My Passion

My passion for the piano started when I was about 5 years old. I remember my parents gave me an 8 key red toy piano for Christmas. It had black keys painted onto the white keys. (haha) I remember playing TwinkleTwinkle Little Star on it by ear and other simple tunes. I was disappointed that it didn’t have more piano keys as I wanted to experiment with it more.

When I was 6 years old I begged my parents to take piano lessons. They would tell me that I couldn’t because we didn’t have a piano.  It probably wasn’t in their budget at the time as we had just moved across the ocean from Fiji where my dad started teaching school in a small town in Southern Alberta Canada. I would argue back that I could practice the piano on our neighbor’s piano.

A few years went by and the only time I got to play the piano was when I was at my two best friend’s homes. One of my friends was a very talented pianist. Her mother would wake her up around 6 am on school mornings to practice piano for an hour before school and then she usually had to practice the piano after school too.

I loved to listen to her play the piano and just sat on the piano bench beside her sometimes pressing on the higher piano keys. I was pretending to play a piano duet with her.

Whenever I walked into a home with a piano I was immediately drawn to it and ended up just messing around on it.  One of the first songs I learned to play before I took piano lessons was the Chopsticks piano song.

There were two parts to learn which made up the Chopsticks piano song duet. I learned both parts pretty easily by memorization and then I remember thinking. I wonder if I can play both parts at the same time. It didn’t take long before I was playing the Chopsticks piano duet all by myself! I didn’t know how to read a note of music!

Years went by and often other adults would tell my parents that they should enroll me in piano lessons.  So it was always in the back of their minds and then one day my parents told me they were going to buy a piano and enroll me in piano lessons. I was almost 12 years old, and was elated!

Things came pretty easy for me as a  young pianist. I learned to site read fairly quickly because I believe I was always experimenting with playing music that my teacher never assigned me.   Even though I could play many classical piano songs as I grew into an adult, I remember listening to recordings of piano songs and wondering how they got this beautiful effortless tone. I could hear the difference! It almost made want to give up, they sounded so good.  My friend who was  vocal solist told me not to worry about that, just do the best you can.  I rationalized that in order for me to produce that beautiful sound and play all these hard classical songs I was going to have to increase my piano practice and piano practice exercises!

Years later I was asked to accompany someone on the piano at a regional church talent night and I heard someone one play a beautiful rendition of Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu. I fell in love with the piece almost instantly! A few years later I ordered the sheet music and attempted to teach myself that particular piano song.

Although I could read all the piano music, I just could not play the music correctly. Something was lacking–it did not sound good! I even injured myself while I was practicing this song and couldn’t use one of my hands for like a month. (haha) At least it got me out of doing dishes.

I took piano lessons until I left for college and then some in college. As an older adult, I came across an amazing opportunity to take lessons from Mrs Barbara Steiner who studied at the piano conservatory at Wheaton College.

I took lessons from her hoping I could learn Fantasy Impromptu.  She pretty much told me in my first lesson that my technique was not ready to play that piece.  Although I didn’t really believe her I listened to her.  After about three years of practicing different classical and non-classical material, my teacher gave me the go ahead to start working on the Fantasy Impromptu.  I already knew a lot of the piece from my years of trying to play it before.  Still after a whole school year of trying to perfect it, the technique was not quite there.  I then took another year off of playing it and came back to it.   The first half of the year I practiced it and felt like it was geting easier but the timing was just not quite where it should be.  I remember on March 21st 2019 my piano mentor wrote on my page that my hands were perfecting aligned.  If you don’t understand playing 4 notes against 3, this won’t mean alot to you. Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to do.  I only average about an hour a day as a I have  many other things going on in my life–so for me to receive this comment that day-was a major breakthrough in my technical abilities.

Even though I’m still working on speed for the Fantasy Impromptu, it was a huge goal accomplished! (see link below for video performance.)  I used to think you had to work hours a day to play classical music correctly. It’s not necessarily true. You do need to put in some good time depending on how many pieces you are working on and how difficult they are- but without the correct technique, it doesn’t matter how much you practice–it won’t sound beautiful and may be even impossible to play! I’m still perfecting many of my pieces just for fun as you will find with any piece of advanced music, there is always something you can do to make it a little bit better if you choose to pay attention to the details such as dynamics, tempo, voicing, clarity, weight, etc.

My Frustration

After I was married and settled down, people from my community and church started to request that I teach piano lessons. I really didn’t have any experience in this and just kind of did it as a favor to people in the beginning.

One of the first things I noticed as I taught piano lessons from traditional method books, is that most students had a super hard time reading the notes and counting rhythms. Their learning did not come nearly as fast as mine did.

I tried all sorts of different methods and I always hated teaching that first beginning lesson as students just seemed to be lost and confused. There did not seem to be a method that made it easy for the student to easily transition into learning about how to play the piano.  I remember making up beginning lessons of my own, trying to figure out what would work.

I began searching for a new approach to teach some group lessons when I found the Mayron Cole piano method designed for private and group students. I no longer dreaded teaching beginning students as the beginning lessons were so easy for them to catch onto and understand and I felt like they were learning so much more than they would in other books.

The Mayron Cole Piano Method was written by Mayron Cole herself as she struggled with the same things as a teacher that I had been struggling with in teaching my piano students. Students were playing by finger numbers and hand positions–not reading notes and barely counting!! This is something that I remember doing as a beginning student too and my teacher trying to break me from it. I think because I had such a love for the piano and was always playing new material I was able to break this habit.

The exciting thing about the Mayron Cole Piano Method is that it doesn’t ever let a new beginner start the bad habit of playing by finger number. The method trains the eye to read the note first before anything else. It was so refreshing to have students who didn’t feel overwhelmed or lost when it came to reading notes off the staff and being able to count correctly–another huge issue that the Mayron Cole Piano Method addresses. 

Students are taught to count correctly from the beginning with a lot of reinforcement throughout the method. I remember how frustrated I was with my student’s counting abilities with traditional piano methods.

I was shocked when I asked them to count, and they really didn’t know how to count the music. A lot of them  were playing the music by ear and memory and had difficulty reading rhythms.  The Mayron Cole Piano Method which I have taught for over 15 years addresses these issues. It is a method that doesn’t have gaps like other traditional piano methods.

Don’t Be Fooled

Don’t be fooled by many people you hear at piano recitals who can play some amazing pieces by memory but then you ask them to accompany someone to sing and they do not have the skills to do so. I have taken on many private transfer students and a lot of them have trouble with counting and note reading. The students that I have taught with the Mayron Cole Piano Method tend to be much better note readers.

Now don’t get me wrong. Student’s that do not practice, are not going to be good note readers no matter what piano method they learn. I have had students who struggle, but it is usually because they haven’t been practicing. If they practice the material in the Mayron Cole Method–they usually come out to be strong note readers and counters of rhythm.

One thing I try to do in my lessons is to always have a little bit more challenging piece and or fun piece for my student’s to work on. This may be a piece that I have to do a little more coaching with them as their music skills in note reading are not at that level yet or it may be a simple fun piece that fits right in line with their note reading ability.


Franz Lizst, You Play Ugly!

As an adult, even though I had taught piano lessons for over 15 years, I had the opportunity to take an additional 8 years of piano lessons from a teacher who was trained in the pedigree background of Franz Lizst.

For those of you who have never heard of Franz Lizst, he was one of the most accomplished pianists in the history of the world.  He was known for for playing out of this world difficult pieces and was a showy fearless performer.   He had such power at the piano that it wasn’t unusual for him to break a string at his concerts.  His technique was impeccable and unlike many other great perfermors, he never got nervous about performing in front of others.

This opportunity has truly been a game changer for me. I wanted to improve my technique and when I went to my first lesson and even though I had over 30 piano students at the time, I was told by my teacher in the first lesson that I played ugly.  I was kind of offended and quite mortified. I did not expect this.  I really didn’t know what to think.

There were so many times during that first year of lessons as an adult, that I wanted to walk out as the attention to detail to improve my technique was frustrating.  I remember playing what I considered to be a fairly easy Mozart piece but whenever I came back and played it for my teacher, she would  usually stop me as I played the first measure.

In my mind, I was thinking, “what?!!”  The first few measures were technically speaking a breeze for me.  So why was she stopping me over and over again?!

Even though I didn’t really understand what she was saying at first, bits and pieces of it would come through and I would have a lot of a hah  moments.  Now I easily understand, why she was stopping me. Even though there were times of frustration,  I stuck with her because I knew she produced students who produced beautiful piano music to the ear.  Their piano technique allowed them to do this and and I could hear and see the difference! This is what I call the Lizst effect!

Start Proper Technique From the Beginning

With the advance piano training I have now received, I am now able to share with other others the secrets of obtaining a beautiful and professional tone and touch at the piano. I love being able to teach my students from the very beginning so they don’t develop bad habits that can be hard to break. They don’t have to struggle like I did in executing simple fast triplets because my piano technique was sloppy.

Even though when beginning students start out and they don’t understand why I have them do certain things to help their piano technique, it feels really good as a teacher to know I am giving them a solid foundational start so they can avoid problems shortly down the road.

I remember students in the past struggling with certain passages in their music that they just could not execute–now I know how to help them and that feels amazing!!

2 Songs that are Perfect for Beginners!

Learn two songs that are easy but sound beautiful!

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