Ken Foster - Piano Instructor
Ken Foster
Piano Lessons
Making Music Successful

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Teacher:


How long have you been teaching?

Do you teach classical?

What are your qualifications?

What style of music can you teach?

What methods do you teach?

Have you changed much about the way you teach private piano lessons over the years?


Student: 

How long will it take for me to be able to play?

How many times should I go through a piece?

What do I need to bring to my lessons?

How many recitals do you have, and do I have to play in them?

Do you need a piano to practice on, or will a keyboard work?

How young do you take students?

Can I begin lessons as an adult?

What is the average age of your students?

Is experience needed before I begin?

Do you teach advanced students?

Will I learn to read music?


Lessons:

How long are your lessons?

How much is tuition, and when does it need to be paid?

Can we just have lessons every other week?

Will you travel to our home for the lessons?

What do I need to remember about my lesson time?

What is the location of your piano studio?

Can I just take one month of lessons?

Can I take a trial lesson?

Can parents sit in on the group class?

Can parents attend the private lessons?

Can we talk to a current student, or sit in on a lesson?







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How long have you been teaching?

   
I started teaching when I was 15.  There was a neighborhood teacher who decided not to teach any longer, and asked if I would like her students.  She gave me a few lessons on teaching and I was off and running with about 10 students.  I used to go to their homes and only charge $2.  I also remember raising my rates the following year to $2.50 and had them come to mine. :-)


Now 40 years later, I'm still teaching and loving it.


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Do you teach classical?

I have studied about as many years of classical as I have studied jazz and other styles.  Even in college I decided to work with the classical professors to help me gain the type of technique I was looking for.  One of my professors even had a teacher lineage back to Debussy.  I do teach all types of classical as well as popular music.

If your goals are to be a concert pianist, I am probably not the right match for you.  If you are looking to branch out a bit into jazz, improvisation and other related popular styles, I feel you will probably not find a better teacher.

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What are your qualifications?

For a complete resume of my background and qualifications click on the menu button "about me".

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What style of music can you teach?

I teach most of the popular styles, including jazz, pop, rock, latin, country, new age, carribean, ballad, and classical (all era's).  What ever the style, I have probably performed it and taught it.  For styles that I haven't mentioned, I enjoy researching and finding ways to teach these to my students. 

It is important that you understand that the goal is to become fluent with your chords and scales and with your ability to improvise and create as well as read music.  The concepts of any style of music will use these skills and talents.

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What methods do you teach?

Along with my undergraduate degree, I also took all of the classes that were available in piano pedagogy.  As part of the curriculum I studied and reported on most methods and courses that were available.  I continue to study the various methods and techniques that are introduce to music teachers through the Music Teachers National Association through my monthly meetings, classes and conventions. 

That being said, I use my own method.  I have developed two programs that I can take a student through.  The first takes about two years, and will bring a student up to a professional level of playing.  I have many of my junior high and high school students playing receptions, dances, restaurants, resorts, etc.  It is not that you would have to, but your skills and abilities would be good enough.

I have created 12 levels in my curriculum. Most everything you hear on the radio is around a level 4-6.  So being able to play what you hear becomes an achievable goal.  Great classical music would naturally take more time; however, there are pieces available at every level.

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Have you changed much about the way you teach private piano lessons over the years?

Yes.  Sometimes I feel sorry for some of my earlier students who ended up being my experiments ;-)  Teaching philosophy and methods change all the time.  There are some consistent concepts, but the fun is in the creativity in how to present it.

I enjoy creating new and easier methods to help my students understand complicated concepts.  I learned a long time ago, that the best way to really learn a subject is to try and teach it.  I love learning, so my students are my canvas.  I think if I was using the same method books I learned when I was young, I believe I wouldn't have any students who would want to take from me.

Music is a creative art, and teaching and learning can be as well.

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How long should I practice?

The more you practice, the more you will want to practice.  Your progress is directly linked to the time you spend at the piano.  If you are in grade school, probably 20-30 minutes would be fine, as you get older, more time should be spent.  45 minutes to an hour is very typical of a lot of my students.  I have several that will consistently practice a couple of hours a day, and sometimes more.

Your concentration and practicing methods can also make a difference on how much time would be appropriate.  I know and teach around a dozen ways to practice that can cut the time in half on what you can accomplish.  Like most worthwhile things in life, there is considerable effort involved in learning how to play, but the benefits are huge.  You will have a skill and talent that will last a lifetime, and give you considerable joy.

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How long will it take for me to be able to play?

With traditional reading, you can expect to advance about one to two levels a year.  With chording skills, you can expect to advance about three to six levels a year.  This is quite a difference. 

There are wonderful arrangements and compositions available at every level, but to play the tunes you might hear on the radio, the way they are being played would probably take a couple of years.  Most music you hear on the radio is at a level three to six.

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How many times should I go through a piece?

A good goal would be three times in a row without a mistake.  If it takes you 30-100 times to accomplish this, that is fine, if it only takes you three, that is fine as well. 

Repetition is extremely important to practicing, but it should be intelligent repetition.  Each time you go through a section, you should try and improve.  Listening, evaluating, experimenting a bit, and repeating will give you the most benefit in your repetitions.

If you have had a teacher in the past who only suggests three times, you will probably be very old before you can play well.  You will learn several methods in practicing, but I would suggest always working in sections, something you can accomplish perfectly in one sitting.  In most cases, this is somewhere between two to six measures.

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What do I need to bring to my lessons?

Besides a great attitude, and willingness to learn.  Be sure to bring all of the material that you have been given.  Especially the assignment book and exercise book!  The assignment book becomes our contract with each other, and helps me stay on track with the material that I will have planned on giving you.  I have a fairly good memory, and can probably figure out what I have given you, but it helps tremendously to have that reference book in front of me.

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How many recitals do you have, and do I have to play in them?

I typically have two recitals each year, one around the end of November, and the other in May.  These are wonderful evenings, and a chance to show off a bit.  Besides giving my students a performing opportunity, I also want it to be entertaining for the audience.  I typically will bring my group to accompany you. 

The students are on the concert grand accompanied by a drummer, bass and keyboard.  I keep my recitals under an hour, and they are loaded with all types of variety.  My students also get to pick the pieces that they would like to perform. Often they are arrangements they have created or composed, popular songs or classical tunes.

You can also sing, or have a guest performer play with you.  I have had a high school choir, guitar player, other synthesizers, flute, sax, tuba, another piano and other singing groups perform with my students. 

I do expect all of my students to play in the recital.  But with all the back up and help you will receive, I believe you will find the stress level to be less, and the evening to be quite enjoyable.

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Do you need a piano to practice on, or will a keyboard work?

 A keyboard will work, but I would recommend one that has weighted keys.  It is also helpful that it has all 88 keys.  We can work around this if we have to, but it will be limiting considering the type of material you will be receiving.

Working with a real piano is always preferable.  There is a touch that can't be duplicated from a keyboard.  They are getting better, but there is a difference.  Your technique also has to be adjusted for a keyboard.  This is largely do to the mechanics of a real piano and the way it interacts with the performer.

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How young do you take students?

I have taught students as young as 5, but because of the way my lessons are set up, I typically wait until they are in the fourth grade.  The problem is having a group class that would be appropriate for a very young student.

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Can I begin lessons as an adult?

I thoroughly enjoy working with my adult students.  You can be an absolute beginner, or a professional performer, either way I would love to have you as a student.  I would guess that nearly a third of my students are adult. 

I have had students begin from scratch while they are in their 80's... with a little patience from your end, you can have a very enjoyable experience.  I do adapt my teaching for my "life experienced" students... I will go at your pace, and work mostly on the materials that interest you.  I always try and sneek in a bit of my curriculum, but it is largely dependent on your goals.

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What is the average age of your students?

This actually changes from year to year.  Sometimes, I would guess the majority of my students are in junior high, then I have a shift to high school.  Some years I have more adult students then any other group. 

The same goes with gender, sometimes I have more boys than girls, then occasionally this is reversed.

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Is experience needed before I begin?

No.  I will be glad to work with you at any level.  If you come to me with years of playing, naturally you will work through my program much faster.  In some ways, it is actually much nicer to have someone who is just beginning.  A lot of the habits that you develop when you begin will benefit you tremendously while you progress. 

Occasionally with transfer students, we need to re-learn a few basic skills... this isn't a problem, but does require the student to be very patient with themselves while we work through any weakness in their abilities.

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Do you teach advanced students?

Yes.  I love working with advanced students.  Partly because of how much material I can actually give them.  They can conceivably go through my entire first program in months instead of years.  If you are an advanced student, and only have a small window of opportunity, please give me a call.  I have had several students finish my entire first program in a summer.  Of course they were practicing around six hours a day.

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Will I learn to read music?

Yes.  I curriculize my teaching program to twelve levels.  The reading skills are the most challenging for a lot of my students.  It does take time, but you can expect to advance about one to two levels a year. 

Before you know, you will be playing and reading quite well.  I have a number of exercises and lessons that can help speed up this part of your progress.  There is pleasure at every level and it only gets better.

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How long are your lessons?


Your lesson time is divided into two areas:

    • Private              (three half hour lessons a month)
    • Group                (one, one hour group class a month)
If you need a little extra help, I would recommend working through my online computer lab, or perhaps download one of the many music programs available for your tablet or computer.
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How much is tuition, and when does it need to be paid?


Tuition is due by the first of each month, but no later than the 10th without incurring additional fees.  I have several students who have set up automatic payments through their bank.  

Tuition is also not connected to a per lesson price.  For more information on my tuition, email me and I will be glad to send you the password to my private section which includes all costs, policies, schedule, dates and maps to my studios.

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Can we just have lessons every other week?


Occasionally I will have a student share a time slot with someone.  In which case I would only see them every other week or so.  The problem, of course is that once each month there is a group class, so I might not see someone for three or more weeks.  I naturally would not recommend doing this for several reasons:
    1.  My experience has been that most students won't practice until their week.
    2.  You would need to find someone to share the time.
    3.  Your progress would be quite a bit slower.

Once in a while, I will also have a student who can only come occasionally.  I will accommodate these students, but it would naturally have to be on what might be available the week they would like to attend.

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Will you travel to our home for the lessons?


My very first year of teaching, I did travel to the students home.  I also recall one family that convinced me some years later to come to their home...the temptation was a beautiful Boesendorfer Grand Piano that I got to play before and a bit after the lessons.

I don't travel to the students home, but I believe I do know one teacher that does.  So if this is your only option, give me a call or email me, and I will give you her information.

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What do I need to remember about my lesson time?


The time slot is yours, so be sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrive.  I realize that occasionally you will run into traffic accidents, or road construction or bad weather.  Because of the number of students that I do teach, I have to be very careful about keeping on schedule.


If you plan on doing some Lab, it might be a good idea to do it before your lesson time, so if problems occur in getting here, you would have a little bit a leeway.


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What is the location of your piano studio?


At the moment,  I now only have one studio located in Sandy, UT. 

(approximately 10042 S and 2015 E)


I provide a link to a map in my private student section of my web site.


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Can I just take one month of lessons?


Possibly, this is dependent on when you could come.  If it is during the "prime" teaching hours, probably not, but if it is just before or after, I would consider it. 


Most students commit long term, but once in a while I will have a student who might be moving or going off to school or something similar but would still like to take for a month or two.


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Can I take a trial lesson?


I will be glad to meet with you, and show you some of the material you would be learning.  It isn't so much a trial lesson, but at least you would have a good idea on what to expect.


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Can parents sit in on the group class?


Parents are always welcome to attend their kids private lessons, the only exception is the group class.  This is partly do to the amount of space available and to help develop camaraderie and friendships among other students of similar ages and interests.  Learning to play the piano is generally a very isolated experience, so being able to mingle with others doing the same is very beneficial.


If you are interested in what I teach during group, you might consider signing up for the adult group class.


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Can parents attend the private lessons?


Yes. You also might consider letting your son or daughter come by themselves.  I find that students occasionally will open up more about their concerns when their parents are not in the same room. 


I always appreciate parent involvement, especially if you play and can help them a bit during the week


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Can we talk to a current student, or sit in on a lesson?


Sure... the only exception would be if a student would feel uncomfortable having an audience.  I would also be glad to give you the names and numbers of existing or former students.

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