October is here, and so is another Teacher Feature! Meet Shauna from the Leavitt Piano Studio in Viginia!
- Name: Shauna Leavitt
- Area: Herndon, VA
- Website: http://www.leavittpianostudio.com/
Please tell us about your piano and/or teaching background:
Background: I started teaching when I was 16 with the assistance of my mother who runs a successful piano studio in Utah. I taught upstairs while she taught downstairs and whenever I needed help, she was always there to mentor me along. I was fortunate to grow up near Brigham Young University where I studied with wonderful Professors there (Dr. Douglas Humpherys and Dr. Robert Smith). When I started attending Dr. Humpherys’ weekly college master-classes, I knew that I wanted to be a piano major when I went to college.
I received my B.S. in Music from Utah State University (piano performance and pedagogy) and studied with Gary Amano, Ralph van der Beek, and Dennis Hirst. With the encouragement and preparation from Dennis, I went on to receive my M.M. (piano performance and pedagogy) from Arizona State University and studied with Dr. Baruch Meir.
Piano: I have a beautiful Boston Grand that my husband bought me a couple years ago. He says that it’s my birthday, mother’s day, and Christmas present for the next several years. Ha ha! I upgraded a couple years ago after I sold my upright Perzina. I also have a Yahmaha Clavinova that comes in quite handy for duets and concertos.
What is your teaching philosophy in a nutshell?
I think my teaching philosophy changes as the years go on, but in a nutshell my main purpose is to implant in each student a love of music. My goal is to help students become excellent readers so they can play for enjoyment in the future. I hope to instill in them a sense of confidence in who they are and what they can achieve no matter what their skill level is. This is important because it can translate to other activities they are involved such as a subject in school or a sport. I feel it’s important to be positive, encouraging, and patient. Lastly, I try to be adaptable and mold my curriculum based on what works best for each student.
What is your favorite thing about teaching piano?
Last Spring I started paying my students with music money whenever they passed off their pieces, performed for an audience, and kept a practice log. After my Spring recital, I held a studio party and set up a “store.” They could spend their money on a variety of prizes and play music theory games. It was a hit, especially with the little ones.
How do you stay inspired as a piano teacher?
Lately, it’s been tapping into blogs like this!
What are your goals for improving as a piano teacher in the future?
I’m planning on becoming an MTNA certified teacher this year. I know it will be a lot of work but many of the project requirements I have completed during my school days. I love to learn and by becoming certified it will benefit my students as I study and make goals toward my professional development. On a lighter note, I’m going to learn this arrangement of the Harry Potter theme for my upcoming Halloween recital and dress up like Harry. I find that practicing helps me be a better teacher because I’m constantly aware of the effort and dedication that’s required.
Tell us about your recitals.
Each October I hold a Halloween recital where students dress up in costume to match the character of their piece. It’s a great studio opener and motivator for the year without a lot of pressure. Sometimes it takes a little imagination to rename their pieces to match their costume – but that’s what makes it fun! The audience votes for ‘best costumes’ and I award prizes. Students really look forward to this recital and so do I.
What is your favorite music book to use with your students?
I recently blogged about my favorite theory books that I use – visit http://www.keystonotes.blogspot.com
This is one of my favorites: Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers.
Tell us about a rewarding or humorous moment in your piano teaching career.
Humorous: Just yesterday I suggested to one my students to play a little faster this time and she replied, “No thank you.” How can you argue with that?!
Rewarding: A few years ago I was hired by Keogh Health Foundation to direct a statewide piano competition in Arizona. The winners from each three divisions performed at the foundation’s ‘First Friday Gala’ at the Arizona Biltmore to help raise money for families without health care. Directing this competition was difficult but incredibly rewarding. This opportunity was a boost to my professional development and education. Some of the judges that I worked with were former teachers and others were professors I greatly admire. I felt like their colleague. To associate and collaborate with them on a professional level was incredibly rewarding. As an added bonus, one of my students performed for Dr. Humpherys in a Master Class.
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Thanks so much to Shauna for taking to time to share about herself! It is great getting to know you!!
If you are willing to share and complete an interview, I’d love to hear from you! Please send me a message via the Contact page by clicking here.