My Philosophy of Teaching Piano

Image representing the teaching philosophy of the instructor at The Art of Piano, Rochester, Springfield, IL

Playing the Piano and Making Music

I believe that playing the piano should be an aurally exhilarating, emotionally satisfying, physically thrilling and overall electrifying and fulfilling experience.  Music has the power to express all emotions and transport us to different times and places. Music notation, however, with all its symbols and terminology, cannot capture the essence of music any more than words on a page can capture drama, poetry, or prose. Like a map, notation can guide us down the right path, but it is ultimately up to the performer to interpret the score and bring the music alive. Expressive musical performance is the result of study, practice, and acquired musical taste, combined with inspiration.

Educational Goals and Strategies

In my teaching, I endeavor to open each student’s heart and mind to the beauty and power of music, to instill a love for the piano, and to nurture creativity and self-expression. It is my desire to cultivate musicians—each with their unique musical gifts and personalities—not imitators.

My primary goal in teaching is to prepare students for a life-long enjoyment of music making, while also contributing to their personal, intellectual, emotional, and creative development. People enjoy what they can do well. Therefore, I consider empowerment to be instrumental to motivation. I aim to empower students by fostering knowledge, skills, habits, and personality traits that enable them to become gradually independent and to face new situations and challenges with confidence and poise. I want students to understand that progress in piano technique and musical artistry takes time, discipline, patience, and dedication and that perseverance is crucial for achieving many other goals in life, as well. During lessons, I take time to demonstrate and explain good practice habits to help students get the best results when practicing on their own. My hope is that students come away from their lessons inspired and self-sufficient.

Proper technique, pedaling, and the various aspects of musical interpretation are cultivated right from the start to ensure comfort at the piano and prevent later frustration, injuries, and the need for re-training. Technology is employed to enhance learning. Introducing students to the beauty and richness of Western classical music is of great importance to me. However, students are also encouraged to experiment with other musical styles, especially Jazz, America’s most internationally renowned musical genre.

I encourage my students to have confidence in their musical abilities–and themselves–and to be proud of their accomplishments. They are also encouraged to share their music with others. They receive a variety of studio and other performance opportunities, which allow them to display their musical growth and to gain courage, experience and confidence in expressing themselves in front of an audience. I desire to instill in my students a love of learning. It is also my hope to inspire them to become the best musicians they can be, whether they play music for their own enrichment or aspire to become professional musicians.

During piano lessons, I strive to help students gain the following:

  • the knowledge to understand music
  • the ability to interpret the score
  • the technical facilities that allow expression of their musical ideas on the piano

Each student’s curriculum includes:

  • Repertoire
  • Technique
  • Sight-reading
  • Rhythm
  • Music theory
  • Ear training
  • Ensemble playing
  • Music history
  • Composition / improvisation

Learning Environment and Expectations

Although piano study isn’t always easy, it should always be satisfying. In order to achieve satisfaction, there must be an age-appropriate emphasis on student initiative, self-direction and self-expression. I believe in setting the highest possible learning and artistic standards for every student. Every goal must be challenging but realistic. Therefore, plans and methods must be continually adjusted to each student’s unique and changing combination of abilities, personality, aspirations, and circumstances.

I feel that there must be mutual respect between teacher and student in order for learning to occur. There also needs to be a warm, comfortable, and nurturing atmosphere that allows students to focus and feel free to express themselves. During lessons, I am enthusiastic about music, the piano, and student progress, and show concern about the student. I encourage my students to ask questions and don’t get upset with them if they make mistakes. However, I expect my students to try their best. I feel it is the students’ responsibility to take advantage of the opportunities available for learning by preparing for lessons and by communicating honestly with the teacher. Finally, in order to inspire my students to aim high, I like to provide ongoing encouragement, to acknowledge and reward effort and progress, and to reserve the highest praise for occasions when it is truly deserved.

Performing and Teaching

I feel very fortunate. As a professional classical pianist, I am able to perform and share music in both large and small ensembles. As a piano teacher, I get to share my passion, knowledge and insight with my students and witness their personal, intellectual, and musical growth. Even though I have had many years of training and education, I am continually amazed at how much my students have also taught me. They drive me to examine more deeply, to analyze what I do by instinct, and to clarify my thoughts in explaining things to them. I have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of ages and levels of musical development, to nurture the unique talents of each student and to help them overcome their challenges.

Continuing Education

I see every day as a new opportunity to broaden my horizons and learn something new. This quest for knowledge is one of the primary driving forces in my life. I learn new repertoire, read, listen and attend master courses, workshops, conferences, and professional meetings to expand my knowledge and gain inspiration from new ideas and sounds. I constantly look for new teaching repertoire, teaching tips and methods. This has resulted in a continuous evolution of my teaching style. My passion for learning drives my passion for teaching and for pursuing excellence in teaching.

Maria Horváth, D.M.A.