As one of five children, I well remember the pack of us trooping 'round the neighborhood to school, to church, to piano lessons. We'd file one-by-one down Mrs. Connell's narrow steps to a gloomy basement room divided by a curtain, upright piano on one side, ancient sofa on the other. This was her studio, and those of us waiting were left to fidget on the sofa while listening to brother or sister get instructed. An experience quite like a trip to the dentist, I now realize. But at age six, I just thought it was icky.
Why did the five Buchanan kids troop to Mrs. Connell's house for lessons rather than her trekking in our direction? Simply that our house was under renovation during my childhood and our folks thought piano lessons in a teacher's studio would better enable us to concentrate. That didn't matter to a six-year-old, though. Mrs. Connell's basement made me anxious, and I did not like going there. If Dad had only known, maybe we'd have stuck to the program a little longer. But, alas, I failed to mention it.
My point is simply to stress that you have a choice where you or your child will take those lessons, a choice that in some ways could determine success or failure.
Your place or mine?
These days, it's not difficult to find a piano teacher whose practice is predicated solely on the notion of bringing lessons to students, rather than the other way around. Home pianos are more common than they used to be, transportation more sophisticated and available, "customer convenience" elevated to almost sacred status. With such piano teachers, you have neither the necessity nor the option to evaluate the teaching environment—after all, you live in it.
Still, if there is something about your own environment that renders it unsuitable, you will need a teacher equipped to receive students in an environment that meets some minimum criteria. Any disruptive noises (such as dentist's drills)? Odd smells? Pets, potential irritants, other distractions? Look for positives too, as they're just as important in determining your optimum location.
How about transportation itself? Is it readily available to both you and your piano teacher, making this aspect a wash? Or are you transportation challenged? Driving and waiting time should also be factored in, depending on who's driving and waiting.
All the comforts of home
Which brings us to what today's mobile piano-teaching pro touts as perhaps the most appealing feature: The piano on which you practice . . . is the same one on which you received your lesson . . . is the same one with which you'll delight friends, family and yourself playing the latest pieces you've mastered.
Assuming the instrument in your home is adequate—well and regularly tuned, in good mechanical condition with a lively, responsive action, and of full size with a complete 88-key keyboard—it's likely your piano teacher will bless it as sufficient, saving you or your child the distraction of switching back and forth between slightly (or significantly) different instruments, at a time when the essence of your current lesson should be your singular focus.
About the Author: Mark Buchanan
I am an avid musician with 20+ years experience. I have performed live in the Midwest area with various bands performing mainly as a sideman. I enjoy all types of music and approach the study of music with an open mind. Though my performing schedule is heavy, I have a small group of students I teach when time allows. Music is a lifelong journey and I'm proud to be a part of it!