Willie: I was teaching around sixty students privately six days a week. Student
after student would come to my studio
and mention that they forgot what they
were supposed to practice. Or they forgot it as soon as they got home. This was
around 1998, when digital cameras started to become popular. Those cameras
had the ability to record three minutes of
video. I figured if I could record a video
of parts of the lessons, then they would
have a better chance of remembering
what they needed to practice at home.
At first I would just email them the
video or put it on a disc for them. Soon
I created a website and added the ability
to get videos from my website. Jazzpi-anolessons.com was born! Soon students
from around the world started to express
interest in my online lessons.
TOS: I love how the HomeSchoolPiano
.com screen is split to show hands on the
keyboard, plus a digital keyboard that
shows the name of the note as it is played,
along with a video of you speaking in the
corner. Your style covers many different
senses . . . visual, audio, and kinesthetic.
This program seems to cover the “whole
musician.” How important are each of
these things to learning music?
Willie: Extremely important! When I
graduated from Berklee with a degree in
Film Music Composition, I knew I had
two choices. One, move to Los Angeles to
break into the film business, or two, teach
more private students so I could make a
living. I taught students prior to going
to college, but now I realized that I had
a real passion for it. This led me to learn
more about education, so I studied Piaget, Kodály, and Alexander Technique and
other educational methods to learn more
about how to teach more effectively.
Combined with my own experiences,
I came to realize over the years that
every student learns differently. We’ve
all heard of aural or visual learners,
but my experience has shown me that
we do not learn in only one modal-
ity. For certain topics, we might need
to see it and hear it. Whereas in other
situations, we can just read it and fully
understand what to do. This is why I
try to add as many modalities into the
lessons as possible.
Visual learners can get every note I’m
playing with the virtual keyboard and the
overhead shot. Aural learners have the
ability to download mp3s of the lessons to
learn away from the piano.
Interestingly, having me in the video
looking directly at the student has proven
to be most important. This creates a one-to-one relationship between me and the
student. They feel like I’m right there with
them helping each step of the way.
TOS: How does your HomeSchool
Willie: HomeSchoolPiano is based on a
six-step cycle that I’ve created. It starts with
learning proper technique at the piano,
then improving upon rhythm and training
the ear. Students learn how to read music
and learn simple songs. Most important,
students learn how to tap into their own
creativity by learning how to improvise
and create their own compositions.
I came to realize over the years that every student learns differently.