She Taught me How to Teach

I finished my Master’s Degree at Peabody Conservatory and started a concert career. I participated in big international competitions like the Van Cliburn Competition in Texas and the Artur Rubenstein in Israel. I won the American Pianists Association Fellowship. I played a lot of concerts: solo recitals, chamber music and concertos.

I loved it, I really did.

At least the playing part. But I didn’t love traveling by myself. It was too lonely for me.

I started teaching to supplement my concert income.

That’s when I got lucky. I began by working as an assistant to a much more experienced teacher. She had more students than she could possibly teach and I had exactly one I’d gotten on my own. At the time I thought, stupidly, that I was doing her a favor by bringing the prestige of my brilliance to her little studio. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

It was she who did me the favor. She taught me how to teach. She taught me how to run a business. She taught me how to deal with a tricky parent. She showed me that teaching children can be rewarding – both financially and emotionally. She taught me that using a piano method could make my life easier and my teaching more organized. 

I remember one day she was having a particularly rough day. I offered to teach her afternoon students for her.

“Oh NO!” she replied. “Those kids are going to make me feel so much better!”

Carol Snell Cyr and composer Jake Heggie

Carol Snell Cyr and composer Jake Heggie.

I think of her every time I’m having a rough day and remember how much better I’ll feel after teaching.

I eventually moved from my studio apartment into a house with a big deck that I soon covered with pots of blooming flowers. I stopped teaching in her studio because I had plenty of my own students. I started to create a world of music in my own studio. I built fires in the fireplace on rainy afternoons to make my studio so comfy that people didn’t want to leave. (I still do that.)

Succulents and Cyclamen blooming on the entry staircase.

Succulents and Cyclamen blooming on the entry staircase.

Now I live in a very large house, still with lots of pots of flowers blooming. 

Trying out Piano Town accompaniments with Keith

Trying out Piano Town accompaniments with Keith.

In a twist of fate, it turns out the biggest favor Carol ever did was having a son who has become my closest friend and collaborator, Keith Snell. Thanks, Carol. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Who helped you get started?

Are you a new teacher? Could you find a more experienced teacher to help you get started?

Is there someone out there who needs your help to get on the path to being a great teacher?