PPP064: Jacki Alexander shares how important grandparents are in piano lessons

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Shelly took this photo of a roadside river in Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 2017.

Jacki Alexander is a piano teacher and composer from Indianapolis, Indiana. She has been teaching over thirteen years.

Tell us your personal piano story as well as how you chose piano teaching as a career.

I began piano lessons at the age of four. My grandmother was my teacher. As well as teaching me, she taught a full studio of 40 students. At first, it was just “Grandma and me” in the living room. As my skills grew and I got older, I was a regular student in her dedicated basement studio for both private lessons as well as group and ensemble lessons. There were four students in the group and we did something similar to today‟s 30/30. Half was theory with lots of off-the-bench activities and incentives and half was ensemble practice – usually two pianos/eight hands. I loved playing the piano – my mother and grandmother played and participated in piano competitions. I wanted to be like them! After teaching for 11 years, I also became a published composer and now I get to use my own music with my students!

I didn’t actually choose piano teaching for a career – as often happens, it chose me! I made the decision to homeschool my middle child, necessitating me quitting my “day job” (Instructional Assistant at an elementary school), and found myself with some free time. My good friend and neighbor‟s children wanted to learn to play the piano, and I agreed to teach them. Word of mouth occurred throughout the neighborhood, and soon after that, I was a piano teacher! Over the years I grew as a piano teacher and my studio grew along with me. I prefer a smaller studio and I have kept it at 20 students max. I prefer around 12-15. As my studio grew, so did my marketing abilities.

Were you a good student?

I was a really good student! My grandma was my teacher, and I sure wanted to please her! I don‟t ever remember arguing about practicing, although my mother might beg to differ. I diligently practiced scales, something my own students just don‟t seem to want to do. I was involved in piano competitions and therefore, practice was imperative. I was always in a group class of students older than I.

What is one thing you often say to your piano students?

I tell my students that I would much rather have a dedicated, motivated, disciplined student who really wants to learn to play the piano than a really talented student who rarely practices, does not complete theory work, has a bad attitude, etc.

Is there a common struggle your piano parents deal with? How do you help them through it?

There are two struggles, and I’m sure this is across the board with most parents – completing theory work is my parents’ main struggle, followed by practicing. It isn’t that they don‟t want to practice, but that they are over-scheduled.

What keeps you motivated as a teacher?

I so enjoy working with students who want to be challenged. Most of my students always have a carrot on a stick in front of them – a particular piece they wish they could play. I like to challenge them with supplemental pieces that are a tad above their skill level to keep them motivated. Their motivation, in turn, motivates me!

Do you have a favorite piece that you enjoy teaching your students?

I have several pieces that I enjoy teaching my students, although I do like to vary what I assign. There is Jennifer Eklund’s “End Game” and “Someday” that they all love. I enjoy teaching my own compositions as well – “Momentum”, “Happy Birthday”, “Summer Sonatina”, My “Word Art” series for late beginners/early intermediates is three pieces written with ‘tweens and teens in mind and so far, my students are loving it and it is selling well. I experience great joy teaching my music to my students and experiencing their pleasure learning the pieces.

Listen to PPP053: How to Choose Supplemental Music for Your Piano Kid

Tell us about an app or technology that you find useful in your teaching.

I am really into Note Rush right now. My students are very competitive and want to beat their times. They also love to change the themes in the background. Piano Maestro is a useful teaching tool to me. I use the ‘Learn’ feature in conjunction with their method book piece (Piano Pronto) to help them if they are struggling. Time permitting, I use the Journey and Library functions of Piano Maestro for enrichment.
Find Jacki’s music at

Sheet Music Plus

Piano Pronto’s Composer’s Community

If you could visit with any composer or musician who would you choose and why?

That is tough because there are a lot of classical composers as well as living contemporary composers that I admire. I would have to choose Chopin. I rarely play classical music anymore, but when I do, I enjoy playing (attempting to play!) a nocturne or etude. Chopin’s music evokes so much emotion. I would like to take a master class in expression from Chopin.

What parting words of wisdom or quote do you have for parents of new piano students?

You are making the best investment you can when you provide tuition for your child’s piano lesson or any music lesson. Not only will they learn to play an instrument, but they will also learn collaboration, gain confidence, self-esteem, develop a skill and hobby that will last a lifetime.

This is in addition to all of the amazing ways a student of music benefit academically…increases memory skills, teaches perseverance, improves math skills, improves coordination, improves reading and comprehension, exposes the child to the arts, other cultures and music history, improves listening and social skills, I could go on forever.

What is the best way for potential students to get in touch with you?

I have a studio Facebook page – Jacki Alexander Piano Studio where prospective students can get in touch with me, as well as a Contact Form on my music publishing website, www.jackialexandermusic.com or email at alexanderpiano@att.net.

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