For the last fifteen years, I have taught piano lessons to children, college students, amateurs, and Grammy award-winning professionals. I started teaching while working on my masters degree at The Juilliard School. Since then, I have performed throughout the United States and earned a doctoral degree in piano performance, but these days most of what I do is teach. I am classically trained, though I have worked with students on a range of musical styles. I get tremendous satisfaction from helping my students overcome their challenges. Regardless of the age or experience that a student brings, my goal is to help make piano playing personally enriching and musically satisfying.
Here are the qualities I think you should look for in a teacher and the ways in which I think I offer them.
A teacher should have an ear for what makes music colorful and beautiful. You are welcome to listen to some of my recordings at https://soundcloud.com/david-shimoni-piano. I believe that the goal of musicians should be to attune our inner ears to the music behind the notes that sit on a page before us and then let that music flow through us. We all hear different qualities in the notes, but as long as we honestly try to get inside the notes before we touch our instrument, we can all make beautiful music.
Once we have an idea of the way we want the music to sound, we need technique to produce those sounds. Early in my training, I experienced discomfort from the poor way in which I was playing. As a result, I had to retrain myself completely. I was fortunate enough to find three teachers of the Taubman Approach who helped me to understand the connections between playing in a coordinated way and playing beautifully. As a result of having made many mistakes myself and then overcoming them, I have developed the ability to see what is holding back my students and to help them find better ways of approaching the piano.
The best music for students is the music that motivates them to practice. That said, at certain times, I think some pieces will help a student get to the next level, and others will only tie the student in knots. I have taught a lot of repertoire in a variety of styles. I can give students at any level music that is appropriate for them. I am also always eager to work on music that my students bring me.
To give students skills that directly apply to their playing, I also incorporate theory, ear training, sight reading, and scales into lessons.
Although I have no qualms about teaching students who have electric keyboards, acoustic instruments give better aural feedback to pianists about the health of their technique. At least once a week I make sure my students get to play on an instrument that responds to their efforts with a beautiful sound: either my own 1913 Steinway B, or one of a variety of good grand pianos at the midtown studio where I teach.
Students can expect to learn a lot in their lessons, but lessons usually only happen once a week. The quality and quantity of the student’s practice the rest of the week is critical. At each point in the process of learning a piece, there are different practice methods that help a pianist get to the next step. I think I can see where students are in the learning process and can guide their practice so that their time spent at home is optimized.
Many students enjoy playing music for themselves, but when they are asked to play for others, the joy of the experience turns into fear of embarrassment. There is no quick and easy solution to performance anxiety, but having worked through it in hundreds of performances, I can say there are certainly ways to reduce it and even make performing joyful. Understanding that playing for others is an experience of sharing, not “impressing,” and practicing in a way that helps one to see, hear, and feel the music the instant before one plays it are at the core of my method.
I teach children and adult students. I do not force anyone to perform, though I encourage it. I am a member of two associations of independent piano teachers that sponsor recitals and competitions for my young students. My adult students and I usually get together at my apartment twice a year for a piano-food-fest.
Ultimately, there is no single way to teach all students. Students come to me with different degrees of musical training, physical awareness and dexterity, musical tastes, discipline, and patience. It is my job to figure out what will light each student’s fire and help them to practice through their challenges so that they can enjoy the beautiful and all-consuming experience of making music.
I invite you to try a lesson.
Described by the American Record Guide as a pianist whose playing “was as smooth as velvet,” David Shimoni has appeared in recital in New York’s Zankel Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Museum of Modern Art. He has also performed at the Barns at Wolf Trap, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, and the Dallas Museum of Art. He has been a guest artist at the Chautauqua, Brevard, Moab, Foothills, and Rockport music festivals, and his performances have been broadcast on radio stations WGBH-Boston, WFMT-Chicago, and WQXR-New York.