Once upon a time, about a hundred years ago, there lived a slipper-maker. He didn't have very much money but he did have a lovely daughter and he was determined that her life would be better than his. So he bought her a piano in order for her to learn to play and become a piano teacher. At that time many people wanted to learn the piano and the demand for teachers was high with lots of organisations (including ABRSM and Trinity) offering 'diplomas'. After a few months of learning the Slipper-Maker took his daughter to Percy Scholes, a well known musician and teacher. 'I want my daughter to become a piano teacher' he said, 'and I want you to teach her how'. But Percy was dismayed when he heard the girl play as she was still very much a beginner. He informed the father, 'Well, I will do my best, but it is going to take some time'.
Lessons duly commenced and the would-be piano teacher made some progress. After six months the Slipper-Maker returned. 'Well', he demanded, 'when is she going to be ready to take her diploma?' Percy was astonished and informed him that this was some way off yet at which point the Slipper-Maker told him that wasn't good enough and that Percy Scholes was sacked! 'I am going to send my daughter to same piano teacher as her cousin; she has been learning for the same length of time and already has her diploma!' to be continued.....
Once upon a not so long ago, there lived a piano teacher in Oxford called Sally. Sally loved playing the piano; she had studied music at college and had completed a Master's Degree in Music Education. She had spent a lot of time and money developing her skills and knowledge as a pianist and piano teacher and still continued to attend professional development courses and have piano lessons. When people asked her what she did, she would proudly say, 'I am a pianist and a piano teacher'. One day, a leaflet dropped through the door of her house. Her husband picked it up and brought it through to show her. It was advertising the services of a handy-man who was offering: window cleaning, plumbing, gardening, painting and decorating services and piano lessons! How, she wondered to herself in despair, are parents expected to know what a 'good' piano teacher is? Do piano teachers even know what a 'good' piano teacher is? THE END.
As you can tell this leaflet has stayed in my head ever since that point and I was reminded of both the Slipper-Maker and the window-cleaner recently when following a Linked In thread that was discussing and debating the professionalism, or otherwise, of piano teaching. I thought it was time to share some more of my research, my findings and subsequent thoughts about the professionalism of piano teaching in the UK with everyone who follows my blog.
Over the next two or three posts I will be exploring some questions that I hope will be thought-provoking for all piano teachers, whether in the UK or further afield:
- What are the characteristics and hallmarks of a profession?
- How do UK piano teachers fit within these characteristics?
- How can UK piano teachers become more professional?
What happened next?
So, you all want to know what happened next to the Slipper-Maker's daughter don't you.......?
Well, she went to learn with her cousin's 'piano teacher' and six months later the name of the girl appeared in the Manchester Guardian as part of a list of diploma successes. I will Percy Scholes finish the story:
'the girl was now duly decorated' and would be giving 'lessons in cap and gown, with a brass plate on her door bearing her name and certain alphabetical affix quite indistinguishable by the population of these parts from the A.R.C.M.'
(Scholes, The Musical Times, February 1930, p. 116).