Teaching philosophy, lesson rates and policies

In teaching piano lessons, I integrate the study of technique and music theory with work on piano music, from the music of important jazz composers such as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Mary Lou Williams, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea to composers from the ‘classical’ tradition including J.S. Bach, Muzio Clementi, W.A. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Satie. I start beginners with the Alfred Basic Adult All-In-One Course Level One, which integrates theory, technique and repertoire. With students who have some previous piano experience and are looking to get into jazz, I most often use The Real Book Volume One (6th Edition) and Jazz Keyboard Harmony by Phil Degreg. I also sometimes use my own compositions based on standard jazz chord progressions, such as October Blues (based on Miles Davis’s ‘All Blues’) and Ella’s House of Tonic Tones (based on Sonny Rollins’s ‘Pent-up House‘), as a starting point for introducing classic jazz repertoire. (Click on the titles of these tunes to see blog posts on them that include recordings and downloadable sheet music.) For students who complete Alfred Level One or those who are starting lessons with some previous experience and are interested in non-jazz repertoire, I use books including the Alfred Basic Adult All-In-One Course Book Two and the Faber and Faber Piano Adventures series. I am also open to collaborating with students on choosing repertoire for lessons. I find that one of the best motivations to practice is finding a piece that has both caught one’s ear and is a good match for one’s technique and ability level.

For high school students looking to audition for Vermont All-State Jazz Ensemble, I have a series of tunes based on the chord progressions of the tunes used for those auditions (see the menu of ‘Original tunes on changes of Vermont All State Jazz Ensemble audition tunes’ in the sidebar of my blog.) A number of my students have been chosen to play piano in this ensemble at the Vermont All-State Music Festival over the years.

For non-UVM students, I begin new students with an initial meeting, for which I charge the same rates as a lesson (see below). For students with previous experience, it is helpful if I can hear them play a short piece at the initial meeting which tells me something about their ability level, musical interests, and the kind of piece they enjoy playing. (UVM Students are required to audition for jazz piano lessons; contact me via email for more info on audition guidelines.) Students are also welcome to send audio or video clips of their playing ahead of time. I ask students who are familiar with major scales and sight reading to demonstrate those skills briefly. For students who are beginners or less inclined to perform, I use the initial meeting to introduce you to some possible starting points for lessons and set you up with a first assignment. With students at all levels, the initial meeting is a chance for both of us to consider whether my approach and background are a good match for your strengths, interests and goals in music.

I have taught students at many different ages (usually starting around 6th grade but including the full range of middle school through college age, including many post-college adults as well) at many different skill levels, from experienced professionals to those who play for fun, and in a number of musical styles, most often in the jazz tradition, but including a fair amount of classical and pop music as well. My former students who are currently working pianists and piano teachers include Jacob Ungerleider, Tyler Mast, Aya Yuasa, Sammy Angstman, Wes Ruelle, and Randal Pierce. I am also proud to have former students like Jack Hanson, who studied jazz piano with me at UVM while completing an Environmental Science major and is now the executive director of Run On Climate and a currently working jazz pianist, and Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who was a vocalist in one of my jazz ensembles at UVM and is now a Vermont State Senator.

My rates are $50 for an hour lesson, $40 for a 45 minute lesson and $30 for a half hour.

Lesson Cancellation Policy for non-UVM students (UVM students: see the cancellation policy on the lesson syllabus, which is similar to the one below, but connected to my grading policies.)

In the case of cancellations where I am notified by phone, email or text 24 hours or more ahead of the scheduled lesson time, I am happy to reschedule the lesson and transfer the lesson fee to the rescheduled time.  In the case of cancellations where I am notified less than 24 hours ahead of the lesson time, but no later than 2 hours ahead of the lesson time, I will charge half the lesson fee.  In the case of lessons where a student does not show up for the scheduled lesson time and I am not notified ahead of time, I will charge the full lesson fee.  While there are many kinds of unforeseen circumstances, in general the only exception I will make to this policy is in the case of a sudden medical emergency. 

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