1. When should my child begin piano lessons?
The age to begin piano depends on each individual child, but Karen accepts students from age 4 and up. For all beginning students, Karen highly recommends the Suzuki method. This style of learning is based on the way we learn to speak: listen, try, become comfortable, and then learn to read. The same process can be applied successfully to music where a child listens to recordings of music, establishes their own musicianship and then adds in music reading skills at a later point.
Rather than age, parents should assess if their child has the ability to sit and focus on one specific task for 10-15 minutes. Lessons more at a fast pace and activities change every week, but a constant focus and certain level of maturity is required.
2. How much do lessons cost?
Karen consults and provides fees on an individual basis based on student age, ability, and lesson length. Her fees are within reach of the Alberta Registered Music Teachers Association suggested minimum of $60.00 per hour. Lessons usually run for 30, 45, 60, or 90 minutes once per week and as a student progresses into a higher lever, a longer lesson is needed. Please contact Karen directly to discuss current fees and methods of payment.
3. How can I register for piano lessons? Do you meet with students before lessons begin?
In order to register for lessons, send an inquiry email through the Contact Us page of this website. Karen will respond promptly to your inquiry, provide details of fees and available lesson times, and arrange a meeting with the parent(s) and student(s). Karen enjoys meeting with students before lessons begin to make sure everyone is clear about studio policies, to introduce herself in person, and to establish a rapport with students before lessons officially begin.
4. How long should my child practice?
There is no set time for practicing, however, it is important that a child spends quality time with his/her piano rather than quantity. Each week, the student is sent home with a list of projects and specific goals for the following week’s lesson. Some students may complete these in 10 minutes and others in 25 minutes. It is very important to have concentrated and focused practice session on a regular basis and practice until all the required projects for that week are completed.
Here are some suggested practice times to build from:
Beginners: 15 – 20 minutes daily
Grades 1 to 4: 20 – 40 minutes daily
Grades 5 and 6: 50 – 60 minutes daily
Grades 7 and 8: 70 – 80 minutes, daily
Grades 9, 10, Diploma Level: 90 – 120 minutes daily
Remember that there is no such thing as “too much practicing” – you can try it. You’ll only get better!
5. What is the difference between Suzuki and RCM? Do you teach both?
Karen is a certified teacher by both the Suzuki Association of the Americas and the Royal Conservatory of Music. She sees benefits to both programs and aims to combine the best of both worlds as she customizes lessons for students.
The Suzuki approach prioritizes the ear: early learning is entirely done by ear and requires listening so that a sense of musicality can develop from the start. The RCM approach prioritizes the eye: learning is done with books which require reading so that students understand the structural components of music from the start. Which is better? It depends who you ask.
It is possible to start with Suzuki and blend in RCM exams when students grow older. Alternatively, it is possible to teach RCM in a very ‘Suzuki’ way. Whichever the path, Karen is constantly experimenting and renegotiating with each student to find the best fit. What is most important is that students are enjoying playing beautiful music rather than strictly following a specific program.
6. Are you a Registered Music Teacher? What is an RMT?
Yes, Karen is a Registered Music Teacher. The Registered Music Teachers’ Association is a Canada-wide federation of private music teachers encompassing ten provinces, with over 3200 members. To become a member, the teacher must hold a degree or diploma from a recognized university or conservatory or meet the necessary qualifications set by the registering province, thus ensuring a high level of training and a commitment to professionalism. The aim is to encourage and provide the highest calibre of music education possible and to promote high standards of music in each community.
7. Do we need to own a piano? What kind should we buy?
Yes, you absolutely need to own a piano! Taking piano lessons without a regular instrument to practice on is much like taking hockey without owning skates.
An acoustic piano is always the instrument of choice: touch, dynamic control, pedal effects, and many other factors make acoustic pianos preferable to electric pianos. Students with digital pianos notice differences in touch and tone, and often struggle to overcome these obstacles.
8. Do you enter students in Music Festivals, Exams, or other Competitions?
Karen regularly enters students in Royal Conservatory of Music and Conservatory Canada graded practical and theory exams, Trinity College of London diploma exams, the Calgary Performing Arts Festival, ARMTA student recitals, and other awards and bursaries. This is not something that is required of students and presented as extra, optional projects. They make great goals to work towards and provide a sense of pride and accomplishment, but are always considered optional.
All students participate in twice-yearly studio recitals, normally mid-winter (January) and early-summer (June). This is a great opportunity to display to family and friends the hard work of learning to play and hear other students of similar ages and abilities share their music.
9. Where is your studio located? Do you travel to students’ homes for lessons?
Karen exclusively teaches from her home studio located in Cranston (SE), Calgary. She does not do in-home lessons for a number of specific reasons. First, the travel time required to go between students’ homes mean that fewer students each day get to take piano lessons. Next, students who take lessons from home are often distracted by siblings or pets, they rarely get the chance to play on a grand piano, and miss the opportunity to use specialized studio materials such as rhythm instruments and music games because these are not easily transportable. Finally, lessons often get confused with practice when everything happens at home. In short, Karen believes that the quality of lessons in studio is more important than the convenience of lessons at home.
10. I used to take piano when I was a child – do you teach adult students?
Karen teaches very few adult students and is the first to admit that this is not her area of expertise. She would be happy to recommend other teachers in your area who do.