Welcome to S.T.E. (Saskatoon Talent Education)
When it comes to your child's musical education, choosing the best teacher and program for your needs is a major decision. I offer alternative musical options for those not certain if Traditional Musial Education is the route for them. My teaching is based on a deep educational philosophy, developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, proven to work in the study of classical music. My focus is to apply these principles towards the nurturing of versatile Contemporary Pianists. My curriculum includes: Performance, ranging from the works of the Masters to contemporary composers; The study of notation and interpretation of the score; Advanced development of the ear; Improvisation; The elements of contemporary music; Encouraging creativity in each student; Experience in ensemble performance.
I am accepting registrations for the 2020/2021 term. Slots have been filling up quickly, but I do still have openings for some new students. Students will have the option of attending lessons in my teaching studio, studying with me online, or choosing a combination of both.
Private entrance, reserved for students only
My studio is accessible by two gates (front and side), from the street through a courtyard. The outside door to the studio is used only by students.
The studio hallway is reserved for students only and is seperate from the rest of the house.
The main studio.
The main studio. Student area is on the left - teacher area on the right. Student area can accommodate up to four people from the same "pod", (family). Student piano controls and bench are protected by easily sanitized plastic sleeves and covers. A table, fitted with a plexiglass barrier provides ample social distancing between the student and the teacher.
Teacher's hands are broadcast onto the large television screen, easily viewed by the student. Three webcams provide thorough coverage of the studio for online lessons, if necessary.
View from the student area.
Another view from the student area.
Student Safety a Number One Priority
In the interest of creating the safest environment possible for my students, this summer, I undertook a complete re-design and renovation of my teaching studio. The plan was based around Saskatchewan Government Covid-19 Guidelines. A lengthy conversation with the Saskatchewan Government Small Business Covid-19 Guidelines after the renovation was completed, confirmed that I have met every safety consideration currently in place, thus giving me the go-ahead to once again be able to work with students in my studio.
New Teaching Studio Features
- My Teaching Studio features a private entrance, accessible through a courtyard with two different points of entry from the street. This entrance is reserved exclusively for students.
- The outside doorway opens up to a private hallway, isolated from the main house, with immediate access to the teaching studio entrance. This hallway has been optimized for to promote cleaning and sanitization.
- The teaching studio proper has been divided into two areas, one for students, the other for myself. Each area is equipped its own piano. These are separated by a table, with a plexiglass barrier mounted on the table. This allows for optimal social distancing.
- Student piano controls and student area piano bench are protected with easily sanitized and replaced plastic covers.
- Contents of the student area have been minimized.
- At no time during the lesson will there be close contact between myself and students. Video of my hands on my piano will be broadcast on the large television screen during the lesson for the student's benefit.
Lesson Options for the 2020/2021 Term
Students have the option of attending lessons in my newly renovated teaching studio. It has been designed with the emphasis on students safety, optimal social distancing capabilities, and ease of sanitization.
A Teaching Studio Lesson Protocol is in place, based on Saskatchewan Government Small Business Covid-19 Guidelines.
My new studio set up is also optimized for online broadcasting, featuring super high speed wired Internet, multiple webcams, and high quality audio capabilities.
Technical support is also provided to students wishing to optimize their online capabilities.
Students have the option of combining in-studio and online lessons. I am open and flexible when it comes to this arrangement and am willing to tailor this arrangement to the specific needs of each student.
***(As of August 4, 2020 - subject to change)
*** Students with symptoms of cough, cold, sniffles, fever, etc. SHOULD NOT enter the studio. If it is necessary for students to miss a lesson due to illness, I make every effort to either re-schedule, or provide a lesson online as an alternative.
- Prior to the lesson, students will be required to text me to confirm the studio is empty, sanitized, and ready for them.
- Students should sanitize hands before entering through the outside door, to prevent contamination of the hallway adjacent to the teaching studio.
- Footwear will be left in the entrance/hallway, outerwear to be placed on coat racks available in the student area of the teaching studio.
- Students will be asked to sanitize hands again, after they have entered the teaching studio.
- Masks are optional – current Saskatchewan Government Covid-19 Guidelines state that in a situation like my studio, masks are only necessary if there is going to be contact closer than one meter. At no time will I be entering the student area, and vice versa.
- When the lesson is complete, I will remain in my area until students have left. Thorough sanitization of the student area will then be performed before the next lesson.
Scroll over video for controls & to unmute volume
Over the past couple of decades, my focus as a teacher has been to go beyond creating just performers of classical music. Dr. Shinichi Suzuki’s Mother Tongue teaching philosophy has proven itself when it comes to teaching incredibly young children to perform difficult classical music. My goal is to apply these principles towards the nurturing of versatile Contemporary Pianists. In my mind, any good musician should be able to:
- Interpret and perform repertoire of various genres with musicality and technical control.
- Read music effortlessly and fluently.
- Have the ability to internalize music with ease through an educated ear.
- Improvise in several genres with confidence.
- Have a deep working knowledge of all the elements of Contemporary Music, far beyond the basic major/minor system as taught by Traditional Musical Education.
- Have the tools to be able to create their own music.
- Have the ability to have spontaneous musical conversations with other musicians.
When I set out on my quest to expand Mother Tongue teaching beyond the performance of the classical repertoire, I soon discovered there were no existing materials geared towards presenting these concepts to young children, so I had to create my own. The 2019/2020 term saw the culmination of years of experimentation and refinement, the result being the completion of several volumes of materials.
The purpose of these materials is to teach the fundamentals efficiently, through small, attainable exercises. I was extremely pleased to discover that these exercises seamlessly translated to online studies.
An Effective Formula for Online Learning
The Mother Tongue Teaching Philosophy is based on a strong Teacher/Parent/Child relationship
The role of the teacher is to build a strong working relationship with the parent and child; To provide a learning experience for the child based on positive reinforcement and respect; To be sensitive to each family’s individual situation and to provide support and guidance throughout the ups and downs of their musical journey.
The role of the parent is to work with the teacher to provide a strong, positive nurturing environment for the child; To oversee in-home practice sessions, following the instructions of the teacher.
This partnership creates the perfect support system for online study.
The Universality of the Mother Tongue Approach
"Musical ability is not an inborn talent but an ability which can be developed. Any child who is properly trained can develop musical ability just as all children develop the ability to speak their mother tongue. The potential of every child is unlimited." - Dr. Shinichi Suzuki
Dr. Suzuki believed that, like learning a language, musical education is a universal thing. That is, everyone has the potential to learn to speak the language of music, in the same way they have the potential to learn their spoken language.
Often, traditional musical educators believe that not all people can attain musical proficiency. Many insist on auditioning young students to assess musical potential before accepting them.
Dr. Suzuki did not understand these traditional values, so he set out to prove the validity of his theory of musical universality. To do this, he made it his practice to accept all students, young or old into his program. The proof was in the results. As with learning a language, some were more proficient than others, but all were able to learn how to play. This was not restricted to just the students studying with him, but to the hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of students being taught by Suzuki teachers across the globe.
I made it my policy many years ago to accept all students. As a result, I have seen students labelled as having no musical potential by traditional standards go on to become professional musicians; kids with ADHD increase focus and concentration; others in the Autism spectrum performing with confidence; adults with no previous musical experience learning to perform pieces as well as improvise with ease….. the list could go on and on – all this due to Mother Tongue Learning.
The biggest test for my efforts to extend Mother Tongue Learning beyond the performance of classical music is universality, especially when it comes to improvisation.
If the Teacher/Parent/Student relationship is strong, much can be accomplished.
It is often assumed that one must be some sort of musical prodigy to be able to improvise in music. If this train of thought were applied to speaking, one would have to have a PHD in English before they could form words into spontaneous thoughts.
My experimentation in this area has been developed over four generations of students. All were able to become proficient in this discipline. Today, the fifth generation sees students as young as six are learning improvisational elements and are improvising fluently by age seven or eight.
It is so exciting for me to be able to listen to a student perform a piece by Bach or Beethoven, followed by exchanging improvisations with me in several genres all in the same lesson. To me, this is Mother Tongue Learning in action!
And Just Like That......
A few months ago, we began hearing about a deadly new virus with the potential to spread like wildfire across the globe, and our world began to change. At first, it all seemed so far-removed, and daily life around here was normal. As the Covid-19 storm clouds began to gather, hand-sanitizing and washing hands became necessary for all entering my studio. Then, we woke up one day to a new reality of self-isolation, social distancing, and the necessity to navigate uncharted waters. My students could no longer join me in my studio.
We have all had to face new challenges, and adapt to new, unfamiliar circumstances. Through all of this; it is of the utmost importance to maintain some sense of direction and normality for our children.
Having to close my doors to my piano families was a daunting experience. I was then faced with two alternatives – stop teaching all together until the “new normal” was established; make the conversion to online teaching. The first could be potentially financially devastating for me and my family; the second presented many logistical obstacles, as well as ethical and practical issues.
Most of my families were open to the idea of online learning. I am aware of teachers who lost large numbers of students as soon as the lockdown began. I hope that, for the sake of music and musical education, they can recover. The burning question for me was would my students benefit from online teaching? If my students did not respond well to and grow through online teaching, I would not, in good conscious, be able to continue with it.
To My Surprise......
I have always been amazed at how malleable children are. Online teaching has been no exception! Initially, I was quite apprehensive about attempting to teach online, but I was soon pleasantly surprised.
Overall, students responded amazingly well, with most showing consistent growth. This is indeed, a testament to their abilities and the dedication of their parents.
A Work in Progress......
For the balance of the 2019/2020 term, online piano lessons became the "new normal". Spending six to eight hours a day, staring at a large screen TV, wearing headphones, "Zooming" with my students taught me much, not only about the technology of video streaming, but also about how the Mother Tongue philosophy and its related materials perform in this medium.
There is always room for improvement in anything and Online Teaching is no exception. I have carefully observed how students have responded to their online studies and continued in the ongoing process of making modifications with the hope of making their online studies more productive.
Studying piano online is feasible option for most students. There are variables, (Internet connection and speed, audio considerations, video quality, etc.) which may need to be addressed, but with minimal effort, online lessons can be extremely productive.
I am currently compiling an "Online Learning Primer", which will contain suggestions relative to thye technical and practical aspects of studying piano online. It will be available to my students by September 1, 2020.
To Discuss Your Musical Options
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