Online Book Club: Training Pianists AND Teachers?

Welcome back to the online book club at Club This is the third installment of book club series of articles. No worries, if you haven't read the book or have not joined the club you may still participate at any level. To fill you in, we are reading (or have read) Philip Johnston's book The Dynamic Studio: How to Keep Students, Dazzle Parents and Build the Music Studio Everyone Wants to Get Into.

For your convenience, here's a list of links:

  • More book club details here.
  • To join, sign up here.
  • First discussion here. Theme: "We cannot continue to teach the same way we were taught"
  • Second discussion here. Theme: "What does the “finger” print of your studio look like?"

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, find a comfy chair and ponder over the quotes below.



Although I attempt to hold to the philosophy that I should never should on myself, I'm currently suffering from a case of the "shoulds". To my complete delight, I have two high school students that are enthusiastic, dedicated pianists and also inclined to teaching. It is clear that pursuing a career in teaching music, piano or any other subject will be a reality for them. As their teacher, it is my obligation to instruct them as pianists but I also feel I should instruct and prepare them as fellow and future teachers. Johnston raises this discussion in the third chapter.

Today's Quotes from Chapter 3 "The Diversified Studio" Extension 11: Teaching Traineeships

"If your studio offered [a training program that specifically prepared them for taking on students of their own], then you've just created an entirely new reason for advanced students to stay--and for new advanced students to come aboard." p78

"Your trainee will see a wider spectrum of teaching if they cover a dozen different students a few times each." p 79


"As well as creating opportunities for your Trainee to observe other lessons, it's also worth scheduling a regular session with them where talking about teaching is the only thing on the agenda. What did they take away from this week?...What should practice instructions for Nicholas focus on? Why?...How do we handle Lisa's mother, who is making lessons almost impossible with her constant interrupting?" p79

"What you're offering your Trainee is an accelerated journey through and past much of this confusion, so that they're approaching their first year of teaching with the sort of lesson-smarts that would normally take a decade to acquire otherwise." p80.

"You could offer certification for your trainees...and if you make this program successful enough, you might find students enrolling in your studio just to take part in the Teacher Traineeship." p80

"The whole point of this chapter is that there can be much more to running a teaching studio than teaching people how to play their instrument." p81

"...what does the fact that you're regarded as a Teacher of Teachers say about your own lessons? Why would they go anywhere else when there is a Master Teacher right here?"p80




1) Is it really our responsibility to teach our current piano students how to teach? Won't they learn from osmosis within a typical piano lesson?

2) Would parents be willing to pay for a certification process on how to teach piano? They are already paying enough for their budding pianists to learn how to play the piano.

3) Should I feel alarmed that parents hire my students to teach their children instead of me? It seems that those initials "M.A." and years of experience may not matter all that much in today's piano education.

4) Do you include teacher training as an option in your studio? If so, how did you begin this stream of your instruction?

5) I've often considered hiring students to help with summer camps. Do you do this and if so, how much do you pay your aids?

6) Have you provided internship opportunities within your studio? If so, what specific tasks did you assign them?

7) The idea of expanding areas of expertise could easily move into the world of teaching by Skype, providing materials and education via site subscriptions, etc. Are you considering any of these possibilities for your studio? If so, how will you implement them?


My Response:

Mmmm... I really don't have the answers to most of these questions and that's why I'm asking you. The young gals pictured above are industrious, smart, excellent pianists and students.  If they are going to carry on the teaching torch, I'd prefer them to have proper guidance so their budding pianists develop good habits and strong skills. I do ask them both about their teaching, encourage them and suggest tips when they ask for them. In all honesty, after twenty+ years of teaching, it seems I'd prefer to instruct older students who have moved beyond the first-year books. It would be ideal to have a streamlined system in which beginners study and pass through the primer and level one books with a "certified teacher trainee"and then move on to lessons with me. Business wise, Johnston's logic makes a good case for diversifying my studio curriculum options. The fact that I look forward to presenting at conferences makes me think I do enjoy teaching teachers. All of these factors contribute to an unsettling feeling that I should be doing more but not sure if I can squeeze much more within a 7-day week.  I would greatly appreciate hearing your opinions, ideas, success stories and if you suffer from the "shoulds" as well. As you know, misery loves company. :-)


Your comments will make this book club much more fascinating. Feel free to elaborate on your answers, vent, ask another question. It's no surprise that chapter three went on and on with outstanding ideas, did one stand out that I missed?  If you are interested in hearing Philip's response to our book club chatter, don't forget to sign up for the newsletter here.


FYI: One way I've diversified my teaching experience is joining forces with Bradley Sowash

and building a summer camp that promotes creativity beyond the page.

Please check out the 88 Creative Keys summer events held here in Denver sponsored by the


Leila J's not all black and white