The East and West have different philosophies of teaching, not just in general education, but music as well. Asian countries in general have a more teacher-oriented teaching style. The teacher’s wants and thoughts are the main focus of lessons and classes, and the student follows and copies what the teacher dictates. In North America however, lessons are much more concentrated on cultivating the student’s interests and skills. There is more freedom for the student to develop his or her own style of learning and the teacher will cater to that specific form.
When I started learning piano at the age of four, my grandmother was my first teacher. She used a combination of western and eastern teaching styles to both stimulate my interest in piano while drilling on my technique. This is what my philosophy of teaching is too. I found that with younger students, especially children under the age of ten, a certain degree of teacher-oriented style is needed. Young students are often pushed into lessons by their parents and do not know what they want yet. They will need guidance and the experiences of the teacher. Telling the student how to practice and what to play is crucial during any age period, but it is especially important to guide the student in the right direction musically and technically during these early years. Establishing good sitting posture, hand position, musical sense, and sight-reading skills will be beneficial to the student. Bad habits are very hard to correct, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure that the student have a solid foundation for piano playing.
I have a different teaching style for older students. The adult student is both easier and harder to teach. They often want to learn to play the piano for their own interest. On the other hand, they are much older and technique is much more difficult to master. The repertoire for older students is also hard to find. I lean towards a more student-based environment for this age group. Because their starting point is so late, I always ask my students what their objective is in learning piano. If they just want to play for fun, I will let my students tell me what kind of repertoire they want to learn, and then I will find the appropriate pieces for them. The technical problems I will tailor to the specific piece they are working on instead of giving them lots of skills work. Some adult students who has previous experiences with piano, whether they had lessons in the past or taught themselves, I will give them more technical focus so that they can play harder repertoire. With the advanced students, I treat them more as equals. Students at this stage should have a solid understanding of piano playing. Therefore, I can focus more on interpretation and fine-tuning technique, while incorporation music theory and music history into their lessons.