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Associate Degree: MCC - Classical Piano and Jazz Studies, Course Work: MCC - Jazz Improv, Course Work: Nazareth - Jazz Combo, Professional Certificate: Hochstein Music School
Associate's Degree - Music Performance and Jazz Studies, MCC
My name is Michael, I'm a creative, passionate piano player/instructor from Rochester, NY. Started playing at age 12 and I am now 34 years old, open to teaching all ages from roughly 8 to 80 and over, all skill levels, even someone that has never touched a piano before. My forte is jazz and samba music but I am classically trained and can teach a myriad of styles. I went to school at MCC, graduated the Associate's Degree program and took several years of lessons at Hochstein Music School. In 2010 I was invited to play piano in the Nazareth Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo by the late jazz legend and director Paul Smoker, I took him up on it and played with them for at least 2 semesters (may have been 4, not sure).
I used to teach piano at a music store in the Village of Webster for about a year. The majority of my students were kids, from age 8 to roughly 16. I ended up teaching a 5 year old at one point. I do like to encourage regular practice but only if the student is genuinely interested in learning and enjoys playing the instrument. Piano is not for everyone but I try to make it as enjoyable as possible! Before that, for a few years I was teaching privately in various families homes to kids in the same age range. Sometimes friends of friends or acquaintances will approach me after seeing me play and ask me if I'm available to teach them. I'm just as passionate about sharing my knowledge as I am about performing :)
I typically start with Alfred's Basic Piano Course if I'm teaching beginners, there are also Alfred's books for intermediate level students. It really depends on the student's preferred way of learning. There are a ton of great books out there to supplement teaching. I've also found John Thompson's series of books to be very helpful. Before I start teaching out of books though, I usually try to have the student write things down in a blank notebook of their choosing. Again it's really dependent on the skill level and familiarity with certain aspects of music / music theory. I try to focus on one thing at a time, to gauge how well the student is absorbing and see how well my teaching methods are working. Knowing what the notes are and where they are comes first, before anything. Once they have a solid grasp on that, I can start to teach chords and scales in C and explain the concept of tonality (if needed). Playing with one hand first, then the other, then using both hands. Working on rhythm and coordination follows that. For students that are in the intermediate-advanced stage, how the lessons go really depends on what the student's goals are and what they want to focus on. I have a lot of music theory knowledge and compositional skills, I can teach active listening, playing by ear, composition itself, improvising, arpeggios with fingerings, altered scales, hybrid structures of chords, tritone substitutions, voice leading, inner harmony, soloing, phrasing, and comping.
I always try to adapt to the student's preferences as far as learning, playing, length of lesson, amount of information, all-around comfortability. Goals are important, but so is acknowledging a student's progress and accomplishment / improvement. I do not believe in negative reinforcement, I'm very patient. Piano is a very difficult instrument to learn, at first it can be extremely overwhelming (especially for a pre-teen) so it's super important to take it one step at a time and have the first couple lessons be laid-back and relaxed, with no pressure. After that I still try to keep it relaxed but a bit more focused. The first lesson with any student is usually a sort of trial-and-error phase until the student starts to feel comfortable with methods/approach. I do use books but don't rely on them. If a student is really trying to focus on a particular aspect of music, like for example phrasing during improvisation, then I can share my own knowledge and recommend professional material to them.
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