Music is a language. Learning how to play piano should be like learning how to talk.” Since age 5, I have been having conversations with my piano everyday. Growing up in Taiwan, where piano playing is very competitive, I motivated myself to practice everyday after school. I attended competitions with other students in music school. I managed to play piano and keep my acadamic scores above and beyond at the same time. After graduating high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to come abroad and study with Dr. Schoenhals at Eastern Michigan University. As a freshmen, I placed first in the campus concerto competition. This is when I began to seriously consider piano as my career. Dr. Schoenhals’ teaching inspired me to want to be a piano teacher. Therefore, I pursued a Master’s degree for piano pedagogy at Michigan State University. During my two years at MSU, I was one of the instructors for pianissimo group class. We mainly taught students, ages 7 to 10, in a group class setting.
The most important thing that I learned from my master’s program at MSU, is that note reading is not the most important part of piano learning. The specific method we used at MSU is called rote learning. Rote learning, a memorization technique based on repetition, allows students to gain the ability to quickly recall the meaning of the marterial faster than traditional methods. This method not only helps students have a sharp memory, but it also allows beginners to achieve a higher level of performance. This is the exact method used in language learning. However, it is different from learning by ear. Students will be able to read the music naturally instead of forcing them to memorize notes without meaning. For example, as children, we learned how to say “cat” before we knew how to spell it. Therefore, I believe with rote learning, children will be able to learn piano naturally.
I have also been providing private piano lessons since 2009. I truly believe learning piano is a fun journey. It is my job to motivate my students into active practicing, explore opportunities for my students to perform, and help my students to discover joy through playing piano. It is an honor that Expressions Music Academy has given me the chance to introduce rote learning to more students.