Local piano teacher Robyn Crosby has many tricks up her sleeve.
Although it sounds hard to believe, she manages to get kids as young as three interested in playing the piano.
As anyone who’s handled young children will know, having them sit in front of a piano can be impossible, so Crosby sticks to a more tactile style of teaching that’s more exciting for young children.
“It’s really hands on,” she said of her teaching method. “Everything is made up of things to do.”
Compared to teaching adults, there are a lot more items required to help engage young pianists, she said, emptying a closet of stuffed animals onto a giant keyboard mat on the floor of her teaching area.
Each stuffed critter represents a different note, and has a story and a neighbour, to help students remember where notes are located on a piano.
“It’s not just, this is C, this is D,” she said. “It’s more exciting; more interesting. Children often learn from other children, too.”
As such, the piano lessons she teaches the youngest of learners are done in groups, with their parents present, so they can be part of the learning process as well.
On top of learning the piano, Crosby said that knowing the theory behind the instrument is important, as well.
“They don’t just learn the piano. They learn theory in fun ways,” she said.
Putting context to what students are learning also helps them remember and appreciate the various facets of music, she said.
Going up in the Royal Conservatory grading system, one must know theory by Grade 5
“It definitely helps you understand the music you’re playing,” she said.
Crosby started playing the piano at the age of six.
“I played in church. If you don’t have a place to play other than home, they don’t keep up,” she said, of students.
She was taught the instrument by her aunt, Catherine Dash, who also taught well-known pianist David Foster.
“It was just basic solid teaching,” Crosby said, of Dash’s teaching.
At 13, Crosby quit lessons, but never quit playing the piano. As an adult, she took lessons again, and eventually started teaching, herself.
She’s now been teaching the piano for 20 years.
“You need a passion for students and music,” she said, of good piano teachers.
In addition to teaching children, Crosby teaches adults; something a lot of teachers don’t enjoy doing, as adults tend to quit more quickly.
When they don’t quit, Crosby said, “It’s neat to see them progress.”
“Music is very important,” she said. “I think it relieves the stress of every day life. I sit down, and everything goes.”