Foothills Music Academy is a unique place to learn.
We use the analogy of learning to fish when describing Foothills Academy's approach to teaching.
The traditional teacher instructs the student by having them mimic or write in the note-names on the music. The student then proceeds to "memorize" and play by rote a beautiful piece of music, but only as the teacher has taught it. They are insecure in attempting to play a piece of music they have not seen before, create their own music or arrange a piece and make it uniquely their own. Much like receiving a beautiful fish but without the knowledge of where to find a good fishing hole or how to care and feed eventually it dies.
We like to teach our students how to fish, meaning they understand the logic as well as artistry behind the music and are not afraid to try new fishing holes! Not all students excel in reading music or following the theory rules, but they can all excel at creating their own music. Sometimes the fish is not the prettiest, nor the fastest, but it is the healthiest and will continue to survive years after the student has caught it.
Our goal is that each of our students will pass on the knowledge of how to fish...
-Catherine INTERESTING OBSERVATION OVER MY 40 YEARS OF TEACHING:
Stage 1 (ages 4-6): “Listen to me play, everybody!”
In this pre-piano stage, children love to make sounds on the piano just for the sake of being able to make sounds themselves. The concept of music is fascinating and they enjoy being able to be in control and produce sounds out of an instrument with their own hands. Children typically learn through peer group interaction and like being in groups, hence their motto: “listen to me play, everybody!”
Stage 2 (ages 7-8): “Not now, later.”
Once piano students enter the beginner and late beginner stages, they find that playing the piano actually takes practice. This is different than before, when playing the piano was fun and like playing a game. All of a sudden, motivation levels have dropped because now piano actually takes work. Note reading is difficult and each lesson is getting progressively harder. The student gets discouraged. The lesson time is often spent with the teacher practicing with the student what they were supposed to practice at home.
Stage 3 (ages 9-10): “Look mom – with my eyes closed!”
Students have gotten past the difficult stage of note reading and music concepts begin to make sense. For some reason, something has “clicked” in the students’ minds and they figured out note reading through ‘every good boy does fine’ or other means. Usually at this stage the student’s goal is to play as fast as possible or play pieces memorized with their eyes closed, in attempts to show off to family and friends. At this age, students enjoy flashcards as a means of learning, showy pieces, and tunes they recognize. Regular practice time can still remain a challenge due to distractions at home (i.e., video games, television, internet, friends, etc.).
Stage 4 (age 11): “Why can’t I have good music – like rock or pop?”
At this age, the adolescent child begins many changes, and it can be quite difficult to continue with piano lessons. Their world is moving out of the family structure and into a world of peer association and approval. Students are in the early intermediate stage and teachers often begin introducing students to easy pieces from the classical era (i.e., Minuets, Sonatinas, etc.). This type of music is so far out of line of what the student enjoys to listen to on a daily basis. The student wonders why they can’t play “cooler” music like the Harry Potter theme song or the rock song they heard on the radio. The student gets discouraged, do not care much for their progress at the piano, and playing the piano is no longer cool.
Stage 5 (ages 12-14): “I want to quit.”
After Stage 4, students often have resentment towards learning the piano. It takes away from the student’s free time, it is hard work to learn the music concepts, and requires a lot of practice that the child does not have diligence for. The teacher has expressed some frustration toward the child and the parent is placing pressure on the student to keep practicing, furthering the child’s resentment towards music lessons. The student is not playing music he or she likes anyway, and figures the easiest thing to is to quit lessons. Unless the parent continues to force the child to go to lessons, many students quit at this age. Parent involvement and support is very important at this stage to ensure that the student continues learning. Even if the parent just has the student merely “show up” to the weekly lessons until the student passes the growing pain hurdles, that is better than the student quitting on his or her own terms. This is the stage that adults who once learned piano often look back on later and regret that they quit.
Stage 6 (ages 15-16): (If you get past the growing pain hurdles) “No more kid stuff.”
After a rough patch of frustration by the student, parents, and teacher, the student will begin to gain an appreciation for classical music in the advanced repertoire. Students will begin to feel satisfied from their ability to play difficult pieces, and the teacher will begin guiding the student on artistry and interpretation aspects of music pieces. The students are approaching adulthood and begin to take on responsibility without reminders. Usually they are taking piano lessons because they want to. The student and teacher begin to develop a strong bond of mutual respect and students can become very close to their piano teachers.
Catherine Lowell - Academy Director and Instructor
Cathy is a Bellevue WA native and holds a BA of Economics from the University of Washington. Her experience as a collaborative accompanist has spanned over 40 years, starting in the 3rd grade with her elementary choir and orchestra. She has worked professionally as a church organist, freelance performer, accompanist, dance rehearsal pianist, studio musician and music educator and tutor for Bellevue Christian, Northshore School District and Everett School District. Currently Cathy teaches elementary strings and accompanies for several choirs in the Northshore School District. In 2007 she founded Foothills Music Academy in Woodinville, a music studio specializing in private lessons with opportunities for collaborative musicianship to teach young musicians the art of accompanying. When not teaching, she is principal pianist and ensemble cellist for Sammamish Symphony and Accompanist for Columbia Concorde Adult Choir.
Emmy Hoech - Violin/Viola Instructor
Emmy is a classically trained violinist having studied under James Marer at the University of Denver. She currently teaches privately and in the Northshore School District as an orchestra strings specialist and Cascade Youth Symphony Summer Camp coach. Emmy has played in several orchestras including the Thalia Ochestra, Bellevue Philharmonic and for the past 15 years the Orchestra Seattle. She has enjoyed performing in many concert halls, including Benaroya and Carnegie Hall. Emmy is a mother of 2 teenagers, and in her spare time loves to spend time with her horse. She enjoys students of all ages!
Monika McRobert - Piano/Voice Instructor
Monika is a native of Washington. She attended Central Washington University where she studied voice with a degree in Music Education. She specializes in Elementary and preschool aged children.
Aliena Lowell - Piano/Voice Instructor
Aliena Lowell is in her second year at the University of Washington studying neurobiology and biochemistry. She has accompanied choirs from the time she was in fifth grade, including her junior high and high schools as well as the University Chorale. Aliena toured Europe as the jazz pianist for the Washington Ambassadors of Music and performed in seven different countries. She currently is the pianist for the Sammamish Symphony, the University of Washington’s musical theater program, and sings first soprano in the University Chorale. In addition to attending the UW and teaching at Foothills, she is the accompanist for Columbia Columbia Childrens Choir.