Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Musical Home: P is for Piano

From http://www.examiner.com/x-1510-Seattle-Music--Parenting-Examiner~y2008m11d11-The-Musical-Home-P-is-for-Piano-Part-One-What-AGE-should-my-child-be-when-they-start-piano

The Musical Home: P is for Piano, Part One: What AGE should my child be when they start piano?

by Linda Sebenius, Seattle Music & Parenting Examiner

Year after year, THIS is the number one question I hear from parents. There are so many answers! I usually offer the response that the age of seven is a good age to start, typically. That’s the short and easy answer, so for those that want the short/easy, no need to read any further! (Just in case you’re still reading, in the following paragraphs, I’ll share why this is typical, and when to do what is not typical.)

But, let’s talk about the goal here first. The hope is that taking piano lessons will be a successful experience your child will launch from and explore music for a lifetime. So, OK.  the goal is to have a successful experience. What in the heck does that mean?!!! My theory is if you are enjoying learning, you‘ll want to learn more. If you aren’t enjoying learning, then you’ll want to stay as far away as possible. It’s the old go towards pleasure and away from pain ever-so-human thing we ALL do. So I would say the goal is for your child to enjoy learning piano. The best way to ensure this is to really know what your child enjoys.

So let’s start with what is typical.

By age seven, most children are enjoying reading symbols on a page, and in music they will be reading left to right. The ability to track symbols will help them be successful at reading piano music too.

By age seven, most children are able to sit and focus (sit being the key word!) for longer periods of time, say…20 – 30 minutes at a time. If your child struggles at sitting still, piano lessons my not be so enjoyable for them.

By age seven, most children have a great degree of fine motor skills, and have integrated the left and right hemispheres of their brain, thus they are able to use both hands fairly equally at the piano.

Here’s when I recommend doing what is not typical.

If your child is 3 or 4 and is beggggggging to play piano, then by all means find a teacher that specializes in very young beginners. The Suzuki method starts children on piano when they are very young, although reading music comes later.

If your child is 5 or 6 and is already reading, sitting and focusing for long periods, and finds the piano interesting, taking piano lessons (again with a teacher that specializes in very young beginners) would be a great supplement to their learning world.

There are many reasons you may want to have your child in piano. Maybe you always wish YOU had had lessons, maybe they come from a long line of musical geniuses, or maybe you believe they are the first family musical genius! Whatever the reason, piano is a great way to begin or continue your child’s musical life. Having private lessons with just the teacher at the right time will meet the goal: Enjoy learning piano!

If you have questions about piano lessons, feel free to contact me at Linda@musicshinemedia.com

Coming soon: P is for Piano Part two: What kind of Piano should we have for our child?

Other articles of interest:




Sunday, November 9, 2008

After 40 years, teacher still has passion for piano

From http://www.leadertelegram.com/story-features.asp?id=BI8AP0I5GF7

By Chuck Rupnow
Leader-Telegram staff

PLUM CITY - Piano teacher Luella Dettling looked into the eyes of her student and asked: "Remember what flat tires do?"

Adam Heath, 9, a fourth-grader at Ave Maria Academy in Plum City replied: "They go down."

"That's it. Now tackle it. Tackle it," Dettling said, smiling at the boy as he worked his way through a new song.

The scene - Dettling taking notes and giving positive advice while sitting next to a student on a piano bench - has not changed in more than 40 years.

Dettling, 80, has given private lessons at her home in rural Maiden Rock and other locations for decades, while also playing organ and piano at churches for Sunday services, weddings and funeral services. Overall, she's been playing piano about 73 years.

"I enjoy it. I enjoy music and it's a joy just to be able to play, so I do as much as I can," Dettling said. "I said to one lady that if I didn't have my music, I'm not sure if I'd be good for anything.

"I don't know how long I'll be able to continue. Only the Lord knows," she added in her humble tone. "The Lord gives us each something. We all need something that gives us that extra little joy."

Dettling gives lessons at the school once a week, otherwise giving them at her home.

She's given lessons to two generations of some families.

Dettling isn't sure exactly when she started giving lessons, saying it was in the 1960s.

"I had played for a program in the local school and a lady came up to me and asked if I would teach her daughter. I said, 'Oh, I don't know about that.' I hadn't done that. I just said I would try, and I kept going."

Dettling started playing piano around age 7, receiving lessons at her Stockholm area farm from her mother, Esther Larson. Larson had attended MacPhail Center for Music, a Minneapolis music conservatory founded in 1907 by William MacPhail.

"She did a lot of playing, so I would watch her and listen to her," Dettling said of her mother. "It just evolved because there was always music at our house. We didn't have television. We played games or sang around the piano - kind of a different era than we have now."

Larson also taught Dettling's brothers, Lowell Larson, 83, of La Crosse, and Burton Larson, 77, of Ellsworth, to play piano.

"She got them going too, but I guess it was harder for them because they were outside more with the farming chores," Dettling said.

Dettling started playing for weddings when she was 17, using a pump organ on several occasions. "I just about wore myself out doing that," she said.

She has played for scores of weddings and funerals over the years and has programs from the events to prove it.

She drew praise as an accompanist from singer Kelly Johnson of rural Pepin.

"She's very good, and she just is always available," said Johnson, whose three children have taken piano lessons from Dettling. "She's so flexible; she'll play anything, try anything. Usually, when she's playing for me she's not done that song before, but she's game to try it."

Dettling plays Sundays at two Maiden Rock area churches, 8:15 a.m. at Maiden Rock Methodist church and again at 10:30 a.m. at Lund Mission Covenant Church.

"She plays pretty much every Sunday and also for any special occasion; anything that we need her for," said Lund Mission Pastor Greg Satterberg. "She is a very good pianist and organist, a very gifted person who has been willing to adjust her schedule to help out whenever needed."

Dettling started teaching at the school about 19 years ago. She now has about six individual students and teaches a music theory class.

"The kids just love her," said Mary E. Wieser, full-time volunteer at preschool through fourth-grade Ave Maria school. "She's very supportive of the school and a part of the family here."

On one recent morning, Dettling sat patiently on the bench with Brendan Swancutt, 11, a home-schooled student from Plum City who takes piano lessons at Ave Maria. "You know this, you know it. You can do it, you can do it. Do what it says and tell me what you are doing," she told him encouragingly.

"I am just amazed at times how the children catch on. It really is quite a thrill at times when they get it. I just plain enjoy it.

"With playing piano it's something that can go on a lifetime and you can also give service to others," she said. "Playing is such a joy, and to see the younger ones learning, well, that's a joy too."

Rupnow can be reached at 830-5831, 800-236-7077 or chuck.rupnow@ecpc.com.