Don’t you wish you could just talk to someone who has been teaching group piano for years and could answer all your questions? It does not matter how many years I have been teaching (30+) there is always someone’s brain I would like to “pick”.
Mayron Cole began self-publishing and teaching group piano many years before it was fashionable and her method is used by many teachers around the country. When I started my journey into group piano I learned from Mayron a vast array of concepts and techniques that helped me to get started. When I converted my private piano studio to group only and lost many students, she encouraged me and told me it would be OK. She was right. And even though I no longer use her method exclusively there are still many aspects of her teaching that remain in my studio.
So, I decided to contact Mayron and “pick her brain” and today I share with you her straightforward answers. I love that her answers are not the same ones I would have given and it just goes to show you that we can work in our own creative ways to reach the same goal of giving our students the best piano education we can!
- Is it possible to teach a group lesson with just one acoustic piano? If yes, how do I go about it? No, using only one piano (acoustic or electronic) is not a good idea. You will be earning more with group piano lessons; therefore, you must purchase the needed equipment with which to teach group piano lessons. Digital keyboards have come down drastically in price. Look at keyboards on eBay, Overstock.com, and in pawn shops.
- How do I make sure every student is learning? At the beginning of every class, each student is asked to play individually and aloud the homework from the previous lesson. After all have played aloud for their classmates, then the class plays (together) all of the homework music. Students start from the first lesson playing in front of their classmates thus obliterating the fear of performance.
- When using digital keyboards, how much time should students spend playing with headphones on? That’s an easy question! The answer is ZERO time playing with headphones on. You want every student to hear what you are saying to the class. Headphones are no longer used. If one student is having difficulty with a portion of music, then ALL the students play that portion of music with him (at a reduced speed, of course!) Keep ALL of your students involved at all times with what is being taught.
- When a student practices beyond what was assigned, should I take him/her out of the group and teach a private lesson? When using The Mayron Cole Piano Method, pages of music and theory are “handed out” at each lesson and put into the students’ binders. Therefore, a student cannot work “beyond” what has been assigned. We have extra supplemental books that can be issued to the energetic student who wants more music. He learns that supplemental music on his own and occasionally plays a composition for the class. But that supplemental music is NOT part of the class’s music. WARNING: Do NOT allow that energetic student to monopolize the piano class’s time by playing for you music that the other students have NOT learned. Most students are “average” and work well in piano classes. But think of a Bell Curve: there will be students on each end of the AVERAGE level. Some students are too slow to be in a piano class with other students, and some are too far above average to be in that class. For the Too Slow student: try putting him in a class with younger students. For the Too Fast student, try putting him in a more advanced piano class. I hesitate to tell you to put these students into private lessons because the class atmosphere teaches the student far more than you are teaching. A well-taught piano class teaches the student to COUNT correctly; to LISTEN to other musicians as he plays; to WORK with other musicians. Plus a piano class offers friendship, enthusiasm for music, and support to each student. Piano is a solitary instrument in most cases. The piano class offers much-needed fellowship with other musicians.
- What’s the best way to organize class time? I recommend classes that are 45-minutes long broken into four 10-minute segments: Old music time; new music time; theory worksheet time; theory game time. That leaves 5 minutes to hand-out new music, etc. If you are running short of time, omit theory worksheet time but assign the worksheets for “homework”.
- At recitals, do students play as an ensemble? RECITALS IN YOUR PIANO STUDIO: The students, as a group, are seated at the four or five electronic pianos. They sit quietly while each student plays a short solo. Then, the class plays several compositions in ensemble. These class recitals are short and sweet. The parents and students love these short recitals!
- Group settings can be so competitive, what type of incentive should I have for the students? I taught group piano for over forty years and I never had a problem with the group classes being too “competitive”. Yes, students practice more when they know that their fellow-students will be hearing them at their piano class. But I don’t consider that “competitive” spirit to be a bad thing. That is a good thing, in my opinion. Too often, students in private lessons shrug off lesson after lesson with little to no practicing. This is rarely the case in piano class lessons. For “incentives” try giving out different colored stick-on stars on their music. In my studio, the gold stars were the highest awards which meant that the composition was played beautifully. I had students who continued to practice on “old” compositions until they were finally awarded the gold stars. (This previously learned music was heard during “Old Music Time”). Do NOT get into expensive “incentives” with your students. That is NOT a good idea, teachers!
- Should I use my studio iPad to enhance group lessons? If yes, how would I go about it? The Mayron Cole Piano Method has several piano books available on the iTunes store. Look under Piano Made Easy. Each lesson is ninety-nine cents. The music is orchestrated, the artwork is animated, and the theory worksheets can be worked with the touch of a finger on the correct answer.
- How different or how difficult is it to be a group piano teacher? Do I need any special skills? You need to learn the skills of group piano teaching. Our website has great teacher manuals for most of the lower levels that tell you EXACTLY what to do. Novice teachers send us glowing reports after using these manuals. But no, group piano teaching is not difficult. But it must be done correctly. Please do NOT think that putting four or five students in a class, and running frantically from keyboard to keyboard while teaching a tiny private lesson is GROUP piano teaching. It is NOT! It is very bad private lesson teaching! Learn the skills that you need! You can do it! And you can do it well! (And badly taught Group Piano lessons by even one teacher give the rest of us a bad name!)
- Would you recommend I use the same piano method for private and group teaching? The Mayron Cole Piano Method was written for group piano instruction when I could not find any good group piano material. But through the years, many teachers have told us that they use our method for group and private lessons. They like that the theory that is included with our books is relevant to the music being learned. And they like that ALL the material needed is in ONE BOOK. The Mayron Cole Piano Method is the only method published that takes a student from the kindergarten level to the college level in piano knowledge. Each of our piano method books equal four to five of the “smaller” books sold by other piano methods.
Mayron Cole, Author of The Mayron Cole Piano Method
Bill & Mayron Cole
In 1969, Mayron Cole fulfilled a lifelong dream and created The Mayron Cole Piano Studio in the living room of her home in Houston, Texas. From the beginning, she was not pleased with the then-available piano methods. There was too much focus on reading fingering numbers and too little emphasis on teaching rhythm counting and note reading. Concepts were presented too fast with practically no reinforcement in later lessons. Her students were floundering. That’s when she decided to write the piano method that she’d always envisioned!