Category: successful music teaching

Focus on Your Dream

I know it’s been tough for all of you, it’s been tough for me too. 

Sometimes I feel great, more time to do what I’ve always wanted, but other times I feel terrible, not able to do a lot of things I used to regularly. It sounds contradictory doesn’t it? Either way I still feel I run out of time doing everything I want to do, even with the lockdown situation.

I understand the need to slow down, to take things easy for a bit. At times like this, it seems hard for us to see anything clearly in the future, with this thick layer of fog blocking the view right in front of us.

What should we do? Perhaps we should give in, and just wait until this is over. Or, should we just live our life as much as how it’s used to before all this, and take this time to better ourselves for the future when it’s here? 

It’s easy to succumb into the first option, and believe me, sometimes I feel like doing that too.

“It’s just too hard.”

But as more time has passed, I begin to have a clearer vision and stick with the second option.

Do what I have always loved to do (with the options I have) and keep working on what I have been doing, before this crisis even exists.

“I do what I feel good about myself, work on things I love, keep moving forward, no matter how little progress I might have right now because of the circumstances.”

***

I used to hate using computers, of course, that was back in a little before 2000, when I was still in college. I thought technology and music were not compatible, it’s an either-or situation for me. I was so wrong.

I remember I had to take the first test for the computer course I had in my first year of college. One of the things they asked us to do was to put a floppy disk (!) in the desktop computer, write something on a word document and save it on the disk. I didn’t even know how to put a floppy disk into the hard drive! (because I never paid attention in computer class – in fact, I skipped many of them to go practice piano) So when it came to me doing the test in the computer lab, I sat there nervously in front of a computer and tried to find out where to insert this little floppy disk and complete the simple task! It was so embarrassing.

Little did I know, I would have to learn to do so much more with computers and the internet for my music work.

When I started writing my first ever blog in late 2009 (on teresawong.hk), I didn’t know what to do. Sure I had a friend help me set up the basics (with the blog and youtube channel – a lot of the videos were on another server for a while outside of YouTube channel, until there were way too many videos I made to keep on a server anymore). I started writing a biography about myself and left it there for four months until I went back to the blog again for more. I just didn’t know what else to write. Surely I thought, many other pianists/musicians/piano teachers knew/wrote all the things that I knew/wrote already, so why me?

Again, wrong.

Anyhow, when I went back to start building the blog and writing posts again, I was back with a vengeance. I knew that was what I wanted to do. I started writing everyday, and I mean, everyday. I also made videos and audios of my playing and teaching. Those occupied most of my time outside my teaching, which flourished dramatically quickly in a very short period of time out of my expectation and goal. 

Since then, I knew there were many non-musical and rather technical things that were associated with music/piano teaching and performing, and I had to learn to do the former if I wanted to become successful in the latter field. I got over the “it’s too hard” and worked hard at going over the hurdles, one higher and more challenging after the other.

There had been quite a few tasks that I did not have to learn to do by myself and could have had someone else do instead. But I always insisted that I at least learnt what that was about – then hired someone else to do it (or part of it). 

I started to have the idea of writing piano beginner books for our own piano school use back in 2015. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I felt like that was the right thing to do. It was super time-consuming, and frankly, more money put in than came out of it, but it was a wonderful thing to do, and the books are still in use, by me and other piano teachers, who find them very helpful. Then I wanted to print and publish them, along with another couple piano method books that I also wrote, in 2016. I had no prior experience of publishing, editing or designing, but because I strongly believed it was to be done, I finally found my way to do it. 

The current online piano teaching situation is not new to me – I started doing it in 2017 because I couldn’t work in the country where I was living. I had to be creative to make some money and also maintain my craft online (frankly, it’s my passion to teach piano – I always say even if I don’t need to make money to survive I would still teach, just perhaps a little differently). Then I had the idea of consulting piano/music students and teachers online, and doing pre-recorded music training programs. I did a lot of research to figure out how that all worked, and learned more as I went along doing it. 

These tasks were all very difficult for me – if you can imagine someone who didn’t even know how to put a floppy into the computer! But I did them, and I can proudly say, pretty well.

It also doesn’t mean I was all chirpy and humming happy songs when I was doing them – there were so many times I just wanted to stop and quit right there, give up the projects, the concerts, the books, the teaching, the playing, the websites, the courses, so, many, times. I was stressed, depressed, angry, sad, frustrated, happy, excited, then the whole crazy emotional cycle all over again (in different orders). But, I did not quit. I thought I wanted to, but I never quit. 

I would take a break, and then go back and pick up the pieces again.

I would get frustrated, upset, and walk away. I would take some rest, do something else, and then start the project again.

Why? Because I know deep inside, this is what I want to do. I need to continue doing it. 

There are things, steps, pieces, courses, teachers, writing, exams, performances, students – any of these can contribute to your success in achieving your ultimate goal. Sometimes it’s not one thing or one person you meet, but rather, more often than not, the combination of things you have done that would lead you to where and who you want to be in the future.

But, if you keep waiting, pondering when you should start, worrying about if you should start now, another year would have passed, and you would still be standing at the starting point, never having progressed anywhere. 

It doesn’t matter if there’s a coronavirus, or war. If you can make a move, do it, now. 

Time is slipping away as we speak. 

Now I have to run to do what’s important to me. I’ll write again very soon.

How to teach piano beginners (I)

As piano students and performers, you all know the importance of piano lessons and practice, and how a great teacher can inspire you to the next new level. But as piano teachers, do you know what you have to do in order to be successful in teaching piano students?

In this series of articles , I’d like to share with you some useful ideas on how you as piano teachers to prepare yourselves on taking up this wonderful career of piano teaching.

Teaching piano beginners is a challenging task. Many might think it’s easier than teaching students of more intermediate levels. It’s crucial for piano teachers to nurture their beginner students carefully so that students start well on the merry way of music learning and enjoyment for many years to come.

The following tips are applicable for teaching piano beginners in general.

1. Use piano instruction books effectively

There are a lot of piano method books out there and many of them are quite excellent and fun. But not all of them are suitable for teaching purpose. Piano teachers should identify the books they find that are in line with their own teaching approach and choose wisely. More importantly, the piano method books out there do not teach teachers how to teach their books. So it’s up to the teachers to use the books accordingly. Even if the teachers are professionally trained musically, it doesn’t mean unfortunately that they are trained to teach music, and I know a lot of times they are frustrated with how to communicate in a way that students can understand and learn effectively. I myself have written a series of piano beginner books to help other teachers to set up a systematic way of teaching their students and it has proved to be quite effective in the last few years.

This leads me to the second point..


2. Learn how to teach

I for a while did not understand the importance of learning how to teach. It was not until I took classes in piano pedagogy in graduate school and first-handedly received high-quality piano lessons from master piano teachers, that I understood the surprisingly distinct difference between the old-school mediocre piano teaching and the great piano teaching, which could immensely inspire a student to a great new level in piano playing and music understanding.

After finishing my master’s degree, I continued to learn and dig deeper in the subject of “teaching”. In piano teaching (or instrumental teaching for that matter), there are two main aspects one needs to learn as a teacher: teaching music and teaching in general. And in music teaching, there are piano playing (technique and repertoire) and music rudiments (theory, reading and aural ability, history). To be a successful and well-rounded piano teacher, one must not only acquire knowledge in music and piano but also learn how to teach.

Teaching is not to feed information into students’ brains- it’s rather to inform and guide the students, so that they are well-equipped with data they need to form their own judgment and apply their knowledge accordingly.

High-quality piano teaching does not have to be reserved to music students in prestige graduate schools only. As a matter of fact, children needs great teachers to learn from and be inspired by at early ages, right from the start of their music education journey.

3. Teach students how to practice

It’s important to teach students how to practice. A lot of teachers think the students automatically know that how to practice on their own, and hope that the parents would somehow take that responsibility to teach them or show them how. That cannot be more wrong.

First thing students should know is that practice is crucial for successful piano playing and repetition is important in their piano practice. And repetition does not mean playing a piece twice or the whole piece all the time. There should be guidance on how to practice and what to practice, what goals they set in each practice session and how to achieve those goals accordingly.

In our piano beginner books, we write out step-by-step instructions for students and parents to follow at home during their practice, so that they know what to do and what to pay attention to. In piano lessons, teachers should also spend time to explain to students how to practice certain phrases and what they themselves should pay attention to during their practice at home. Students need to know what they are looking for in their own practice and playing, instead of teachers pointing out their mistakes and them rectifying them afterwards. A lot of self-awareness and attention to details are required in students in their own practice (and playing) to make that practice session effective and productive.

When students know how to practice and what to look for during practice, it’s time to be creative in their practice. Teachers can demonstrate different ways of tackling a problem, whether it be a rhythmic, harmonic or coordination aspect. Teaching students to understand the components and make-up of a music piece would tremendously help them practice more effectively. No one gets far with practice or playing without understanding the musical content of a piece they are learning.

Successful Music Teaching Course

Category: Music Teaching and Teaching Studio Business Course

I want to help you build your music teaching studio.

When I set up my own music teaching studio, I also experienced a difficult period. It took a lot of effort to achieve that dream, but most importantly, it took me a long time to find a real direction to build a successful music teaching studio. After the solid establishment of my music teaching studio, it was very satisfying in many ways. I wish there were someone who could guide me and teach me how to do it, so I wouldn’t have wasted so much time searching for ways to build the studio I really wanted, so that I could focus on music and teaching.

I know that I can help you: the “How to Build a Successful Music Teaching Studio” course is designed to change the way you – and many teachers who are passionate about music and teaching- teach and shape a music teaching career that you have always wanted . I like to take away your frustration and struggle, so that you can focus on contributing your effort to our local music teaching community. We need the best teachers like you to teach the next generation of students.

Note: This only applies to private music teaching; if you want to start a bigger teaching business, please contact us directly for one-on-one business coaching courses.

You can now enroll in this course on our online learning platform.

Wanted: Great Piano/Music Instrument Teachers

It has never been easy to promote yourself, especially when you are a private piano teacher (or whatever kind of music instruments you teach).

People say, “teachers shouldn’t have to sell themselves” , “we are not sales!”, “I just don’t know what to do, so I guess I’ll wait for students to discover me and show up at my door one day”.

I get your frustration. I never thought I had to promote myself as a piano teacher either.

So I waited and waited for too long to take actions.

I wanted to start teaching long time ago when I graduated with my master’s degree in piano performance. I mean, I did start teaching, along with my successful performing career, which I loved and enjoyed. But I always knew inside of me teaching was my true calling. I just wasn’t given the opportunity to use it to the fullest.

Instead of being proactive about teaching, I went to do more study instead. I thought by going back to school and get more degrees would help.

It didn’t.

I loved studying and learning, but studying and learning something that’s not directly related to what I really wanted to do – which was piano teaching – was basically a waste of time for that matter (I still learnt things but they didn’t contribute to what I wanted to do).

So what did I do? I quit. I quit everything and started to focus on piano teaching.

I started with 5 students. I couldn’t even pay rent with that salary.

People called me for performances, I refused. I guess I was being very radical and stubborn, but I also wanted to show myself there was nothing else I could do now but to really build my piano teaching career because I’d burnt that ship- I was at the point of no return.

It really pushed me to build my piano teaching career quickly. I set a deadline yet I achieved it in a much shorter period of time – because why? I needed it to happen. Of course I was working on it almost 24/7 – ok more like 18/7. I devoted time effort heart and soul into building my music teaching business.

Suffice to say, I made it.

But what I wanted to say is, there’s no glamor in working really hard for the career I truly wanted. I had to put A LOT OF EFFORT in building it.

Despite that fact that it was very tough process, lots of heartache, frustration, exhaustion and simply hard work, it was very rewarding and I would always be grateful to have taken that opportunity and run with it. It was my dream to teach in an environment in a way I wanted, to mingle with students I truly enjoyed teaching and making music/playing piano with. Even now when I look back it still puts a smile on my face.

I want you all new music teachers out there, whether you are piano teachers/violin teachers/cello teachers/double bass teachers/singing teachers/windwood teachers/even dance teachers, you can do it too. You just need to have a blueprint, a direction, a program to guide you there. Then you would be able to enjoy the success and joy a great music teaching career brings just like I am.

Interested in building a successful music teaching studio yourself?

 

Do you want to teach music?

“You should give up now – it doesn’t pay well.”

“You should get a real job.”

“You can’t make money being a musician/music teacher.”

“You should just get a teaching job at school or a government job.”

“You can’t make stable income teaching (enter any music instrument name).”

“You should study something else than music.”

 

Have you heard these questions – or insult – before?

I have, many times, directed towards me or towards my teaching staff and music friends.

At one point I thought that’s not working for me either. So I thought of doing something else or doing it differently. But I always came back to it.

I don’t give up easily. When I want something, I make it happen.

So I started playing piano, I studied abroad in piano performance, I worked as a pianist, I taught piano, I started my piano studio, and then piano school. I wrote books about piano teaching and playing. I consulted piano performers and piano teachers and music teaching studio owners online. I ran an online music teacher training platform, etc., etc. The list was endless.

And I made money teaching music and piano while enjoying my work. I love teaching, I have immense passion in helping people, I do.

When I get exciting and joyful feedback from piano students/parents/piano teachers about how much they’ve enjoyed my lessons/courses and how I’ve changed their lives for the better, I become so touched sometimes I would even cry with joy.

But hey, this is not about me, this is about YOU.

Being successful in music teaching requires hard work, in some ways more than having a regular job. Especially when you are teaching freelance or on your own. You don’t have the benefits that most people do: you don’t have the paid holidays, the health benefits, the regular time off (because you perform/teach piano on weekends/holidays). People think it’s so great to have your own work! Yes but they don’t see how hard it is for you to maintain your own students, plan your own work schedule, annual student concerts, piano exams, competitions, lessons, fees, parents, the list goes on and on. Wait, did I say no paid holidays so every time you take a vacation you cringe on how much money you didn’t earn on your trip to Japan/Thailand/Italy? And you can never take the same days off to hang out with your family and friends who have a regular job schedule? Heck, you sometimes even forget it’s public holiday because you are working on that day! And if the weather’s bad and everyone gets to stay in and cheer for the extra time off, you are upset because you don’t get to work and get paid?

Ok, that may have gone a bit too far and too much details – I personally had thought about all of the above and that’s why I can write them out easily in one minute.

But still, I love teaching, whether I am teaching piano students or piano teachers or other music instrument teachers. I simply love sharing knowledge and helping others, from teaching piano students how to play better, to teaching piano teachers how to teach better, then to teaching other music instrument teachers on how to build their music teaching career. It is important for the piano students and piano teachers and other music instrument teachers know how they too can be successful in their piano playing and piano/violin/flute/cello/erhu/singing/guitar teaching.  

When I teach a piano student, I influence one person (and perhaps a little on the family too). But when I teach a piano teacher or double bass teacher, I influence someone who can influence many students of their own. I really like the idea of that.

So if you are out there still thinking about my training program “How to Build a Successful Music Teaching Studio”, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me today. I am giving away a very special offer with some freebies on my online training program. Contact me now and get the gifts already!

Teresa Wong