Q and A with John-Paul Pendowski
Q and A with John-Paul Pendowsk
Our Co-Founder, Christiane Sola, interviewed pianist John-Paul Pendowski in regards to his experience as a piano teacher.
If you are interested in signing up for private lessons with John-Paul, or any of our 26 artist-teachers, click below.
You told me you have been teaching a lot more during the pandemic. Why do you think both adults and children are turning to music to help them through this difficult time?
I think there are two main facets as to why music lessons are actually increasing during the pandemic (at least in my experience): a practical dimension and a psychological dimension.
First, I believe people are now more available for lessons since activities and responsibilities have been moved to video platforms. Cutting out the need to drive to different places for activities and being able to work from home while students sign on to classes likely reduces the stress of committing to activities like music classes, art classes, etc., and makes it easier to actually attend.
Second, I think in the midst of the pandemic, students and adults alike are finding that developing a refined skill, like playing the piano or making crafts, helps to reduce some of the stress involved in online learning and working. Music and the arts can provide a brief escape from both the monotony of routine work and the nested anxiety everyone’s experiencing because of the pandemic. I often find myself practicing my instrument just to do something with my hands and to focus on a craft that I can refine instead of worrying about how bleak everything else seems. Because these classes are taken apart from routine e-learning or work schedules, I believe that they’re insulated from the same issues that you find with virtual lessons or work; this doesn’t mean they’re immune from some of the problems we teachers observe with students, but the effect is definitely lessened. Additionally, as music lessons become more sophisticated and the practice of holding online lessons improves in response to the increased need, people find music a more viable option for releasing stress and enriching their lives despite the worry of everything around them.
How did you get started in music?
I got started playing violin at the age of two because both of my parents are musicians. I learned using the Suzuki method, and I believe that helped me develop a good ear. We moved to Hawaii in order to help my grandmother, and she had a grand piano. I started listening to classical music at around the age 11 and I realized I wanted music in my life. When we moved back to Chicago, I started taking piano lessons.
What is your approach to teaching piano?
I’m familiar with a variety of approaches to music pedagogy. I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at DePaul and studied with a teacher, George Vatchnadze, who uses the Russian approach to piano study. I also studied pedagogy with Susanne Baker at DePaul. I am also a Yamaha certified teacher. So, I understand the different well-known piano methods and can draw from them in the way I see fit in order to best match a student’s individual needs with the correct teaching and learning method.
When teaching a student a specific piece of music, I always have a solid plan for how I would like the learning process to progress, but the speed of progression is not important to me. I make sure the student is enjoying it and not getting overwhelmed.
Also, I like it when parents sit in on the lesson, as it can help be another bridge between parent and child, but it is not necessarily required. Some students really like being independent. I even have a student who loves taking her own notes!
Do you think students who are considering beginning piano lessons should try a group class or start with private lessons?
I think it ultimately depends on the student; some really thrive in an environment where they can depend on their peers to gather extra information on concepts, to ask questions where they might feel too shy or anxious, or to interact with others.
Other students do better with one-on-one lessons where there’s more direct interaction between teacher and a single student. I think that if considering either private lessons or a class for beginning piano, it’s always best to have an introductory interview or lesson during which a teacher can assess what strengths the student has as well as discuss with the parents what they think would be the most effective fit for their child. In either case, we are always able to find the right fit that would best support the educational needs of the student.
What is a fun fact about you that has nothing to do with music?
I absolutely love baking! Cookies, breads, scones, cupcakes and cake. When it comes to bakeries in Chicago, I love Firecakes Donuts, Do-Right Donuts and Magnolia Bakery.
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