When I joined QuaranTunes in March 2021, I thought that it would just be a volunteer experience to keep myself occupied throughout the summer. After all, teaching and music are my passions. But I never imagined how much of an impact QuaranTunes would have on my life.
How it all began
I was still a relatively new teacher at the beginning of the summer, having only taught a few lessons. That day, I was going to receive a new student. As always, I was incredibly excited. My anticipation and energy were immediately matched by the student’s, a young boy who amusingly couldn't seem to sit still, and his warmhearted mother. For the whole lesson, the boy’s radiance and enthusiasm brought a smile to my face and I got to know his personality and skill level. In a blur, the 45-minute lesson full of laughs and the vibrant chaos of slamming keys came to an end. Just when I thought the Zoom call was going to end, his mother asked me where I was from.
“Foster City,” I replied.
It turned out that the boy’s mother, Elena, owns Digital Monkey Piano School in Belmont, just a few miles away from me. Discovering how close we were to each other was pretty cool.
A couple of weeks passed, and I received an email from Elena, asking me if I was interested to be a substitute for one of the teachers at her studio that weekend. Of course, I accepted, both surprised and delighted at the offer. I never thought I would meet her, let alone experience what it was like to teach piano in person.
Arriving at the studio, I was welcomed by a warm and friendly atmosphere. On and off for the next two months, I would be shown the ropes. Looking back, this was the period when I grew the most as a piano teacher and a professional, responsible individual. I learned how to use technology to create theory worksheets, label sheet music, and play recordings to enhance students’ musical experiences. I learned how Elena’s specific “method” effectively keeps young students engaged while learning the piano.
Most of all, I learned how to relate to my students. Having been in strict, technique-based classical piano lessons for almost a decade, I used my own experience to put myself in the students’ shoes and hopefully allow them to have a more fun musical experience that wasn't always so focused on technique and exams like mine was.
Combined with my relatability as a teenager and skills like problem-solving and communication, I slowly found my teaching style. It was an important mission for me to engage with kids and help them love the instrument that has acted as a creative outlet for me throughout the years.
Becoming a real teacher
By the end of the summer, both of the teachers that I was substituting for and shadowing were unable to work at the studio anymore due to university and other responsibilities. Filling in their places felt very natural. Soon enough, as a high school junior, I became a part-time piano teacher with six wonderful students of varying ages and skill levels.
To give a specific example, I was honored to be trusted enough to teach piano to a new student from square one. It has been amazing to see this young student's progress and it still hasn't hit me how important of a musical influence I have on this child, being their first piano teacher.
Although it requires plenty of hard work, lots of patience, and overcoming other obstacles (kids, especially the younger ones, can be quite unpredictable), I love my job. I’m forever grateful to Elena for seeing my potential and giving me this opportunity. Watching my students understand new musical concepts under my guidance and bonding with them have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The way Digital Piano Monkey School and I crossed paths was like fate, but it was also thanks to QuaranTunes’ rich musical network, where teenagers like me can find unique opportunities that fuel their passions for teaching music and give back to the community.