Dr. Michelle Conda is Professor of Piano and Chair of Secondary Piano and Piano Pedagogy at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. She is on the steering committee of the National Group Piano/Piano Pedagogy Forum and is an Associate Editor for Clavier Companion.

Teaching students not to rush

by Michelle Conda  Brianna, one of my graduate students, had a student who wouldn't slow down—even with the threat of the "Practice Police." I had my own student who was fast and furious, but sloppy. This concerned me because he wanted to audition for music schools, and that would not be acceptable. I decided to ask my friends from the Faceboo...
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Memorization in adulthood

It really gets my dander up when I hear people say that adult amateur pianists aren't "serious" about their piano study. Why underestimate the thousands of adults who are passionate about performing at the piano? You will find amateur pianists seeking out performance opportunities through music clubs and associations. They find any excuse to perfor...
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How Do You Choose Repertoire for Your Adult Students?

"I'm too old to play pieces I don't like," said Heather at one of our first lessons. Heather is a retired Professor in Romance Languages and Literatures, as well as an expert on the composer Schubert. It's no surprise that her repertoire is steeped in Schubert's music. She loves it that way, and so do I. It's not always this easy picking reper...
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The trapeziectomy diaries: Part two

The trapeziometacarpal joint, also called the "trapezium," is at the base of the thumb. Osteoarthritis, a well-known condition suffered by many adults, affects the trapezium in some people. Sufferers experience pain, stiffness, and weakness in the thumb joint. This is particularly troublesome when the sufferer is a pianist.  Luckily, there are...
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The trapeziectomy diaries: Recovering from arthritis

​Jill Dew is one of my favorite people. You can't help but love her charisma and her enthusiasm. She is a superb singer and vocal coach who loves her students. She also loves playing the piano, sometimes in tearful wonder of the instrument and her accomplishments. Then she was robbed. Robbed by the effects of arthritis. Jill is not naive—arthritis ...
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From the other side of the bench

Our musical, mystical mojo Why would someone decide to take on the study of piano in the adult years? Researchers have taken on this question many times. According to Maslow, it is "self actualization." Schlossberg says it is because of some sort of transition in our life—perhaps the student was recently widowed, retired, or suffers from "empty nes...
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Medical issues facing adult students

​"Growing old is not for the weak in spirit." Although I've heard this adage countless times, I finally know what it means. For me, 2010 ushered in a series of medical mishaps, medications, and miracles. I'm now a cancer survivor, yet I feel that surviving the myriad of prescriptions is another story. I always knew I would grow older, but I ne...
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How do you teach the more "serious" adult student?

When my adult students tell me they are "not serious" about their piano study, a red flag goes up- "serious" means different things to different people. Although students may be try ing to say their final goal is not to be a performer, more often than not they are saying, "I don't have time to practice a lot, but I'm very serious about learning to ...
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How do you help adults get over stage fright?

There are many famous people who have stage fright. According to Patrick Enright of MS IEC.com 1 ;  Andrea Bocelli told Connie Chung that he's constantly afflicted by stage fright that lasts almost his entire performance. "The only way is to go on stage and to hope. " Glenn Gould quit playing in front of live audiences because of his discomfor...
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A survival manual for college teachers

Every year it's the same - a group of my students prepare to leave the hallowed halls of academia and search for the elusive "job." For these students, this is BIG - and not just a little scary. As the "professor," part of my job is to prepare these changelings for what will be one of the most exciting times in their lives. For me, mentoring my stu...
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How do you develop a sense of rhythm in your adult students?

from the series: It's Never Too Late: Adult Piano Study I just finished teaching a particularly challenging lesson to Jeff. Week after week we struggle with keeping a steady pulse. I know he is just as frustrated as I am, yet he has trouble breaking habits developed over years of self-learning. In the "old days," I would simply allow the "puls...
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Where can you find training in adult teaching?

from the series: ​It's Never Too Late: Adult Piano Study Michelle Conda, Editor As more adults express an interest in piano, there are now more resources to help teachers learn how to work with these groups. In 1965, approximately 22% of adult Americans were seeking out some form of education. 1  Most of these learners were preparing for ...
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How do you help an adult student who has ingrained poor technical habits?

from the series: ​It's Never Too Late: Adult Piano Study Michelle Conda, Editor by The Adult Learning Committee of the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy Okay, let's face it - I'm not talking about the good habits your adult students have, but the bad habits   that form the foundation of so many recreational pianists' technique...
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What is the effect of concerto playing on adult students?

​I'm sure by now you have noticed that this year's focus in Adult Piano Study has been motivation . Research shows  adults are intrinsically motivated - they like to form their own direction of study. My adult students continue to amaze me with the directions they have asked me to take them. Presently they are working on the RACE (Royal Americ...
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Are adult piano students willing to self-teach?

​When  I gave one of my first presentations talking about adult students planning their own parties and studio classes, I was shocked by the audience response. "Adults don't have time to meet as a group!" "My adults are far too busy to take any initiative of their own." "You can't expect so much from adult students." Thank heavens that was man...
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The Third-Age Piano Class: Challenge, fun, and satisfaction for mature students of the piano

Adult students never cease to amaze me. Just last week two of my adults volunteered to play for a student recital as part of the Southwest Ohio Music Teachers Fall Festival. This would be incredibly nerve-racking to most people, but both have asked to do it again! For years I have been preaching to leave recitals out of adult piano curriculums. I g...
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What keeps me coming back to piano study? The views of two adult students

 "You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment."  -from  ​The Writing Life ​ by Annie Dillard  Mark sent me this quote, which I saved in my "Mark File." Everyone should have a "Mark File" - a collection of thoughts and beliefs that keep you passionate about teaching. Mark also shared with me two videos...
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