Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lessons School Didn't Teach

School doesn't teach everything we need to know for a career as a collaborative pianist. We definitely get a solid grounding in music history, theory, and performance. What I have found most difficult to learn are the important lessons rarely discussed in the classroom. Here are a few of the conversations I wish someone had had with me before leaving school.


  • Repertoire lists are important...and challenging! Every music school should advise students to maintain a thorough repertoire list on the first day of class! It's also important to determine what material is included. Is it limited to only works performed publicly or does it include every piece of music I successfully navigate in lessons? Should it only represent what I'm prepared to perform at a moment's notice? Those questions just address content, too! There are issues of organization and layout as well as developing a plan of how and when to update the list.
  • Practicing smart is essential. If you are working as a musician, the reality is that you may not have large chunks of time to devote to personal practice. It's important that you learn how to make the most of short segments of time scattered throughout the day as well as developing skills to learn music very rapidly.
  • Knowing how to play does not completely equip you to teach. Teaching is an art that every pianist should develop. You probably don't want to start with more than 3 or 4 students though. There is much more involved than simply showing a student where to place their hands on the keyboard! It takes time as well as trial and error to develop your skills as a pedagogue. Teaching group lessons and lecturing about music are also challenging (and fulfilling) opportunities the pianist should explore.
There are many other topics such as pricing, scheduling, and turning down gigs that need to be discussed as well. What lessons have you learned? Share your advice and experiences in the comment section below.