An Open Letter To Private Teachers

We welcome our new and returning teachers to DSA Piano!  You are one of the most significant elements in the success of our students in the Piano Department.  Your input is incredibly valuable to your students and to me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at director.dsa.piano@gmail.com if you have questions about policies, requirements, repertoire, or deadlines.  We invite you to attend our social functions, school functions, and recitals.

I’m often asked about how our roles work together.  I see my function as Director of Piano Studies as a support for you as the private teacher.  I’ve taught privately, and I know how difficult it is.  I want to make your job easier!  I will work with your students to underscore musical elements that are common to standard interpretations.  I will correct wrong notes, draw attention to dynamic markings, phrasing, and pedaling, but I will be careful not to contradict what you’ve taught.  It’s my duty to offer my own ideas, but I will always respect and support your ideas in the final performance.  Finally, I will reinforce your teaching of technique though the teaching of scales, arpeggios, and other technical exercises.

As teachers, you may be drawn into the competitive nature of your students.  Please remember that students this age often don’t understand the difficulties posed by advanced literature.  Don’t be drawn into teaching overly difficult music too soon!  You, as the private teacher, are aware of your student’s capabilities.  Please be careful when assigning advanced works by Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, or other composers who were composing for the most advanced virtuoso, unless you are confident the student is ready for them.  It’s best to choose pieces that students can perform “up to tempo”, or at least close to the tempo of standard interpretations.  I will support you in your choice of appropriate literature, especially if a student thinks a piece you’ve chosen is too easy.

Please remember that there is roughly a six-minute time limit for HS performance pieces and a four-minute time limit for MS performance pieces.  I know this is frustrating for your students who would like to perform longer pieces.  A sonata movement, an etude or two, or a shorter rhapsody will be sufficient for class recitals at DSA.   Our performances are not expected to serve as your student’s total performance experience, so save the longer pieces for your private recitals or for the student’s senior recital.  I encourage you to plan contrasting pieces for each of our recitals, and I encourage you to choose pieces from styles other than Classical.  In the past, our students have performed New Age, Jazz, Gospel, and Pop.  It’s always nice to hear something a little different.  I also encourage you teach your student one piece each year of lesser technical difficulty, where the student can focus on tone quality, phrasing, and sensitive musicianship.

Please keep in mind that the student will have a limited amount of time before the jury deadline.  It might be best if you and your student plan the recital pieces at the beginning of the school year and then work on them as the year unfolds.  This helps your student avoid the “crunch” as the recital approaches. Nothing can be more damaging to a student’s technique than to struggle to complete a piece because of a misappropriated time factor.

Students are required to have a copy of their music ON THE MUSIC RACK as they practice.  That way, I can spot errors in note reading and draw attention to critical markings in the music.  I will also enforce markings that you have written into the music.  A photocopy is “fair use” PROVIDED THE STUDENT HAS PURCHASED HIS/HER OWN COPY OF THE MUSIC.  I understand that you want to be generous by providing copies of your personal materials to your students, but remember that we as teachers are strictly bound by copyright laws.  In copyright violation cases,  fines have been levied for as much as $1000 for EACH COPY.  There are no exeptions to this law, so don’t be fooled into assuming that because you’re not selling the music, you are exempt from fines.   Free public domain music can be found at www.imslp.org/.

I hope this gives you as the private teacher my philosophy and what I hope to achieve in the piano classroom.  Again, we invite you to be part of our department.  And again, if you have any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Yours truly,

Ted Lassen, Director of Piano Studies