I take great joy in helping my students become better pianists. I can still remember the delight I felt as a first grader when I got to the last piece in the John Thompson primer book, a piece that used the left hand and the right hand at the same time. Since my first days as a pianist in 1967 I’ve accumulated years of lessons, piles of piano books, and my own teaching philosophy. Here are my answers to questions I often hear:

Betsy Piano copy
Betsy playing at home. Drawing by Jay Kepes

Q: My three-year-old daughter seems musically brilliant. I think it’s time to start her with piano lessons. When can you begin teaching her?

A: I hope your daughter is a gifted musician but in case she’s just a child who loves music make sure you sing and dance and listen to music with her. There are music classes for young children if you want more ideas and a group experience. As for private lessons, I’d wait a few years. I don’t start teaching until a child can read quite well, usually in second or third grade. Other teachers begin when kids are younger but progress will be slower.

Q: My sixty-five-year old mother has never taken piano lessons and she’d like to learn to play but I’m afraid she’s too old to start. What do you think?

A: She’s not too old at all! I have many students older than 65 and they make terrific progress, if they practice. In fact, my adult students continue to amaze me as they improve and become musically fluent. Arthritis in the hands can be an issue, but it is always good to keep the fingers moving. And playing the piano is a great way to keep an older brain active. Brain scans show that when a person is performing music ALL parts of the brain light up. Playing music is great “brain exercise.”

Q: But can an older person really learn how to read music?

A: Absolutely! I teach students to see the shape of written music, to recognize the distances (called intervals) between notes. Young children often play by ear, which is fine, but adults can use their brains to help figure out musical difficulties.

LISTEN

BETSY KEPES – Waltz for Mary
This is a short piece I wrote and recorded for a friend’s new baby.

2014 Betsy Kepes - All Audio Courtesy of NCPR