At a Glance
– experienced performer/teacher working in Framingham, MA and nearby towns
– all ages and skill levels are welcome – I enjoy teaching children and work well with them
– I use relaxation and focus to improve technique and to make learning music easier and more enjoyable
– free trial lessons are available in my home

Introduction
In addition to being a seasoned classical performer and composer, I have more than 30 years experience as a piano teacher and have taught piano and related courses at a number of area colleges including the School for the Arts at Boston University. I think where I differ from most teachers is in problem solving: in my experience and certainly during my own training, the answer given to most piano students in response to problems they encounter usually seems to be some variation on “try harder.” The fact is, many students run into difficulties not because they’re not trying but because they’re stressed or simply lack the necessary skills and experience. Telling them to work harder doesn’t solve the problem and may make it worse. My teaching is influenced by many years of practices such as Vipassana meditation and Tai Chi: I try to understand where each student has issues and to use a combination of focused method and relaxation to help them remove obstacles. Effort is important, but it’s only part of the solution. I’m primarily a piano teacher, but have taught composition and music theory privately and at the university level.

My Background
I have a BA in music from Amherst College, where I performed the Schumann and Stravinsky piano concertos with orchestra; masters degrees in piano performance and music composition from the School for the Arts at Boston University, where I performed the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements with the BU Symphony Orchestra; and a doctorate in composition from Boston University. I was awarded a graduate fellowship at Amherst and received multiple awards in music both as an undergraduate and graduate student: I was also a Crofts Fellow at Tangelwood in 1985 and a fellow at the Aspen Music Center the following year. I have performed for the Tanglewood Music Center Chamber Series, the WICN Radio concert series at Mechanics Hall, Alea III, the Omnibus Series at Boston University, the American Repertory Theater, the Essex Chamber Music Players and on many other concert series in New England.
I am a composer as well as a pianist: performances of my work include premieres by the the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston and the Atlantic Brass Quintet, commissions from the Washington Music Ensemble and the Newburyport Choral Society, and performances by the Society for New Music (Syracuse, NY) and the Fellows of the Music Center at Tanglewood. I have taught piano performance, composition and music theory at Boston University, Worcester State University, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Anna Maria College and Bridgewater State College.

My Teaching Philosophy
My emphasis is on serious study but also on fun; I’m a traditionalist in the sense that I think real facility comes from mastering the basics – scales, sight reading, and so on – but I also believe that piano pedagogy can benefit greatly from modern insights into learning and relaxation – and most of all from a positive relationship with the teacher. Piano lessons do involve effort, but they can and should be enjoyable for the student. For this reason, I don’t require specific repertoire – you should play what you enjoy.
An administrator at Juilliard once said to me that Juilliard can only help you if you are a “pianistic talent:” which I think means that unless virtuoso piano playing comes naturally to you, Juillard isn’t interested – in other words, they’re not in the business of solving problems. I am in the business of solving problems: most students are not “naturals” – yet many are musical and some are very talented: for me good teaching is about helping every student to discover how to make playing effortless, as it is intrinsically for a very small percentage of the population. The aim is to get the greatest result for the least effort, both mentally and physically – but you can’t play a piece of music in a relaxed way unless you at least know the notes and fingerings. That takes commitment: good practicing is really about learning how to master difficulties gradually and with minimal stress. As far as how much you need to practice, 10 or 15 minutes a day is fine for a beginner – as time goes on, you should practice more, but how much more really depends on what you want to accomplish. I would rather have a twelve year old enjoy practicing a half hour a day than grit his teeth through an hour and half – and he might actually learn more. I’m a serious pianist and am certainly interested in teaching serious students, but I understand that most students aren’t seeking careers in music – what I’m hoping for is students who really want to improve, at whatever level: that’s something I can help you with.

Rates And Availability
I teach in my home on Salem End Road in Framingham, but I’m also willing to come to the student if the distance is manageable. Most students start with a half hour lesson, which would be $33 at my home – in general, I charge $66/hour, plus $10 for travel if I come to you (maybe a little more if you’re farther away or a little less if you live in Framingham). I have taught students living in Framingham, Ashland, Natick, Sherborne, Hopkinton, Holliston, Southborough, Westborough, Northborough, Marlborough, Shrewsbury, Boylston, Sudbury, Wayland, Weston, Needham, and Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Contact Info  

You can email me at sdjames77@alumni.amherst.edu, or call at 508-620-1626.

 

2 thoughts on “About Piano Lessons

  1. Hi Steve.

    I’m a semi-retired freelance business editor, a lifelong local guy moving to S’boro next week. Had to give up my console piano 30+ years ago for lack of space, but will shortly have the space and a new piano.

    I had 2-3 years of lessons, mostly classical (with a guy who was also a church organist), but eventually began to learn chord technique from him, as well. Would love to get back to where I was, and go from there.

    Peter

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