Saturday, April 27, 2019


How to Find a Piano Teacher by [Lanyi, Gabriel]

Did you learn to play an instrument? Was it a struggle? A drag? Do you still play it?

As for so many others, my own love of music did not become proficiency: I had some piano instruction at age 7 or so, practiced reluctantly despite enjoying music enthusiastically, parted from my teacher after half a year to improve my performance at "stickball" on our New York City street. I did learn a lot of worthwhile musical basics that I retained, but my ability to play piano quickly diminished, eventually devolving to a modest capability on the tuba. Would having had a better teacher at the start changed all this?

If I had been taught by "Lea," Lea Agmon, the teacher of Gabi Lanyi's son, Ariel, who knows how much better I would have fared? Gabriel Lanyi gives Lea great credit for providing the kind of teaching that maintained Ariel's interest in music while steadily assisting in his improvement, in his fulfilling his talent.

The lessons from this book should apply widely...beyond piano, beyond music, beyond the arts: a teacher must find the talent and interest of the student and work with these, the way a sculptor would use the natural variations in a piece of marble to enhance a work of beauty. So, choose a teacher whose students you have observed perform well, with skill and elan, a teacher whose interactions with the student are benevolent as well as instructive, a teacher who has the self-assurance and courage to get over-anxious parents to back off and to let the student explore the full range of the artistic medium. That teacher must be secure enough to pass the student on to the next mentor when the time comes for new approaches.

This fascinating book by a skilled novelist (USCOLIA and NOBEL PEACE PRIZE) carries the reader quickly through the surprisingly rapid development of prodigy Ariel Lanyi's musicianship, with insightful comments on the practices of the schools of music, the teachers, and the parents of the would-be-virtuosos. You could read it for the stories, but you want to be sure to absorb the lessons. Author Lanyi is torn between his USCOLIA's premise that no one really teaches anything (we learn on our own) and the obvious benefits of Lea's approach to teaching Ariel.

One quibble, or more than a quibble. The book's description includes, "There’s no such thing as talent, get used to it." Whether this is Lanyi's modest appraisal of his son or someone's politically correct rejection of the influence of genetics, it would take a dull reader not to note how early, clearly, and remarkably Ariel Lanyi's talent became obvious.

There is such a thing as talent. The father has it as a writer, the son as a musician.

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