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Adult Student Profile: Ben Kohl

Adult Student Profile: Ben Kohl

“Piano was always my favorite form of meditation.”

 

Self-proclaimed “music junkie” Ben Kohl has been taking lessons since age six. Though he’s been playing for most of his life, he’s still surprised by what regular piano lessons allow him to accomplish. Read on for more of Ben’s story.

What inspired you to sign up for lessons with Piano Power?

Piano was always my favorite form of meditation and has been an important part of my life. I had stopped taking lessons during college and saw my skill level stagnate. It’s important to me that in anything I do in life, I take the necessary steps to improve my craft.

What’s your favorite thing about lessons?

I’m a music junkie. [Piano Power teacher] Henry and I always start off each lesson by sharing what we’ve been listening to since our last session, then we try to successfully play it on piano. The music ranges from today’s pop hits to obscure ’70s yacht rock one-hit-wonder jams.

What’s your favorite song or composer to play and why?

My favorite composer to play is Chick Corea. He possesses a combination of classical and jazz in his musical style which I try to incorporate in my sound.

Any challenges about taking lessons as an adult?

Not if you make it a priority. Easy for me to say as I don’t have children yet, but I hope to continue to take lessons as I get older.

Any special advantages to taking lessons at this stage in your life?

My musical catalog is much deeper now than it was in high school. Being able to incorporate new skills and techniques with songs I’ve been playing my whole life significantly enhances my overall piano experience.

Have your expectations for yourself or about lessons changed since you started?

The last two songs I learned were very advanced. If you were to tell me four to five years ago that I’d be capable of playing them from start to finish, I would have not believed it. Hopefully I’ll continue to keep raising the bar.

Any advice for other adults thinking about taking lessons?

If you have the means and the time, you won’t regret it. I think in today’s day and age, it’s a luxury if you have the ability to disconnect and shut off the outside noise around you.

How to Create the Space for Amazing Music Practice

How to Create the Space for Amazing Music Practice

 

Whether you’re new to lessons or a veteran, the quality of your music practice space matters.

 

Even if your options are limited— the piano is in the cold, dark basement and that’s that!— these suggestions will help you create a productive environment.

1. Quiet isn’t just obvious, it’s essential.

Unless you thrive under noisy conditions, audio distractions are the music student’s worst enemy. Make sure your co-habitators knows you’re practicing so they can keep it down, or choose a space removed from the hustle and bustle of family and the ringle-dingle of electronics.

2. Out of sight, out of mind

The ideal music practice space shouldn’t be so secluded that it feels irrelevant to your day-to-day life. A piano concealed in a cryptic part of the house can be easily forgotten, perpetuating a practice drought.

“For students with a lot of different things vying for their time, they need to actually see the instrument as they go throughout their day to be reminded to practice it,” said Piano Power teacher Lucas Gillan.

You can try keeping mobile instruments in an opened case in a well-tread room, allowing the instrument to whisper to you. I’m so lonely, come play me, it will say.

3. Keep it private…

You know how it is when you feel like someone’s listening to you practice—you become stiff and self-conscious, worried about what they’re thinking. When Piano Power teacher Dan Huber was in college, he would practice in the music building late at night when it was mostly empty to avoid being listened to.

“For me, practicing is more embarrassing than performing,” Dan said. “One needs to repeat possibly bad or incorrect sounding music over and over and over and over. I tend to practice once everyone in my house is asleep.”

If you’re a piano player who lives with other people or in a shared building, a digital piano with headphones could be a solution for when you just can’t be alone.

4. …or not private at all.

A student’s age may be a factor when it comes to privacy levels. Young students may need an attentive, encouraging parent nearby to keep them on track with assignments and goals, while older students may prefer more independence during practice.

Personality comes into play here, too.

“I’m an extrovert, so to be relegated to the basement is not pleasant,” said music teacher Sandra G. Connoly. “I feel isolated and disconnected. Just around the corner of some activity is perfect. My son, who is an introvert, enjoys being in his room.”

5. Consider acoustics.

High ceilings or an echoey room will drown out the finer details of your playing and possibly disrupt your focus. Conversely, a room that is all hard surfaces or soundproof will make you sound great, but may be glossing over your deficiencies and creating a ‘singing in the shower’ effect.

Music teacher Roger Stimson notes that acoustically-excellent practice can disappoint when you play in a performance hall with lesser conditions.

“I always practice in a well-furnished room and then, when I am performing, what a boost I get from the resonance of the acoustic!” Roger said.

6. Keep tools handy.

Gather all the necessary tools (pencils with erasers, metronomes, sheet music, stands, tuners, etc.) before practice time so that you don’t have excuses to keep getting up and interrupting your flow.

7. Make it a pet-free zone, at least temporarily.

Fido makes a lovely companion but a terrible practice partner.

“If pets disturb practice sessions half as much as they disturb lessons, it would be impossible to focus for very long,” Lucas said. “It might not be a terrible idea to put attention-seeking dogs behind a closed door during practice sessions.”

8. Feed your inspiration.

If your music practice room depresses you or evokes powerful feelings of indifference, you’re going to feel unmotivated to practice. Decorate it with pictures of inspiring musicians, artwork that evokes feelings of joy or creativity, or plants and flowers that brighten the room. Make it your favorite place to be.

9. Practice time is key.

Work with attention to your body rhythms, avoiding scheduling practice during times when you’re usually hungry or overly tired. If you’re a morning person whose mind shines with the sun, try to fit in lessons before work or school if you can make the time.

“Practice is like exercising,” says Piano Power teacher Dominic German. “We’re much less likely to do it after a long day.”

On the contrary, night owls should squeeze their creative juices when the moon is ripe.

For voice students, leave time between rehearsal singing and practice singing to give the vocal chords a break. Same goes for instrument students who’ve worn out hands, arms, backs, or shoulders while doing another activity. Rest your body when needed or it will find some clever way to rebel.

10. Consistent practice time trains the mind.

For many of us, routines alleviate angst. Like habits, we live life in routines because we’ve trained ourselves. Making practice time a routine carried out at the same time every day takes the question “but when will I have time to practice?” out of the equation.

11. Evaluate your goals.

Piano Power teacher Sarah Diller swears by setting goal limits for practice rather than time limits.

“Instead of saying ‘I’m going to sit at the piano for 30 minutes’, say ‘I’m going to practice until I’m comfortable with the first page,'” Sarah said. “Doing this emphasizes quality over quantity in practice.”

12. Special advice for singers.

Singers may find themselves limited to practicing wherever there is a piano for pitch checking. They may also use a computer with internet access to YouTube karaoke tracks, or a smart phone with organized music tracks.

However, you can practice without all of that stuff!

“I find when I’m practicing voice, I often move around my house,” said Piano Power teacher Leah Rockweit. “I like to practice in different sized rooms and spaces because when you perform, the space will always be different. I like to encourage students to find ways to be creative with how and where they practice voice.”

Accommodating all of these suggestions is impossible for most imperfect human beings. Perhaps what’s most valuable to remember is that music practice time or space may never, or rarely, be perfect. What matters is not the pursuit of perfection, but the pursuit of practice. 

Worried About In-Home Music Lessons?

Worried About In-Home Music Lessons?

Sometimes, clients are a little “iffy” about home lessons.

 

For many, the convenience of in-home lessons is a huge selling point. But others need a little well-deserved convincing.

Are you worried your home is too chaotic, noisy, or somehow less than perfect for lessons? In other words, are you worried your personal space is just too….personal?

You’re not alone. And we understand!

It’s completely normal to feel a little self-conscious about in-home lessons. Especially with multiple little kids running the show.

If you’re brand new to music lessons, you might wonder if it’s worth it to start with in-home, where the commitment feels greater than group lessons in a studio.

But in most cases, the benefits of home lessons outweigh any drawbacks.

How exactly, are in-home lessons more directly beneficial than group lessons?

Lessons at home eliminate the intimidation factor, allowing students to learn and grow within a safe space.

Students can play their own pianos, or sing more comfortably than they would in public.

In-home lessons emphasize one-on-one interaction.

Ultimately, these factors lead to more progress, not less.

Plus, our teachers are professional, patient, and adaptable. They’re trained to work with families– not just individual students. With a little Piano Power magic, we can make any space effective for music lessons.

Take it from these Piano Power parents:

“I already drive them to so many sporting activities, so I love that we can do this one at home. So easy to have all three kids have a lesson on one evening, and no one has to wait around in a car park/hall way/coffee shop until their turn.”

“I love the convenience and ability for my daughter to sing without self-consciousness. She also takes rock band in a studio, but that would never have happened had she not started at home.”

“We both work full time, and there is extra time for lessons on the weekends between other activities that can’t be done in the home– like tennis or gymnastics.”

“We appreciate the encouragement and positive energy brought into our house each week for lessons.”

With the support of our teachers, your home can become a dynamic, comfortable setting for musical growth, blending convenience with the focused learning one-on-one instruction provides.

So many of our families have found joy and progress in music, right where they live. The home, in all its uniqueness, is often the perfect stage for musical discovery.

Read How to Create a Peaceful Home Through Soundproofing.

 

Our Quick N’ Dirty Guide to Buying an Instrument

Our Quick N’ Dirty Guide to Buying an Instrument

The instrument plays a tremendous role in setting the tone for lessons.

 

A freshly tuned piano or the right-sized guitar can work wonders on your students’ enthusiasm and motivation.

Whether you’re preparing for piano, guitar, drums, or voice lessons, here’s some “instrumental” advice from our experienced musician-teachers.

Piano

  • Consider a digital piano if you don’t have an acoustic.
  • Digital pianos have weighted keys essential for technique and a satisfying experience.
  • Recommended brands: Yamaha, Roland, Casio.

Guitar

  • Beginners should start with an acoustic guitar.
  • Check with a store clerk to ensure the instrument fits the student.
  • Budget: $200-$300 for a beginner.
  • Our top store picks: Guitar Works in Evanston or Guitar Center in Highland Park.

Drums

Voice

  • Prioritize instrument care for vocal health!
  • Check out this article for tips.
  • Voice students should have a keyboard for practice and potential self-accompaniment.

Hope this makes you feel more informed and well-prepared!

Get advice on digital pianos.

How Teens Can Use Music Lessons to Navigate Stress

How Teens Can Use Music Lessons to Navigate Stress

This is a story about our former student Carlo, an ambitious kid who loved piano.

Even when he was a tot, Carlo loved experimenting on the keys. He felt free to play around and improvise, unlocking a creative world he looked forward to visiting. The Suzuki method he tried never suited him, but as he grew, he pursued his study and passion for piano.

Once Carlo started high school, though, everything changed. Schoolwork, sports, and extracurriculars began to consume his life. The pressure to succeed got real.

Sound familiar? Maybe Carlo’s situation reminds you of your own kid’s.

Teens are dealing with pressures that we, at their age, had never even heard of: social media, climate change, increasing pressure to get into a good college. It’s stressful just typing those out!

But as you may also know, music training offers many antidotes to stress, like:

  • creative expression
  • social bonding
  • emotional regulation
  • time to focus

Not to mention countless brain benefits, including:

  • enhanced verbal memory
  • improved reading ability
  • higher-level executive functioning.

In other words, music training is a mental-health superstar. And yet…Carlo’s lessons were stressing him out.

He loved to play, and he loved that his teacher Doug assigned challenging pieces. But a lack of time to practice frustrated Carlo. Consequently, lessons became just another weight on his slumped shoulders.

So… time to quit, right?

Not so fast.

Because someone swooped in to save the day. Guess who?

Mom, of course! (Because moms are awesome.)

Carlo’s mom Paola remembered his natural love for playing. She wholeheartedly believed he could reconnect with that little kid feeling he once had about music.

So along with Doug, she devised a plan to keep Carlo in piano lessons while eliminating the stress.

They focused on fun & relaxation

The new approach ditched the method books and curriculum, focusing instead on Carlo’s original ideas, melodies, and chord progressions. In short– all the stuff about piano Carlo loved.

This looser, more fluid weekly process removed the pressure, not only making lessons more enjoyable but more productive.

“Now there’s no guilt when Doug arrives,” Paola said. “He no longer feels like he’s putting Doug down by not practicing the classical pieces he assigned. Instead, lessons mean Carlo takes a break from his homework. The two of them have so much fun, you hear them laughing. It teaches him that music is not a duty.”

It teaches him that music is not a duty.

Could this approach work for your student?

If the goal of lessons is to chill out, love music, and enjoy the relaxing therapeutic effects of music-making– then yes, absolutely.

This approach especially complements teenagers who are old enough to begin making mature decisions about what they want–or don’t want–from lessons.

Paola appreciated Doug’s unique role in Carlo’s life, offering mentorship and inspiration in music.

“It takes a village to raise a kid, and a piano teacher inspires them, and gives them direction and quality time with someone who has a passion for music,” Paola said.

And Doug, learning from Carlo, understood the importance of adaptability and connecting with students’ motivations.

It goes to show that sometimes a flexible, student-led approach is key to keeping the stress low and the love for music high.

 

Read six benefits of music lessons on teen mental health.

 

Save Time, Stress, and Money with the Right Music Lessons

Save Time, Stress, and Money with the Right Music Lessons

We admit it. Private music lessons with us are a little pricey.

For that reason, some families or individuals choose to work with another provider. And that, of course, is understandable! There are many options for music lessons out there. We say the more music education in the world, the better.

But for those music lovers who share our core values, the high quality and consistency of our lesson structure can save money.

We invite you to consider the following:

Your time and well-being are valuable. 

Each month, in-home lessons save hours of driving time.

Just imagine– less driving, and more time to do what you need to do, at home. This means less stress and more convenience. Isn’t that nice?

You’ll also save money on gas, parking, and the fries you end up stopping for because you pass five McDonalds on the way home.  🙄

Take it from Piano Power parent Elizabeth L.: 

“In-home lessons are AWESOME. That was the biggest draw for us initially. So great when you have multiple kids, or younger kids who can play at home during lessons.” 

Teachers love working with us. 

We pride ourselves on offering an excellent workplace for teachers. We provide full health benefits, paid in-between lesson time, and a competitive pay scale.

What does this mean for you?

Your money goes towards happy teachers, who make happy students. And happy students make happy parents!

By choosing Piano Power, you’re supporting an excellent wage and benefits for our teachers, who are often young working musicians.

“From the moment I started working at Piano Power, I felt welcome and heard.” -Henry D., Piano Power teacher

If you need a new teacher, you’re not at square one. 

Finding a teacher on your own is a hassle. Finding a teacher who’s an excellent match for your student? Even harder.

And what if they decide to stop teaching? You’re left at square one where, while you’re looking for a new teacher, your student loses interest and momentum. No one wants to be at square one!

We put care into our teacher-student matches. But if you need to switch teachers, or if a teacher phases out, we handle the transition. Easy peasy.

We do it all for you!

Like longtime Piano Power student and parent Heather G. says: “Our teacher transition was seamless.”

A few other ways you can save with Piano Power:

  • Take back-to-back, 30-minute lessons for two siblings (or with a neighbor)
  • Take advantage of lower rates for off-peak lesson times

Investment in quality music lessons extends far beyond learned skills. It’s about valuing your time and experience, nurturing well-being, and supporting a community of dedicated teachers.

At Piano Power, we believe in providing an enriching experience that pays dividends in happiness, convenience, and lasting musical skills. Choosing quality over cost sets the stage for lifelong love and appreciation of music.

Read up on the invaluable benefits of learning an instrument.

Are Group Piano Lessons Good for Your Child?

Are Group Piano Lessons Good for Your Child?

Piano Power doesn’t offer group piano lessons, but that doesn’t mean we don’t endorse them! Parents and students should definitely weigh all of their options before starting lessons, and sometimes group is the way to go. This article by Jennifer Hughes of Know Your Instrument will help you decide the ideal learning setup for your budding pianist.

by Jennifer Hughes

When you think of piano lessons, the one-on-one setup– teacher sitting with a learner at the piano, guiding their little fingers on to the keys– might be the first thing that comes to mind. But don’t forget about group piano lessons!

While both scenarios have their pros and cons, in this article we’re looking at how group lessons can benefit a young piano player. Some questions you might have are:

Will my child be able to focus in a group social setting?

In most cases, there are at least four students and one teacher in a group piano class. For younger students, activities might include group games that develop rhythm, movement, pitch matching, listening, and music appreciation- all of which are necessary before learning the more technical aspects of piano playing.

A good teacher, supportive peer environment, and well-structured program will help your kid stayed focused. Be picky about the class you sign up for. Don’t hesitate to talk to teachers in advance of signing up for their class, and parents of students who took the class previously.

With that support in place, a group class will cultivate social skills like:

  • Making friends
  • Taking turns
  • Practicing patience with other kids
  • Offering encouragement and support to others

Will being in a group class help my kid develop the confidence they need, or will they get lost in the group?

In a group class, your student has a built-in audience. It’s likely they’ll have to play in front of their classmates as well as the teacher, and possibly in front of an audience at a recital. Playing in front of their peers may help them break out of their comfort zone, and motivate them to keep on practicing.

A shy student may feel more comfortable playing with others at first rather than solo– especially if they get to play duets, or an ensemble with the whole class. Some children build confidence when they know there are others doing the same thing.

All in all, group piano lessons enable children to experience the joy of learning and making music together. This not only does a lot in building confidence and social skills, but also in increasing motivation to make progress. For a more intensive and specific piano training for your child, you can always supplement group lessons with private instruction.

Still have questions? You might also be interested in: How to Decide Between Group and Private Lessons.

Music Education: Celebrating the Science-Tested Benefits

Music Education: Celebrating the Science-Tested Benefits

Music offers children important opportunities for self-expression, and can be an empowering force in their lives. They’re often some of the most eager participants in World Music Day. This annual celebration of musical creativity invites musicians of all stripes to take to share their talents.

The event, celebrating its 38th anniversary this year, originated in the streets of Paris, France. Since then it has become an internationally-recognized testament to the unifying power of music.

World Music Day is on June 21, and taking note of the significant developmental role played by music education seems a worthy celebration!

Here are three key ways that learning about, playing, and even listening to music can benefit kids:

1. It helps them handle difficult emotions more easily.

Fear, sadness, anger, and disappointment are tough emotions to handle, especially for kids. Their brains are still developing, and they don’t have the same resilience as a healthy adult.

Instrument training is linked to more rapid maturation of areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation, including the ability to manage anxiety.

2. It helps them feel good about themselves and others.

Low self-esteem can make it hard for kids to feel confident when interacting with their peers. This can limit their social lives. Musical training is linked to boosts in both self-esteem and empathy, making it easier for kids to make and keep new friends.

3. It boosts test scores across the board.

Turns out hitting the books isn’t the only way to make report cards shine! Music education is correlated with improved scores in school subjects and on standardized tests.

The list of things to love about music education certainly doesn’t end there. We The Parents have created an easy-to-read infographic detailing the way music benefits kids and the studies that prove it, so take a peek!

Learn more about the science behind music education at We The Parents.

Music Education: 17 Science-Backed Benefits
Adult Student Profile: Alysia Stiles Kinsella

Adult Student Profile: Alysia Stiles Kinsella

“I allow myself room to take things at a pace I can handle so lessons don’t become stressful.”

After her kids started piano and voice lessons, Alysia Stiles Kinsella got a hankering for lessons of her own. She’d taken piano once in her twenties, but it was time for a fresh (re)start.

After her teenage daughter decided to take a break from lessons, Alysia slid into her spot with piano and voice teacher Audie Lomboy. Her daughter’s break didn’t last long, but Alysia enjoyed her lessons so much that she kept on, too.

Read on to learn more about Alysia’s experience, and her advice for other parents suffering from music-lesson-envy!

What’s your favorite thing about piano lessons?

First, I just really like to be able to play songs on the piano and have them sound like actual music. I enjoy that I am able to play something that sounds pretty.

Second, I enjoy working with Audie because he lets me determine what I want to accomplish without undue pressure. He makes the whole process enjoyable.

What’s your favorite thing to play so far?

I am only in my second book, so I don’t have too many favorites. I enjoy when I first start a song and it doesn’t sound like much, but as I continue to practice, it turns into a song I actually recognize.

Audie is going to arrange Fix You by Coldplay for me, which is one of my favorite songs so I am looking forward to learning that. (My daughter played and sang that a year or so ago.) Hopefully I can get it down well enough that I can play and she or my son can sing.

What’s a challenge about taking music lessons as an adult?

Time! I am a full-time working mom plus have a dog who seems to be mostly my responsibility. 🙂

I travel sometimes and have a lot going on. Plus we have to fit three people practicing on the piano, and no one wants to hear piano all night (as much as we might enjoy it)!

Do you think there are any special advantages to taking lessons at this stage in your life?

I allow myself room to take things at a pace I can handle so lessons don’t become stressful. The point is to enjoy them. If that means one week– because I was travelling or had something else going on– my first practice is my next lesson, it is what it is. The next week I try to do better.

Any advice for other adults thinking about taking lessons?

Just try it for a month or two. The worst that can happen is that you decide it isn’t for you, or it isn’t for you right now. As we get older, it’s important to continue to try new things and learn new skills. It keeps us sharp!

Check out another great adult student profile with Keith Weinberg.

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