The power of piano teachers
MSU Director of Piano Pedagogy authors insightful new book.
MSU Associate Professor of Piano Derek Polischuk believes piano teachers have the power to transform lives. He felt so strongly about that belief that he researched and wrote the first piano pedagogy book on the psychological fundamentals of teaching students of all backgrounds, including those with special needs.
Polischuk’s Transformational Piano Teaching: Mentoring Students from All Walks of Life asserts that piano teachers do more than impart musical skills to students. Through 13 chapters, the director of piano pedagogy in the MSU College of Music maintains that piano teachers strongly influence the artistic and empathic potential of students, while also providing a motivational framework for life.
“At its core, somebody studying piano is learning how to be an independent problem solver,” said Polischuk. “Through one-on-one interaction, a piano teacher has a very distinctive role of empowering students to solve problems through music, and to apply that problem-solving ability throughout life.”
Polischuk was inspired by his own experiences as a piano teacher and by his research into teaching students of diverse abilities, ages and socioeconomic conditions. He noticed some teaching methods were more effective than others with different types of students. He began to informally share his observations with other piano teachers.
“Many piano teachers lamented they sometimes didn’t know how to effectively teach an adult student or a student with special needs,” said Polischuk. “I wanted to create a resource that was fairly exhaustive about the specific kinds of students and circumstances a teacher may encounter, and examine the psychological basis of how different people learn.”
Available in December 2018 from the Oxford University Press, Transformational Piano Teaching provides an in-depth discussion of teaching students with special needs such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD and depression. Additional chapters focus on teaching recreational, undergraduate and graduate, and international students. Polischuk ties concepts together by exploring great piano teachers throughout history, and by re-emphasizing the individuality and circumstances each student brings to the keyboard.
“One of my hopes is that this book will inspire piano teachers to be more excited about working with students who may not fit the traditional model,” he said. “Everyone can benefit from piano lessons. My hope is that piano teachers realize the impact they can make in someone’s life by opening their studio to more and diverse students.”
For more information on Transformational Piano Teaching: Mentoring Students from all Walks of Life by Derek Kealii Polischuk, visit the Oxford University Press here.