On Sunday afternoon I taught this year’s third and final group lessons before my students and I enter the busy festival and exam season. As I tidied up the papers and books and rearranged the furniture I reflected on this year’s preparations and results. Once again I came to the conclusion that these three group lessons are one of the most important things that I do in my studio. Group lessons have an unassuming feel, though, and some students don’t value them as much as they should.

Solo piano playing is a performance art.

Students are not born with this ability.

Group lessons are the place where my students learn how to perform from memory. And control their nervous energy. And how to behave on stage. And how to react when something doesn’t turn out right. And how to be a supportive audience. I stop and restart students, and correct in between…things I would never do at a recital.

Group lessons also give me a chance to introduce new topics to all my students in an efficient way, saving time at the private weekly lessons. I’ve been able to introduce ear training, improvising, and music history at this year’s group lessons and then tailor the topic to each student in the following weeks.

Even the scheduling is strategic. Group lessons are mid-range performance goals placed on the calendar at advantageous points ahead of recitals, festivals, and exams. A solid performance needs at least three dress rehearsals before the student and I can count on consistent results.

The students who have consistently attended group lessons over several years are the ones who deliver confident and secure performances at recitals, earn high marks on their exams, and win their festival class. Their proud smiles make it all worthwhile.