Studio / Private Lessons

On this page I will present some information about my background and my teaching approach in private lessons. Please feel free to visit my bio page for more information about my experience.

I have taught children and adults of all levels in both classical and jazz styles for many years. I also teach group piano in addition to private lessons and I am also currently teaching music technology classes using keyboards and GarageBand in two schools. I believe in trying to give students as complete a musical education as is possible in the brief time we have together. So for different students, depending on their needs, backgrounds, and interests, lessons would cover different things. I have a strong background in theory (my BM is in theory) so if you are interested in that, I can help you. To play jazz you need a thorough understanding of theory basics but classical players will also benefit from having an intellectual understanding of the music they're working on.

I have trained in the Taubman Approach to piano playing since 2000, so everything about my technical approach to teaching is informed by that experience. I believe it's important to help students get off to a healthy start to avoid injury and develop good habits. The alignment of hand and arm, proper seat height, and use of arm weight are all key elements of a healthy technique. Too often, students over-curl the fingers, stretch the hand open to reach for things, or attempt to do all the work with the fingers. There are easy fixes for these problems.

Over the last year, I have developed a new approach to help students at the early levels--specifically, to help them master basic reading and develop their sense of rhythm. Most students playing orchestral or band instruments would get this experience by playing in groups or ensembles. As pianists, we usually miss out on this experience. To help the private student develop a sense of rhythm I use keyboards with rhythmic accompaniments and I also play along with students. Using this approach, I have had great success working with students with poor reading skills to improve in a fun and relatively painless way. It awakens the ear and incorporates elements of Orff and Suzuki methods without abandoning the traditional approach of teaching notation from the beginning.

I also compose pieces for my students when I can't find appropriate material. This is particularly true in teaching basics of jazz style. Please see the "Swinin' Easy" sidebar for information about that collection. Another important thing I stress with more advanced students is to have short, medium, and long-term pieces to work on. This keeps practice from getting stale, allows us to cover many elements of technique and interpretation in a short period of time, and gives the student a sense of accomplishment. Best of all, it's fun. Lessons are a discovery and should be fun!

Please feel free to contact me about lessons. I am now living in Oakland, just off of 580 near the Zoo.

Thanks,
Randy