Where Lessons & Teaching Began for Kristin

The following is something I wrote early in 2010 & have since “updated” with more current information as much as possible… over 20 years ago, I began taking piano lessons… and almost 14 years ago, I began teaching piano lessons.  I quickly came to LOVE my job.  Read about it here.

(this cutie is my nephew about 6 years ago = 2010-ish)

Where Lessons Began…

Although they did not officially start until the day before my 7th birthday, the piano has been a part of my life since I could walk. We have perhaps 3 pictures of my piano playing before the age of 10, so I have wasted NO time capturing the moments when my nephew (in the picture above) begs me to allow him piano time… since before he could even smile, he has been fascinated with the piano & music in general.  My newborn niece is very, very much the same way.  ;)

I am very grateful to my parents, who ceaselessly supported, encouraged, forced, and timed my playing. Through the frustrating moments and the moments of great accomplishments, smiles, and high-fives, they never gave up.

I had a very solid foundation of 5 years at the piano with my first teacher, my wonderful neighbor, whose family has been wonderful friends with my family for years. Thank you, Mrs. Brito! :) She taught me during the crucial years and brought me to a level at which I felt comfortable picking up a sheet of music and sight-playing it… my absolute favorite thing to do!

I soon became interested in learning to play worship songs & improvisation from chord charts and transitioned to another teacher about 35 minutes away. Hannah Hilbert poured her time, energy, and passion for music into me for almost 4 years. The skills I learned with her brought me to a new level in my playing. During my time with her, I also began teaching my first few students & took my first two music juries in the OMTA Syllabus Examinations (levels 4 & 6 – the latter level at which I also received honors).

When we both felt a need for change, I began taking lessons at City Bible Church from Julie Womack while my brother took his guitar lessons from Jono Davis. After a year with Julie as my teacher, again learning a new and fun style & the importance of fingering and learning songs hands together from the beginning whenever possible… ending the year’s recital with Chopin’s Nocturne in E minor… I began taking from a teacher in the Gresham area.

One of a kind and truly a blessing in the time when I needed the biggest push… my junior year of highschool, I took from Chantal Touchette. All my teachers have taught me in many special, unique, and life-changing ways, but Chantal was different. Every Monday at 7:00, my mom and I drove to lessons together (yes, I didn’t have my license until I was 18). Chantal taught with motivation, inspiration, and love – it would break my heart if I failed to practice the hours each day she required.  We often spent 2 to 3 hours in the weekly lesson preparing for the last syllabus exam I would take before the end of highschool… level 8. Her desire to see me succeed in piano made all the difference in the world. She believed in me in a way I had never before truly appreciated  from teachers… even though I should have seen they supported me unconditionally too! In the 11 months I took from Chantal, I learned more about the piano, more about music, more about myself as a musician, and more about teaching than I have all the years combined. I blame myself for not getting as much out of the other years before as I could have. I blame myself for not giving all my effort and dedication. Something clicked for me during that time – my studio shot from 4 students to 18 students in 4 months. Chantal saw something – and I began to believe it too.

After Chantal moved away, I took lessons from Monica Sanders, who became a tremendous mentor for me in the years following as I studied music in college. Many teachers have been amazing influences on me as a student and teacher – I couldn’t name them all. I will always be absolutely grateful!

Where Teaching Began…

When I was 15 years old, my dad encouraged me to start teaching. My 5 year old neighbor, Anna, was my first student. Because I was new to teaching and young myself, I taught her at no charge and often asked my own teacher for advice along the way. My brother was my second student. Mom paid me a dollar to teach him and she paid him a dollar to take lessons… the only way he would take piano from his bossy older sister.  ;)  Even though he didn’t realize it at the time, those 25 piano lessons I managed to teach him before he started guitar lessons elsewhere (and has become an amazing guitarist!) gave me the experience I needed to fall in love with this career.

Some wonderful students, Chelsea & Tyler, came next. From there, Josh and Levi. From there, Avalon, Cheyenne, Britton, and many more. I remember every name. I remember every face. Every student is special to me.  Several of the students who began in that first year are still taking lessons. They are a part of my life. I care about them. I put my heart into everything I teach.

I can spend paragraphs talking about my teachers. I can spend paragraphs talking about my students. But, honestly, I would be doing everyone a disservice if I failed to mention those closest to me. My parents have been supportive, encouraging, and wonderful counselors all these years. My brother and sister over the years have never once discouraged me from my dream – they are always enabling me to learn, improve, and grow as a musician and teacher. I am thankful to have been given a love for music, a passion to teach, and a thriving, healthy, wonderful studio of families who are a true joy with whom to work, has never ceased to amaze me – joy at the sound of a piano and brings music to my head and fingers. I long to share that connection and closeness I have with music – with you.

Some people undervalue the job of a piano teacher. Almost more than any other occupation, piano teaching has a huge list of “stereotypes”.  As far as I am concerned, I squish them (the stereotypes) as soon as I hear them. Piano teachers put their heart on the line. They spend hours preparing, communicating, and sharing. They grow to consider their students as family in a different way… special, valued, worth individual attention without distraction. They not only teach during the day hours… a truly dedicated teacher (of any discipline & subject) will dream and strategize at night – “how can I best help this student?” “how can I prepare for that lesson?” “what activity would help solidify that skill?” The mind is always going. Most people can leave their work in the office, but music teachers most often live where they teach. It is not as easy as it seems. Yes, it is convenient. It is comfortable. It is home. But, it is also almost impossible to separate home life from work. For every one hour of lessons, the teacher will spend as many as two or three hours in preparation of some kind. The average piano teacher working then a 60-hour week (25 of teaching, 35 of prep), must set aside the majority of one’s income for supplies, music books, income taxes, self employment tax, health insurance, housing, utilities, property tax, sales tax, retirement planning, investments, benefits, car expenses, and MUCH more.  Nothing is automatically supplied for the self-employed music teacher or outside his or her hard work.  The greatest reward, however, is the knowledge that they are making a difference in the lives of others.  Everything they earn, save, and have – they must earn, save, and have by careful planning & earning/saving.  It is not easy, but it is SO worth it.

Taking into consideration that music teachers spend years developing their skills, hours of practice from a very young age… every day, we realize behind every piano teacher’s job is a life history spent doing scales, memorizing… frustration, accomplishments, careful and slow practice, and experimentation. It is a passion. It is a dream. It is the goal we have to share our love for music with others. We are easily taken for granted… easily brushed off as “that lady down the street” or “the girl who is only trying to make side money” or “she’s not a professional – she’s a piano teacher”. Wrong. Remember? We music teachers must squish those stereotypes by proving them wrong. If anyone believes I am “that stereotypical” teacher, they will find themselves dreadfully mistaken. My friends who teach put their energy, their time, and their effort into seeing their students succeed and love music. I am constantly challenged to improve, grow, and polish my skills as a piano player and teacher. It is full-time, a hobby, a profession, a career, a livelihood, a future, a present, a past, full of rewards, my favorite.

Despite the financial challenges, it has always been a great honor to teach. My goal is that through the times I have with my amazing students, they will learn to love music the way I do. They will learn to share their music with others. And, they will understand that they are the center of my attention and focus as I give their music path and music future to God.

No matter where, no matter when, and no matter how, for the last nearly 10 years, I have dedicated this studio, these students, my teaching, and the recitals to the Lord. He is the reason I sing and the reason I play. My parents never let me stop. It’s hard to imagine where I would be at this moment… what I would be doing with life. It wouldn’t be this fun. Thank you, Mom and Dad! :)

It is my great privilege to work with such amazing families. These families have faithfully attended lessons weekly. They understand the hard work that goes into each and every lesson. They know how and when to help their kids practice at home – with support, encouragement, and dedication. They communicate any concerns or questions when those arise. They know that tuition is the livelihood on which their teacher can continue to teach.

Please, everyone, no matter where you take lessons or where you discover your music skills, stop and remember that you are special – and don’t stop, because NOW is the time to enjoy what you are learning & now is the time to dive completely into your music lessons of whatever kind. You are worth it. You are talented. You are given the opportunity to make and learn about music – because throughout history, throughout the Bible, we find examples of worship, instruments, making music, singing, and praise. And you can rest assured that whatever the stereotypes say about piano teachers, those stereotypes can be put to rest. It is my great honor to spend my time with you. :)

Thank you for spending your time with me.

(the 1st photo below is of my brother & I playing piano together = ages 3ish & 1ish)
(the 2nd photo below is of the studio 2014 music recital entry table)



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s