Hello everyone! My name is Ben Schneider. Throughout the course of the summer I took beginners piano lessons in order to deepen my understanding of music, interpretation, and expression.
A video recording of some of my lesson homework!
My largest view that changed throughout the completion of my project didn’t actually seem to be music related—as funny as that sounds. Truthfully, I never really got to the point in learning piano where I could express a piece as a personal interpretation. Since I was learning from the ground up my teacher and I spent most of the time making sure I was hitting the right keys… Okay well not that simplistic but you get the idea.
For me, it had to be the concept of putting in the work to learn something you love. In order to be truly apt at anything in life, one needs to practice practice practice. School always seemed relatively easy to learn for me because we would always just scratch the surface of a topic or idea. With piano I always faced a disconnect. I heard a piece of music that I desperately wanted to play, but never really had the understanding that just how much work one needs to do before they are ready to even attempt it. This lesson will definitely help me grow as a person moving forward—to treat new challenges with patience, and to take my time with others who are trying to learn advanced topics before they can even walk with the basic concepts and ideas.
To be honest, the concept of “oh I will be taking lessons so I should be able to play that” aptitude was present from the very start! In my step proposal, I said that I planned on learning a piece called “the Opened Way” a score from a video game. Without really being able to read sheet music, saying hey, there don’t look like too many notes on this paper—I should be able to do it.
The moment that I probably would not reach that goal in my time frame was evident in my first two weeks of lessons. In order to even try to play that piece I needed to know how to read sheet music… which to Connie it was incredibly clear I could not. I also needed to instill the basic ideas of playing piano—the proper hand positions, scales, fingerings and posture. I could have spent the whole experience focusing on one song, but without the basic building blocks behind it at the end I would just be left with that song. I wouldn’t understand piano, or be able to take the lessons I learned from one song to apply them to the next.
Connie was very clear that she wanted me to learn about piano. On the third lesson, she showed me both an upright piano and a baby grand. She explained how the different actions worked, pedals, and the key differences. From that point forward I was completely on board. Because for me, sure I wanted to play that song, but I also wanted to leave this experience prepared to continue my own learning in the future. So we started from the beginning, playing songs like the saints go marching in, row row row your boat, and working our way upwards. Every song we played was important, as it was more challenging then the last, but not by much. Enough to reward me with the gratification of taking on a new challenge without being completely overwhelmed.
Overall this was an extremely valuable experience—for both my personal and professional development. Foremost, these lessons gave me the foundation and push I needed to continue to learn piano something that I love and continue to aspire to improve at. I am excited for the day in which I will be able how to interpret a piece, instead of focusing on hitting the right notes, timing, and technique. At the same time, I have learned some valuable lessons that I can apply to the my job as a teaching assistant. Because of S.T.E.P. I understand the feeling of wanting to complete a project without having all the pieces, and how important it is for students to understand all of the building concepts before applying them to a synthesis problem.
If you are interested in my experience, I kept a weekly blog of it found here!