
“Not to blow my own trumpet, but technique is something I’m very good at teaching,” bragged Val. “People are always commenting on how well my students play.”
“Fantastic! But do you ever find there are certain areas that are harder to teach than others?”
“Sometimes. I’m always baffled when a student doesn’t understand something other students find straightforward…”
“It goes back to what we said before. Finding different ways to teach different students! So even though you know what to teach when it comes to technique, it’s always interesting to learn various ways of teaching it. New analogies and activities you might not have tried before.”
“I’d never have thought that before. I’ve always just used the tried and tested ways and assumed it would make sense to everyone eventually. Now I think about it, that’s not a productive way of thinking! I’m a bit embarrassed,” admitted Val.
“Don’t be! I used to be the same. The important thing is you’re open to change and trying something new,” reassured Bev.
“Last letter now. O is for Outreach.”
“Outreach?” asked Val.
“Marketing. Advertising your studio and your business to get more students.”
“I do need new students. I normally just rely on word-of-mouth and wait for students to contact me,” informed Val.
“Word-of-mouth is great, but sometimes you’ve got to put yourself out there. Show prospective students why they should have lessons with you rather than any other teacher or YouTube. Do you have a website?”
“So exciting! You’ve got to let me help you set up your online presence!”
“Well I’ll definitely need help, I have no clue.”
I’ll See You In The Membership
Bev’s phone beeped and she glanced at the screen.
“Is that the time?!” she jumped up.
“I’m going to have to leave you, my daughter’s expecting me back at hers.”
“Thank you so much for everything, Bev. It’s been very eye-opening and thought-provoking.”
“This is just the start, Val! It’s time to put these new ideas into practice. And I look forward to seeing how it all works out for you,” said Bev, pulling on her coat.
“What’s the best way to reach you? I’d love to stay in contact,” asked Val.
“Best way? In the TopMusicPro community.” Bev winked.
“Sounds perfect. I’ll get onto that as soon as I get home,” promised Val.