Heather has been teaching classical piano for over 30 years. She focuses on advanced students and gifted young students, although she does take on beginner students when eagerness to learn is apparent. She enjoys teaching both children and adults and works within and outside of the Royal Conservatory of Music stream.
Heather does not teach in a traditional piano teaching style. The metronome is rarely used and scales are only played when there is a specific purpose for them, as mindless practicing of scales does not make a better pianist.
Often piano instructors teach what they were taught. However, much of what Heather was taught as a young student she later questioned. She was instructed to play louder, softer or with more legato, etc., but was not given any particular contextual understanding within the structure of the music. She needed to understand why these directives were given. Years of exploration and self-discovery at the keyboard permitted her to throw away much of her previous pedagogical assumptions and allowed her to find her own path.
Given that Heather is also a qualified Alexander Technique teacher, the principals of Alexander Technique are interwoven throughout her piano instruction. (See What is Alexander Technique? for further information). Everything that a student does physically at the piano will affect the quality of playing and therefore she pays close attention to the student’s physical presence at the keyboard. She encourages students to see that every physical movement they make should have a synchronicity with the music that they are playing.
Understanding the music score and the many subtle clues found within it are key to a student’s interpretation. So when students are having difficulty with interpreting the music, Heather will bring them back to the score and discuss it in detail. She cares about the clarity of intention behind the student’s interpretation of the score. She works with students to help them discover and express their own musical ideas and interpretation.
Heather will challenge students when they are playing on “auto pilot” - when they have allowed their muscular memory of the music to take over without their minds being fully engaged. She encourages students to carefully listen to what they are producing because too frequently, students will be so focused on getting through the technical difficulties of the music, that they forget to listen and adjust their playing based on what they hear.
Heather likes to draw out the best in her students by encouraging them to try things that are outside their comfort zone – to explore and experiment and to even go wrong in order to discover new ideas. She believes the discoveries made during piano lessons should be exhilarating and empowering.