Jennifer Eklund, the composer/owner of Piano Pronto Publishing, asked us to be her first Studio of the Month on her website and asked a fun series of questions. I am thrilled and excited to share the link with you, and will be adding photos of students with their books.
Click for the link to… Piano Pronto – July/August Teacher/Studio of the Month 2014 Interview (the link is currently broken, but the interview can be read below in this post)
INTERVIEW with Jennifer Eklund at Piano Pronto for the Teacher Feature Page…
- July/August 2014
- PP = Piano Pronto
- KP = Kristin Phillips
- PP: Can you tell us a bit about your background and musical studies, as well as how long you have been teaching?
KP: I began lessons the day before my 7th birthday from my neighbor, Nilza. She studied music extensively in Brazil as the daughter of missionaries from the U.S. under very strict piano instruction. In my lessons, she was very thorough, obviously cared about my music future, and expected perfection – building a fabulous foundation and giving me all the tools I would need to become successful at piano & my future teaching. Her daughter later became my very first piano student at the age of 5.
I took lessons from her for about 5 years, and then transferred to a teacher, Hannah, who introduced me to the Oregon MTNA Syllabus program. My teacher completed through level 10 & I took levels 4 & 6 under her. She worked extensively on improvisation & classical music with me, and helped me become involved in the worship teams at my church.
As I entered my junior year of highschool, I switched from homeschooling to private school – and made the additional change from taking lessons under Hannah to taking lessons under Chantal, who continued me in syllabus at level 8. She pushed me in my piano studies, and my one-hour lessons often exceeded 90 minutes, occasionally approaching as many as 3 hours. Her tutelage helped me to excel in classical music and I saw my studio grow drastically during this time. She moved to Canada, and I had the opportunity to study under several more teachers through my college years… Julie, Monica, and others.
In 2007, I began classes in college as a music major, and graduated in 2010 from Portland Bible College with an Associates of Arts in Church Music & Vocal Performance, but I continued my piano lessons as well – and took classes at the local community college in the music program to supplement the skills & styles I wished to learn.
I began teaching in March 2003, one young student for free for approximately 10 lessons (my first teacher’s 5 year old daughter). After that time, her family referred me to another family. For the first year, I had 4 students, but by the third year, I had 18 students. I quickly learned teaching was my passion, and devoted many hours to learning how to improve & be the best teacher I could be.
Throughout college, I taught approximately 40 students. In 2012, a local Montessori school contacted me and requested I teach lessons there as well – a job I am thrilled I accepted! At my home studio, I’m kept busy with close to 36 students weekly, in addition to those at the Montessori school twice a week (ranges from 8-12 students). I hope to increase my student numbers to 50.
- PP: Tell us about Small Town Music Lessons in Boring, Oregon. Do you cater to a certain type of student? How many students are currently in your studio?
KP: Initially, I called my studio several different names… a few including… “Boring’s Piano Studio”, “Boring’s Music Studio”, “Kristin’s Piano Studio”, “Kristin’s Music Studio”, “Mountainview Music Studio”, and recently settled quite happily on the new name “Small Town Music Lessons”.
It covers the bases, and reflects the beautiful, quaint town in which I live – a town by the name of “Boring”, surrounded by fields, nurseries, Christmas tree farms, agriculture, and rural neighborhoods/homesteads.
I prefer teaching students from “scratch”. Even though I don’t have problems with taking transfer students, I do know from personal experience that switching teachers is difficult – more difficult on the student than on the teacher. Styles & approaches are different, as are personalities.
My favorite students to accept into the studio are those who are brand new to music, piano specifically. I have taught students successfully & happily as young as 3 and as wonderful as 90, but my favorite age range for new students is between 6 & 16. Students can expect a strong classical music education, as well as the incorporation of pop and familiar pieces. This spring, 14 students requested & started pieces from the movie, “Frozen”.
Every student should have the opportunity and be taught the skills to tackle, conquer, understand, and beautifully play any music they desire – being guided by the decisions of their teacher.
- PP: Tell us something unique about your studio that we wouldn’t know by just looking at your website.
KP: Students select their own pace. Many times, they decide how many pieces they’ll tackle during a given week. Students who have practiced thoroughly will often have the opportunity to play one of the many music-related games in the studio during the last portion of their lesson.
One adult student and dear friend brings a piece or two of music each week for me to play at the start of her lesson, we focus on music theory, and she plays the pieces she has tackled that week.
My goal is to inspire, to support, to encourage, and to direct. I am gentle, never upset, but I do expect dedication & hard work for their instrument from my students. They know they can comfortably & safely tell me if they had a rough week of practicing, but we move on and try again.
I can be strict with students, though, when I know they should be doing better – and we always celebrate in some way when they have a breakthrough.
- PP: How long have you been using Piano Pronto materials? What is your favorite element of the materials?
KP: I began using Piano Pronto materials several years ago. Jennifer had been posting free samples for quite a while, and I saved a folder on my computer of pieces to try myself. Later, I decided to purchase the Piano Pronto Lesson Books in the unlimited licensing version (Prelude, Movement 1, Movement 2, and Movement 3) – printed them and put them in notebooks individually labeled & organized. I started using those with students and noticed their excitement. Very shortly after that, I completed the set by purchasing the unlimited licensing copies of Movement 4, Movement 5, Finale, and Encore. I instructed all my students to purchase & bring 3-ring binders and I would copy the next few pages for them at their lesson. The response to this was generally quite good, but a few students started requesting “real books”.
I purchased a complete set (one of each level) in the hardcopy book, signed by Jennifer – and those were a HUGE hit! Shortly after that, all my students had a small collection of Piano Pronto books.
Switching to Piano Pronto has been the best decision I’ve made for my studio. Students are focusing, laughing, playing faster & with greater ease, and finding that their music can sound beautiful without too much clutter. I love the simpler setup and visual appeal.
My students haven’t quite described what they like about it, but their delight is evident – and I haven’t had a single student “forget” to practice a Piano Pronto assignment. They love the pieces! After seeing the success of the method books, I also decided to purchase at least one of each other supplemental book & sheet music booklet. My set is nearly complete, and I’ll be ordering refills soon.
- PP: Any fun Piano Pronto stories from your studio?
KP: There are so many stories! One is about 5 years old, and started with me at the age of 4. She’s always saying delightful things, has a vivid imagination, and doesn’t hold back when describing whether she likes or dislikes something.
I’ve had SOOOO many very young (4, 5, 6 years old) students tell me initially, even about Piano Pronto, “this song is sooo hard!” only to return to their next lesson and announce, “this song was too easy-peasy!” and play it perfectly with either gusto or emotion.
- PP: Can you offer some terrific tips for other teachers that have helped you over the years?
KP: Let lessons match the pace of your student. Research like crazy. Be inventive and silly. Ask how your student is doing… in life, in school, in piano, in the moment. Invest in and support the families of your students.
When you treat your students well and with earnest sincerity, parents see that – and they respect you for it. Don’t take your situation for granted – teaching is a privilege and a gift, but we are in a customer service life, and though families will come & go (hopefully years apart), we want to leave everyone with a great experience – feeling they got the greatest value for their effort, time, money, and investment.
Love your job, take holidays, get lots of sleep, drink lots of water, and find joy in every moment. Take photos, because even if they are only for your own memories & to share directly with the student’s family, those photos will be treasures for years to come.
Don’t let the business side of teaching overshadow your devotion to being the best teacher you can be – but be certain to live & teach professionally, taking seriously the job of fostering a love for music in the lives of 100s (perhaps 1000s) of students throughout the years.