Many piano teachers find teaching children ages 3 to 4 challenging. Actually, there are many proponents of delaying formal piano lesson until 5 to 6 years old. This age range is the right age for emotionally maturity in piano lessons. It will also jive with the child’s mascular development and avoid problems later on.
Well, I have great success teaching children in the range of 3-4 years old even before they can actually recognize the alphabet (A-G)) or the numbers (1-5). But, was it easy? No. Was it worth it? YES!
When I studied in the Conservatory for my piano degree, I have several classmates who were concert pianists and child prodigies. I am in awe at their finger’s dexterity, velocity and artistry. There is precision and accuracy. Even with their advanced knowledge and skill, we still get to have classes together in the subjects like Music History and other academic general arts and sciences subjects.
They are the “favorites” of the professors because they are representing the quality of our university. But, I tried not to be intimidated by their persona and try to mingle with them as often as I can. I found out that they started their formal piano lessons at 3 years of age. Their mother was their first teacher and they eventually found another teacher in the process.
So, there is an exposure to music already. There is also an interest. We all know that we cannot force a 3 year old to do what we want.
I know that at such a young age, my parents would tell me that I am drawn to the piano. I would tinkle it and enjoy the sound that came from it. My parents knew that I would be a pianist. But, they could not find a teacher willing to take me in at 3 years old. My parents have no background in music except that my father is a solo tenor singer at a Catholic Church.
When I had my two boys, none of them was showing interest in piano studies though they were exposed to it a lot. So, I decided to wait and not push them.
But, when I started to convince them, my oldest son at 11 went through three levels of a typical piano method in three seatings. My other son at 8 years old, maybe went into two levels right away. The oldest son lost steam right away, the other son persevered and started formal piano lessons with me. It is at this point that I decided to start accepting students other than my children.
Three parents found me wanting to teach their children at 3 years old. I warned them that there is a dearth of piano method for this age group in 2003. And, that I have to do a lot of customizing the lessons. They agreed.
I taught these children the music alphabet and numbers, keyboard geography, lots of movement to feel the note beats. They also learned a lot of music theory. But, the challenge was to make them play. My goal is to let them touch the piano and learn a skill in every lesson. Sometimes, the child is manipulating their parents and won’t do anything because of a tantrum.
I persevered and the parents persevered. It seems like a long journey but there were lots of positive developments in the child’s academic life as well. Their math skills were taking shape and they were leading the class. So, when I started math tutoring, you could just imagine how many students I got just from the older siblings and friends of my parent’s students.
I have some success stories and I have failures too. But, after two years, all these children that dropped out went back to me to resume their piano lessons. I understood that their parents did not have the patience to stand the tantrums and emotional immaturity and pay for it.
But, my success stories are also worthy. Matthew is performing well in his academic life. At 5 years old, he was tackling level 2 piano methods. One day, he just grew up.
I plan to take only a few students in this age group but what is a priority for me is more the parent’s commitment and understanding of the process. Their goals must be long term.