Adlibitum-yes im wondering if i should consciously 'brand' myself as a specialist in technique and have that slant. At the moment i think anything i write will come across as 'because these other people are all doing it wrong'! So poss best ti wait until my head is clearer! As for unqualified, i guess its the nagging feeling of not having a teaching qualification even though i know its not needed or indeed relevant to have a pgce. I also married into a family of professional musicians so i always feel lesser!
I am going to take a slightly different approach to your problem. I don’t have a web page and during the Covid confinement I have not been able to give on line lessons. I live in France not far from the Pyrenean foothills and internet connections are too slow. My teaching qualifications are not the top. I didn’t get into music college so went to College of Education with music as my main study and left with a Teacher’s Certificate and, although we didn’t take the exam, what was then the equivalent of LRAM as far as piano was concerned. So I don’t think you can call yourself under qualified! I have been teaching for a very long time – just over 50 years – and I am still at it. Why? Because it’s so very enjoyable. This year I had 34 pupils aged from 6 to 18, several of whom have been with me for more than 10 years. Most of my pupils ceiling at Grade 5 but some do go on to Grade 6 and I have had one Grade 7. I don’t teach adults as I have found that I am not at all good with them. That gives you a rough idea of the base I am coming from in what I would like to say.
I am a stickler for good standards and not dumbing down. but I am for adjustiment in teaching. Like everyone, I do lose pupils but it’s rare. And like everyone I have adolescent hormones to cope with, heavy school timetables to adjust to and the very occasional unsupportive parent. Several of my pupils come from quite large families – I have one family where I teach 6 out of 8 children.
In the quote above you say you are wondering whether you should brand yourself as a specialist in technique and go in that direction. I don’t want to be hard on you our unkind, but I wouldn’t go in that direction. Neither would I follow the “become a genius in 3 lessons” or “just play for fun” routes. I think that with children and teenagers these days the problem goes much deeper than that. I’ll try not to be too wordy but I could write a book on it – it’s something that interests me greatly. You see, I think being a specialist in the love of, the passion for “classical” music, is much more important than being a specialist in technique. Pupils who have caught from you your love of music will (eventually if not immediately) cotton on to the value of technical work. They will find that they can’t explore that love of music without the tools to do so. As one 18 year old recently said to me, as she struggled with a Chopin Nocturne (the fairly easy one in G minor) “I’ m finding this very difficult – but it is Chopin!”
As you say, with beginners it is fairly easy to get their enthusiasm. I like to take beginners on at the age of 6. They are fresh and curious and there is lots of good material available. I don’t worry too much about perfect hand positions and finger movements. I do, of course, show and encourage those things but the important thing is that they play, they enjoy and they want to move forward. It has to be very child centred. As they get older we start to think about an exam if I think it appropriate. I dislike the Prep Test but have used it. Grade 1 is very difficult for many young children and I’m looking forward to the new Initial Exam as I think it might suit my little ones. They love to have a certificate and we have to make it a positive and enjoyable experience. Some get there in a couple of years but most of my 6 year old starters need a good bit longer. In any case they all play at the end of year concert. Once we get to the Grade exams I go into top gear on how wonderful all this music is, how they can make poetry out of it, how it’s beautiful, balanced, strange, imaginative – whatever. We begin to look a little more closely at the technical skills required to get this love of music expressed and I make sure that scales and arpeggios are great things to play. There are lots of ways to do that
By the time they are in their teens (and sometimes pre-teens) I am treading on tiptoe – or a better metaphor might be the iron hand in a velvet glove. I refuse to let up on standards but for me and for them it’s the love of music that counts above all else. I enthuse about music all the time, in different ways because, after all, I am not in the business of producing brilliant professionals, but rather of music lovers who will eventually, in their adult lives either play for pleasure, take it up again when they retire or become avid concert goers - or send their own children for lessons. I want music to be a friend for life. And I am not averse to telling a child of any age, in terms appropriate to their age, that nothing in life which is really valuable happens without hard work. But you have to get them to love the work.
Young people these days are faced with a very different situation from the (prehistoric!) time of my youth. They are faced with the push button, on / off, instant result,superficial value stuff with which we never had to cope. I believe we need to lead them beyond that. I won’t go down the path of easy music for easy fun – or “only what I like.”
I have sometimes read poetry to my language classes. When I enthuse about the beauty of the words (and don’t insist they have to learn it by heart for a test next week) I get different reactions. Some are embarrassed because it’s emotional, some are enthralled and some snigger. But the real result comes when a child tells you the following week that they have learnt the poem by heart because they liked it. OK, the other 24 haven’t – but you never know what seeds you have sown – and it’s the same with music. I have no idea if any of this helps in your situation - I admit I get a bit carried away sometimes over this sort of problem. So I will now get off my soap box and wish you good luck! You are probably just going through a low patch and things will pick up.