Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

C. Victor Fung


applied music, apprenticeship, cognitive apprenticeship, experiential learning, piano pedagogy, piano teacher induction


While many music educators learn how to teach through teacher training programs, the standard mode of transmission in which piano teachers learn to teach applied piano is through proficiency of the instrument under the guidance of a master teacher. This tacit development of pedagogical knowledge occurs through the master-apprentice model of pedagogy. The purposes of this study were (a) to explore how piano teachers learn how to teach from, and independent of, piano pedagogy coursework, overcome challenges, and continue to add to their pedagogy knowledge, and (b) to explore topics that would be most useful in a piano pedagogy course or program. This exploratory research design consisted of a series of semi-structured interviews. Piano teachers of varying ages, educational levels, and years of teaching experience (N = 12) were interviewed as to their experiences as students, autonomous transition into the teaching role, and the informal or formal learning opportunities which contributed to their development as piano teachers. Upon reflecting on their experiences in higher education compared to their professional lives as piano teachers, interviewees were asked to make suggestions for the future of piano pedagogy and the piano curriculum in general.

In analyzing the data, 11 major themes emerged in the interview transcripts which revealed aspects of the interviewees' transition into the teaching role and development as piano teachers: (1) piano teachers were autonomously resourceful when transitioning into the teaching role, (2) experiential learning (i.e., learning by doing, gaining experience, and trial-and-error), (3) piano teachers evoke memories (of former teachers, materials played, and experiences as students) in transitioning into the teaching role, (4) piano teachers emulate former teachers + a mix of elements in developing their teaching style, (5) overcoming challenges and seeking out resources, (6) formal learning experiences (including piano pedagogy coursework), (7) partnership of learning and teaching (apprenticeship and cognitive apprenticeship), (8) support in the field (including the role of professional activities), (9) teaching confidence, (10) reflective practice, and (11) reflections and suggestions for the future.

The pianists interviewed experienced an autonomous transition into the teaching role as they received no formal teacher-training and very little guidance when beginning to teach. Although the master-apprentice model is often attributed as the primary means in which piano teaching is disseminated, experiential learning (e.g., learning by doing, gaining experience, and trial-and-error) factored just as prominently into the pianists' transition into the teaching role and early development as piano teachers. Additionally, apprenticeship (i.e., guided teaching) and cognitive apprenticeship (i.e., formal learning combined with authentic hands-on teaching experiences) were two facilitative modes of learning to teach experienced by some of the interviewees. The pianists interviewed demonstrated incredible personal initiative in navigating their autonomous transition into the teaching role and development as piano teachers (e.g., teaching style, teaching confidence, teaching identity, and reflective practice) by deriving meaning through the process of overcoming challenges, seeking out resources and support in the field, monitoring and correcting their own performance, and finding measures to continually refine their teaching.

The importance of pedagogical coursework and increased teacher-training experiences in the higher education setting were emphasized by all piano teachers interviewed, especially when combined with opportunities to observe expert piano teaching and gain authentic hands-on teaching experiences. Similarly, some piano teachers described teaching while pursuing their degree(s) as a means of learning from an academic and career standpoint, as they could immediately apply what they were learning to their own teaching. Piano teachers emphasized the need for business skills for running a successful studio, performance skills beyond the traditional classical repertoire, functional skills to make a viable living (e.g., accompanying, improvisation, harmonizing melodies, and playing for church services), as well as techniques, materials, and special considerations for teaching across the entire lifespan (i.e., "cradle to grave") for a wider variety of learners (e.g., beginning, intermediate, advanced, pre-school age through mature adult, and those with special needs).

This exploratory study provided a detailed perspective as to the induction experiences of the piano teacher. It is proposed that further exploration into the pianist's transition into the teaching role could inform the development and restructuring of pedagogical coursework and a wealth of pedagogical materials for practitioners in the field as well as the framework for piano teacher training.