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  Melissa Harris Piano Studio, Cape Cod - Center for Adult & Senior Music Education
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No apologies, please.
HOW you practice matters more than IF you practice!
Adult Student Practice Tip #2: In the Beginning, there was Rhythm.
Adult Student Practice Tips: #1 - Practice Plans
New Year's Intentions

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My Blog

Finding Time

Waiting 9-10 minutes for pasta al dente allows for a pretty focused practice moment.   Putting your phone on speaker while waiting for the next available customer care associate offers a little sight reading opportunity.  Computer downloads or virus scans can take what seems like ages-- unless you're working out fingering for a Chopin prelude. 

If you're an adult student in the year 2013, odds are you've figured these things out.  Spending an uninterrupted hour alone at a piano is a rare luxury for many students.

The Guilt Thing

I regularly remind students during lessons NOT to worry if they found no time for practice, which seems to happen at least one week a month.  Children usually have the luxury of a daily, weekly, monthly routine.  Those were the days!

Adults not only have serious responsibilities, they also carry the guilt thing along.  Of course, some do a better job of keeping it at bay, but it seems to play a role in all our adult lives.  I would like to say "for better or for worse," but I think it's rarely "for better.

My Wish for You for the New Year

My Wish for You for the New Year and Always

May music awaken you to each new day,
music from deep within,
a silent, peaceful knowing,
to guide you gently through the hours,
the precious moments, of life.

May you continue to discover yourself
and all that surrounds you,
embracing light and love, 
all things good,
the very best life has to offer.

May you also find strength
to face life’s shadows with courage.

May you know that the music you bring to life
lingers always, 
making the world more beautiful for us all.

Lesson One for Adults: What NOT To Do Before Beginning Piano Lessons

Obviously, this title has quite the negative connotation.  Forgive me.  But, I think it’s time to put out a fair warning to would-be pianists.

Joe is my newest (former) student.  Recently retired to Cape Cod, he bought a beautiful new grand piano, placed it in his lovely new home and set to work to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams.  A computer programmer in his professional life, he understood intuitively both the logic of reading music and writing computer code.
There are, however, some major differences between the two processes.

The road to music

It’s always ideal to learn music with help from a qualified teacher.  But for lots of reasons this isn’t always possible.  Roughly half of the adult students I’ve had through the years tried to learn on their own before coming here.  Usually these students apologize at their first lesson for knowing so little about the piano.  It seems they feel they should have a certain level of knowledge before starting lessons, which I find kind of funny.   Kids would never think that way.

Maybe Music Has a Mind of Its Own?

It's a curious thing that almost every adult student who contacts me prefaces their conversation with a clear statement that they want to learn to play music only for themselves.  In other words, they really prefer not to even think about playing for other people.   This isn't intended in a selfish way.  It's just that they feel they'll never be "good enough" to play for other people, and this usually includes family and friends.  It DEFINITELY includes what you might label an audience.

Our Lives in Pencil

While I was searching for the ever-elusive pencil, despite starting each teaching day with a fresh pencil pile and sitting in one spot for hours, my student, Pat, described her life as being "written in pencil."  What better way to sketch life than in pencil, I thought, shading here, erasing there, doodling on the edges and "penciling in" things in afterthought.  We frequently define ourselves in heavy black ink, setting our lives down heavy on the page, closing our books, forgetting to read our own passages, much less compose them.  (If we could only be as good at recognizing our own needs as we are at seeing what needs changed in others!)  It seems to me the people who are experiencing life most fully are continually reinventing themselves, finding new ways to "become".  It's interesting to realize the students have been pianists all along, just waiting to be discovered -- by themselves. 

Common Themes

I began working with adults, almost exclusively, in 2005. Being the mother of four and having taught piano to children for 17 years at that point, I felt I understood the young students pretty well. I decided to shift my focus to adults in order to accommodate the needs of my own school-age children, knowing that I could work with older, often retired, students during school hours. I couldn't have known it at the time, but I was about to step into my life's work -- that of devoting my studio to the adult learner.