EP09: Lori Bastien – On her holistic piano methodology

The Podcast

Show notes

Lori Bastien’s Website: www.bastienpiano.blogs.com

Lori Bastien’s Opening Monologue: “There is just so much more material available that makes it so much more fun to learn. Whether we’re appealing to these students…by songs…or the artwork in the books. Any of those things I think just adds to a child’s lessons and interest. So I think that’s where having method books is really powerful.”

Standout Quotes from this interview with Lori Bastien:

[on why method books should still exist] “We have to start somewhere. A student has to have a place to start and I think that I had a great comment come in from my mother-in-law…she said ,’I took piano lessons for 2 years and I was never given a song to play’….Before we had method books, she said she just played scales.”

[on her influences] “The biggest influences in my life have come from my parents. My father…from him I really learned discipline…I just remember thinking how passionate she [her mother] was. Just to see how much she loved teaching, it’s never been an effort for her, it’s just what she does. So that’s something that I learned from her.”

[on doing both teaching and writing] “I consider myself first and foremost a piano teacher. That is what I do every day and it’s sort of the most natural to me and is sort of the inspiration. Then as an author, any of the inspiration I get comes from my students and a need.”

“For example we wrote this entire set of little theory books called the Bastion Theory Boosters and I just remember having students who really needed a lot of repetition on different theory concepts and I could never find that…and I thought it would be a good idea to have an entire workbook on just one concept.”

“I think the reason that I teach and write and get excited about both of those is that they feed off of each other.”

[on repertoire that works across the board] “We have classic pieces because they stand the test of time, either for their melodies or the way they’re very pianistic…you just see that certain pieces work really well for pretty much everyone.”

[on the role of the parent] “The role of the parent 25 years ago is different than the role now. We have had more success in having books that can reach directly to the student first, before the parent. I believe the role of the parent would be a support person.”

“If you really haven’t reached the student where it’s sort of becoming their own thing by the 6th grade, it’s a bit hard to continue with it.”

[on the similarities and differences in reading words and music] “I think about learning to read words…they (the students) are literally focusing on it all day long, the entire time that they are in school. …so when it comes to reading music it is very similar (but) it takes a bit more time because they’re not working on it all day long.”

“I don’t expect them to practice the same thing over and over again at that very young age to learn to read.”

“They need a lot of music to play at the same level, so that each piece doesn’t get harder right away, so that they spend plenty of time learning how to read maybe the same notes but in different pieces.”

[on supplementary, learn-on-your-own music] “If you keep that level lower, then you’ll see huge progress.”

[on having a different approach to music lessons] “For a lot of piano teachers who are trying to teach a 30 minute lesson each week with nothing else going on in the middle…If you don’t have a kid that’s really drawn to music, it’s going to be hard to sustain their interest.”

“A piano teacher who wants to keep students and really train them for a long period of time and give them a great musical education, the model needs to be different from that now.”

“My set up now is that my students have a private lesson and they also have a group lesson so ideally they come to my studio twice a week. Sometimes they’ll work with another student once a week as well. Very often they’re sending me videos a couple of times a week as well.”

[on private and group] “I have one very large group lesson that I teach on Friday afternoons and I try to involve almost every student in my studio…It’s all ages and it’s all levels, and that has been by far the most successful addition to my studio as far as progress kids are making, as far as high interest.”

“Most of my group lesson work is not actually at the piano. A lot of it is theory.”

“Basically I say in the group lesson we work on anything that we need to be working on. We could use it as a performance lesson…definitely every week we work on theory, we play games…and they could be working on sight-reading, they could be working on ensemble. I do have student helpers as well.”

[on piano friendships] “The other thing that that group provides is just friendship…It’s probably, in my opinion, the most important thing to have in place if you want to keep the students for a longer period of time. They have to have friends, and they have to want to come to the studio, and they have to be coming a couple of times a week.”

[on younger students learning from older students] “A new broom always sweeps clean. You don’t know what a student is going to pick up when they hear the same words come out of the mouth of another person.”

“They’ll just get that little spark of motivation or inspiration from somebody a little bit closer to their age.”

“I can see the progress in the students becoming teachers.”

[on piano camp] “I wanted something that was more homey and more specialized [than the other summer camps on offer in California]. Basically I came up with a whole number of topics regarding piano practice, theory, music history and then I added enrichment like art, cooking, sewing, board games.”

“I start inviting people back as helpers and then they start learning how to teach.”

[on sewing] I didn’t have any expectations of how things should be or how they should turn out. And that is really another passion of mine.

“We have no idea what the student will do with this education that we’re giving them, but as time goes by I am just always surprised and really pleased to see my students as adults and how music is influencing their adult lives, whether they become professional musicians or it’s part of their own hobbies.”

Lori’s recommended resources:

A book series Famous Children by Ann Rachlin

Robert Roux at Rice University