First, a little background: I am a professional jazz pianist/piano teacher and have been playing gigs and teaching for decades. Although my passion is playing and studying jazz piano, I have always had an admiration and respect for classical music and for the musicians who play it well. My reason for studying with classical piano teachers is primarily that classical pianists seem to have a better command of the instrument. Besides being able to produce a larger palette of tonal shading than most jazz pianists, the velocity that some achieve is astounding. I aspired to add these components to my playing. Over the years, I have studied with several teachers: three jazz piano teachers and at least five classical teachers.
In my previous studies with various classical teachers, some were better players than they were teachers or vice versa. Some were strictly technical, and may, or may not, have been familiar with the breadth of the piano repertoire. In the past, I’ve practiced my share of Hanon, Czerny, Schmitt, and the like, until my forearms felt as if they were on fire. I did the usual major and minor scales in the standard formats: 3rds, 10ths, 6ths, various articulations, rhythms . . . you name it. The pieces I was assigned were more than challenging for me at that time. When dealing with difficult passages, the advice I was given was usually the same: slower, more practice, use a metronome— all to no avail.
I continued to search for an approach to a more efficient piano technique. While reading online, I came across the Taubman Approach. I watched videos, read articles, and followed forums about this approach. All of this led me to inquire by email to the Golandsky Institute, where I was recommended to study with Andrew. After a short audition for Andrew and a discussion of my goals, I opted for a complete technical retraining as opposed to being coached with specific problem areas in my playing. After all, I am a teacher and wanted to understand the principles of the Taubman Approach. My first few lessons were quite different from any lessons I had had with any previous teacher. Andrew paid much attention to seating height and seating distance from the piano. Afterward, I was taught to drop on various keys while maintaining a unity of finger, hand, and forearm. Next came the introduction of four basic systems used in this approach: rotation, in & out, walking hand and arm, and shaping, each one in turn. Later came the integration of these systems applied appropriately, and in the correct proportions, within the piano repertoire. Although learning and practicing these choreographic hand movements presented somewhat of a learning curve, I was (and still am) able to see, hear and feel the results of this training. It worked! Over time, my sound became more full, and my tonal evenness improved.
I consider myself fortunate to have found such a great teacher. Having had several classical piano teachers over the years, Andrew is, by far, the finest I’ve had to date. Besides being an amazing performer, Andrew has an extensive familiarity and knowledge of the standard teaching repertoire and well beyond. He has a keen eye, seeing problems that are imperceptible to the student; also, he has a sensitive ear, hearing subtle shades of tone. Here’s what Andrew is not: interruptive, condescending, egocentric, patronizing, dogmatic, or a showboater. Here’s what Andrew is: observant, understanding, analytical, empathetic, articulate, and flexible. He is patient beyond belief. His easy-going demeanor always creates a comfortable, relaxed learning environment. He never tires of answering similar questions until a concept or skill is assimilated. Andrew has the ability take a certain technique, disassemble it into its constituent parts, explain each until it is crystal clear in your mind, explain how the parts interrelate, re-assemble the parts, and then finally demonstrate the technique. His well-thought-out answers are never off-handed. I love the fact that portions of my lessons may involve discussing why a certain passage doesn’t play at tempo, as opposed to whether it merely does or does not. I have learned that the underlying cause is often due to one or more of the Taubman tenets that are either absent, being performed incorrectly, or applied in the wrong proportion. Having been an independent piano teacher for several decades, my natural inclination is to listen not only to what material Andrew presents, but also when and how he presents it. He excels at all three points.
Besides the fact that I am beyond impressed with his teaching, Andrew will also be my final teacher. Why? The answer is simple: His instruction is comprehensive,
individualized, and it produces results. If you’re searching for a great piano teacher, your search has ended. That teacher is Andrew King.
I have been studying the Taubman Approach with Andrew King for approximately two years. In that time, my method of piano playing has become much freer of tension in my hands, forearms and core. Any emotional stress related to wondering if I could play a particular piece or difficult passage, has all but evaporated. Additionally, my practice time has become more efficient and more pleasant due to the focused nature of this method. Finally, repertoire, which had been out of my reach, is now much more accessible, simply because of the ability and ease I have of moving from one note to the next.
Working with Andrew has been a wonderful experience. He is a professional, approachable, kind and very patient teacher. His extensive knowledge of the Taubman Approach and ability to explain its intricacies makes learning this new technique and advanced repertoire both enlightening and enjoyable. Focusing on injury prevention and stress reduction, both physical and emotional, Andrew and the Taubman Approach have provided the valuable tools I will use in playing the piano every day.
I began studying with Andrew King in September 2008. Andrew was a second year graduate student at the Hartt School and I was, and currently am, a music history major at Hartt. As part of the program, the student must take 4 years of lessons on their instrument, in this case, piano. I was assigned to Andrew that year and have been studying with him ever since. He was my teacher at Hartt for only that year since he graduated and I had to move on to other instructors. I continued to work with him over vacations, semester breaks, and summers while I studied with two other instructors who were also graduate students. Because of his excellent teaching and caring nature, I have continued to work with him. After finishing my four years at Hartt, I continue to work with Andrew.
I have found him to be very knowledgeable and a wonderful pianist as well as an excellent teacher. His patience is amazing! He is always willing to work with the student to make sure he/she understands the material presented. Andrew also considers each student’s abilities and adjusts his lessons according to what the student is capable of and then, sometimes, a little beyond as a challenge. He is willing to adapt to different situations. Two years ago, as I was about to begin study with him during the summer, I fell off my bicycle and broke my wrist. I wrote him and explained the situation to him and he suggested that we begin anyway since he could teach me the technique with my left hand and when the right hand healed, the left hand could teach it. The technique we were working on was that of Dorothy Taubman, whose work is also very helpful for those with hand injuries. He is the first teacher I know of to teach using that method of instruction and it makes playing much easier since there is no strain and allows for faster and smoother playing.
Andrew is extremely patient and is a very caring person. He is always willing to show me how to do something I don’t understand and illustrates it on the piano. He is also interested in other things his students are involved in. I also sing with the West Hartford Women’s Chorale and Andrew has come to some of our concerts at my invitation and he has also come to the studio recital for the voice instructor I also study with. I have never heard him raise his voice in either anger or frustration.
I am very happy with the instruction I have received from Andrew King and plan on continuing studies with him in the future. I am looking forward to the sharing program he is having with other students on July 20, 2013.
-Peggy Gosselin, West Hartford, CT