By Paul Kwo
Parent: “Why aren't you practicing?”
Kid: “Piano is boring.”
Parent: “But you used to love the piano.”
Kid: “But it's boring now.”
This is an ongoing problem with piano lessons. Practicing at home can often become tedious and boring. After all there is just no short cut in practice time. How in the world could anyone learn an etude without spending hours at a time on the piano? It's just not possible.
The few kids far and in between who loves piano music will have no problem practicing. They love the music they are practicing. They want to play those pieces. So they automatically have a goal to work towards. They want to accomplish the ability to play certain pieces of music.
But most kids don't necessarily have a profound love of piano music. They may like piano music, but certainly not enough to move them into playing the piano for hours on end to learn a technically challenging piece of music. They may just enjoy tinkering at the piano for five minutes at a time, but anything beyond that is just tiresome.
It's a real challenge for young students to understand the role of the piano in music. Some piano teachers like to use pieces they know (new pop music) to encourage them to practice more and make piano more relevant.
Another alternative I found very helpful in getting students interested in giving the time and energy to learn piano and/or guitar is actually voice lessons. Many of my voice students after a year of study decides they want to take singing more seriously. In order to do so, they understand the need to learn an instrument if they want to write their own songs and perform on their own in the future. And the piano or guitar are the two primary instrument for any singer to learn so they accompany themselves while they sing and crank out their own original material.
But in the end, don't stress over a child practicing habits. Even if the kid practices for only 5 minutes a week, that's better than no practice. Even if going to the piano lesson is the only practice the child gets, that's still growth. Keep the consistency of the lesson. Help the child learn to enjoy music. Whether you are in Alhambra, or in Pasadena, or in another part of Los Angeles, or even in another part of the world, the core principle is the same. Take the stress out of piano lessons and let the child have fun. When they associate music learning to fun, that makes life so much better and they will still learn enough piano over the years. When they become adults and are able to play most music that they want to, it would have all been worth it.
By Paul Kwo
"When can my child start teaching piano?" A parent ask. The short answer: "Your child can teach whenever someone is willing to pay them to do so."
I have been asked this question many times over the years by parents who wants to enroll their child in music lesson, especially those who inquire about the level testing that are offered by organizations such as the Royal School of Music or the Music Teachers Association of California. Some parents have the notion that if their child finishes a certain level, they are ready to teach music. I recall a classic Simpsons episode where Marge tried to be a piano teacher. Even though she couldn't play the piano herself, all she had to do is stay one lesson ahead of the child who's learning. The sad reality is that there are a lot of unqualified music teachers around and parents have no idea what they are getting themselves into.
I must admit when I first began teaching, I was one of those half-qualified teacher who was still a High School student having studied piano all my life. So I taught my first couple of students at the age of 16. Actually I taught a student that my dad found for me for six months when I was 12, but I had to give up because I just wasn't ready to teach. When I took up teaching again, I taught my students the way I was taught. It may sound like the logical thing to do, but later as I studied piano pedagogy (which is the study of the teaching of piano) with a renowned teacher of pedagogy in Northridge, did I realize that the methods that I was taught with is antiquated and much better systems have since emerged.
Without going into too much details on methodologies as that can fill volumes of books, I want to help parents able to pick out a good teacher from a bad teacher here. Here are a few helpful hints:
1. Is your prospective teacher still in High School?
Though I began teaching while I was in High School, knowing what I know now, I cannot recommend any High School students as a qualified music teacher no matter how talented they are. Being able to perform and being able to teach is two completely different things. High School age students are just not mentally ready to take on this position as a private one on one instructor.
Teaching music is not simply an exercise of transferring information to a student from a teacher, but also one that involves mentorship and guidance. Every student has a unique life and reason for being at their lesson, and it is the teacher's job to get to know where the student's coming from to help guide them to accomplish their goals.
By Paul Kwo
Whether you love or hate reality singing competitions, the one thing we all learned from these shows are our often delusions of our own voices. Though many hopefuls often over-estimate their own abilities, thinking all they need is a moment to shine, the opposite is also true. Many people are fearful of their own voice and thus in terms obstructing their own development.
We hear amazing singers and we either have a delusion thinking that's who we already are, or that we can never be because of our innate talent. Those who start out before taking any lessons with a solid voice because they have been singing on their own for a long time. They were not born with a better voice. They only grew up continuously singing. But even the greatest raw talent is still raw, and a professionally trained ear can hear so. The truth of the matter is no great singers become so without the help of vocal teachers and coaches. We all need another ear to take us to the next level. I say if legends like Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonders, Mariah Carey and many others.
For those who have been singing for years before beginning training with a teacher, the answer to whether their voice is any good may seem obvious. But for those who have not had the confidence in singing on their own prior to training, it may sometimes seem hopeless. However keep in mind that training takes years, upwards of 10+ or more years. Most student enter instrumental lessons such as piano or guitar with the understanding that it will take them 10+ years to be well training. Most students began with zero understanding in and ability to play the piano. They start from scratch. But singers assume that they should be able to sing a well complete song in a matter of days. Such expectations then breaks down confidence as students with less vocal history when they progress slowly in lesson, thinking their voice is just not good enough. But the truth is simply they haven't been singing enough on their own.
CLASSICAL VERSUS CONTEMPORARY POP
I often tell students that in contemporary Pop music (and I include all genres such as Rock, R&B, Country, Pop, Hip Hop etc. under the Pop umbrella) there is no such thing as a voice that's good enough. It is entirely based on a speaking voice and how unique the voice is. Success is only a matter of being in the right place at the right time and have near nothing to do with skill level and how beautiful one's voice is. Certainly there are great singers out there with great voices, but there are also plenty others who do not have a classically beautiful voice yet still have great success.
By Steven Flores
Iʼve been teaching dance for the past seven years and have taught children, teens, beginning adults, and professionals. Doing so I have accumulated teaching methods that are implemented on a daily bases here at PopRock students coming into a new teaching environment is never easy. At PopRock we try to work with their strengths and weaknesses not matter where a dancer is in terms of understanding dance and itʼs various complexities.
Teaching in general is a world that is made up of highs and lows and requires a special kind of personality, patience and know how to really get students progressing physically and mentally. Unlike most activities, dance is the only one where the body has the power for memory, development, and sense of structure.
The fact is, dance, like no other art form is made up of different layers: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. I know most performing artists have heard of these terms before when going to take class. However, dance separates itself by being the only form in which the body alone is doing all of the talking. Meaning one must know how to utilize every inch of the body to tell a story. One might ask, how is this teachable? What are some effective ways to contribute to dance education and help students find their own artistic voice?
THE CLASS ROOM
Testing vocabulary in class. Students will be encouraged to participate in the class room not only physically but mentally. This will not only increase the confidence of the student that answers correctly but informs the rest of the class in a positive and supportive way.
Example: Does anyone know what a ʻball changeʼ is?
￼Pointing out the positive in a students work. This makes students effectively correct themselves by watching other classmates as well as keeps the environment positive. By only pointing out the wrong in a students work discourages them and creates a sense of negativity in the class room.
Example: Look at Andreaʼs legs, see how nice and straight they are.
Repetition is key. At PopRock we want our students to feel accomplished and by repeating a combination more than once gives the class more opportunities to find it in their !bodies and master a combination.
Using sounds instead of counts. Beginning students will start to see that dance is not just a series of tasks put to music but movement that is created to exemplify texture, rhythm, space, and time. Thus, relating them to other activities they see and hear through out the day.
Example: Swish, swoop, boom, ba, boom.
Pay attention to detail. Students should be extremely detailed and not afraid to ! ask questions. This leaves less room for error when interpreting the movement take a step back. Teachers at PopRock give students many opportunities to practice performing for an audience and the class room is the first place they start. This not only gives students practice performing, but gives the teacher time to give personal corrections and give attention to each student in the class room, and in the long run a more polished product.
We do not reward bad behavior. We will ask students to go out side and will not waist other students learning time. By doing this quickly, we do not loose class time and also stops the individual from gaining the attention they strived for.
Challenging students. At PopRock we never let students get comfortable by only doing what they know. Class should be about learning new skills as well as working on the fundamentals and foundation. Students should find a time in class where something is difficult for them, with frustration comes physical and mental growth.
We love what we do at PopRock Academy and our dance faculty hope to spread that joy through dance and discipline. Communicating our teaching methods. Teachers here never assume students know what the big picture is. At PopRock we tell them our methods which helps make them realize their own improvements and lets them know that their is a greater goal in mind.
By Paul Kwo
“That's Great!” Says Tony the Tiger. I remember this commercial from my childhood promoting a cereal brand that is supposed to be well-balanced. It gives the child the right amount of fun as well as the right amount of nutrition that's needed. The same really goes for a teacher in the performing arts.
Certainly many children and teens begin their studies in the performing arts with positive attitudes, enjoying the fun that these performing arts bring to them. But over the course of a year or two, the majority of the students begin to grow tire of the constant practice and the nagging of their parents to practice. Many parents push their kid so as to not waste their hard-earned money paying for the weekly lessons. But quite often to the detriment of the student's enjoyment, these aggressive pushes often turn the students away from the art that they once enjoyed or even loved.
But the opposite is not any better. Some parents believing that the arts should be fun and that the child should simply enjoy their time spent studying the art decidedly not to ever push their child to strive for some form of excellence. Some of these child end up, with the help of incompetent teachers, studying for years with little to no advancement in their skill level. Thus wasting valuable time the child has and the money the parents spent.
So how do we find this balance between pushing a child versus maintaining the enjoyment?
1. Foster an environment friendly to practice. (Do NOT replace fun time with practice time.)
So often do I have students telling me how they simply don't have time to practice. I have heard so many excuses in my life ranging from homework to family obligations to bizarre tasks or chores they had to do, the underlying issue remain: A child does not know how to properly manage their time.
A parent's job is NOT to yell at a child to practice and to demand the child perfection in their practice. It is the teacher's job to demand the perfection and to help a child understand the importance of practice. A parent's job is to help a child manage their time so that they can actually be freed to practice. But so often I see parents instead of managing their child's schedule, they simply replace a child's existing free fun time with practice. If a boss replaced their employee's break time with more work, the employee would certainly build up resentment about the work they are to do over a long period of time. Why would we think a child would behave any differently? Do not replace a child's fun time with practice. Rather schedule out your child's time outside of school to equally balance fun time and work time including homework and practice.