I love playing piano outside! (would be even better if I could move my piano out) Of course I have to play my own songs, and here’s my favorite “Autumn” for you. Enjoy!
Teresa Wong Piano: Imagine by John Lennon 黃頴妍鋼琴：Imagine (想像) – 約翰·列儂
I hope you all are doing well and staying healthy. I know everyone’s doing their best and staying in and keeping others safe during such trying times. I know one day this will pass, and we will meet one another again, in person. 我希望大家保持身體和精神、心靈健康。我知道大家都在樣艱難的時刻盡力而為，留在家裡並確保他人的安全。我知道這一天將會過去，我們將再次真身見面。
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?
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.
I don’t know how many times I went into a piano lesson when I was young, that my piano teachers just told me to play this and that, correct me when I was wrong, asked me to go practice more, and that was a lesson.
So when I first started teaching piano, I didn’t know what to do. I was 16 or 17. I started teaching how my teachers taught me, going through song after song, study after study (because, who doesn’t like Hanon or Czerny piano exercises, right?). I corrected students when they played wrong, and asked them to go home and practice it. That was it. I did try to encourage my students, as I had one great Teacher who opened my eyes to different kinds of piano playing and teaching.
When I was in college majoring in piano performance, I took a course called “piano pedagogy”. But it was more on the academic side, that most we did was to study about history of piano teaching and playing, so that was not much of an application to real-life piano teaching.
It was not until when I was in graduate school, that I discovered the beauty of real piano teaching. Since I already took a course in piano pedagogy in college, it was not compulsory for me to take it again. But I decided to do it instead (as I felt I really didn’t know how to teach effectively). I am so glad I did it. I learnt so much from the lecturer that the information still applies today.
One of the things I tell my piano teaching students is that they must have a plan. Do not go into a lesson thinking they’re just going to “wing it” (after many years of teaching one can do it naturally but there is still a plan involved in general). When a teacher takes in a student, there must be a conversation about the goals and expectation, with the student, and the parents if the students are young. Review the plan from time to time during the year to make sure they are on track. Schedule on the yearly calendar performance opportunities such as concerts and music gatherings/performance classes, and when suitable, exam and competition opportunities as well.
Communicate with the students and parents regularly to see if there’s any concern regarding practice and progress. Understand if they have any problems with their playing and practice.
Teaching with a plan is going to give the teacher, students and parents a lot of confidence, assurance and accomplishment in this music journey together.
Piano Teacher Training Course (Level 1) (Cantonese) 鋼琴導師訓練課程 (第一級）:
Recently I did a concert at a private residence my friend so graciously hosted. I had never done a concert like this before. I actually really loved it: an intimate setting for a closer connection between the performers and the audience.
I played some classic pieces such as Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Piano Sonata and Chopin’s Nocturne in C# minor, as well as a couple compositions of mine. I also played a couple chamber pieces with my friends, including Brahms’ and Dvorak’s piano quintets. I had a few of my piano students perform too. It was a lot of fun.
After I finished the concert, I had a reception in which I got to interact with my audience and friends. I felt pretty good about how I played in general. There is always room for improvement. But this time I tried not to focus on that.
I recorded the whole concert (video and audio). Usually I don’t really want to watch or hear how I played after the concert. I would just leave the recordings there until I gather up the courage to look/listen to them. But this time I might watch it soon to see what I did good and what didn’t work.
I find, as most of us musicians and piano students do, that we focus on how bad we did, or how we could have done better. “I could have played that phrase more clearly”, “I could have controlled the left hand line better”, “I could have made less mistakes” etc. Often we forgot to think about what we did right: “I played it with good control”, “I did great dynamic contrast there”, “I have improved so much!”.
I am not saying we should not improve ourselves, not at all. But we need to shift our focus to what we have done right more. It’s the good part that keeps us move forward, knowing that we did something good, so that we can continue on our journey to play more and do better next time.
If we keep beating ourselves up, we would feel frustrated. “I’m not good enough”, “I would never do better than this”, “this is a waste of time”, “I don’t have talent/what it takes to succeed”, or simply, “I’m not good at the piano!”.
Focus on what you’ve been doing good so far. See what you’ve done to do those right things, and how you can apply that to the not so right things. Focus on the accomplishment. Then comes the improvement. There is always room to be better next time, whether it be in a piano lesson, piano exam or piano performance.
Do the best you can, and move on to the next (lesson/exam/performance).
Of course, you can always consult someone on where you are at and how you can improve.
Now would you excuse me, but I am going to do some brainstorming on the next project.