Symposium for Teachers of Adult Students

September 18, 2004
9:30 AM to 4:30 PM

The Nora School
955 Sligo Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Professional organizations for music teachers and their respective conferences rarely offer more than one or two sessions on teaching adults while offering dozens on teaching children. As a result, music teachers may not understand the issues involved in teaching adults, may be susceptible to misconceptions regarding their adult students, and may fail to appreciate the meaning adults find in making music.

Obviously, AMSF members have an interest in having their teachers better understand their needs and ways of helping them learn. Thus AMSF sponsored a one-day symposium for teachers of adult music students where teachers gathered to discuss issues, exchange ideas, and hear what experts in the field had to offer.

The symposium was held on Saturday, September 18, 2004 at the Nora School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Participation was oriented toward--but not limited to--teachers in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Students in the local area and teachers and students beyond the immediate vicinity were also invited to attend. Tuition of $75 included lunch.



presented by Rodger Ellsworth

The happy-sad faced clown as a model of the humor and seriousness necessary in making good music. Attention also given to the nature of our teaching studios, with the attendant ceremonies and magic used to reach the goal of musical entertainment.

Born into a musical family, Mr. Rodger Ellsworth carries on the tradition as a violinist and violist performing and teaching in New Hampshire. A professional musician since age 18, Mr. Ellsworth has performed with the San Francisco Symphony opera in that city. Six years ago, after a 20-year career with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra in Washington, D.C., he moved his family to the beautiful state of New Hampshire to raise his children. Currently he is on the faculty of Plymouth State University and the Concord Community Music School. He travels throughout New England and to Washington, D.C. and New York to perform on a regular basis.


presented by Bruce Potterton

Many adult students have passed through Bruce's music program called SummerKeys. Potterton is in a unique position to talk about the areas of successful and not so successful strategies of teaching and the results apparent in the visiting students.

Bruce Potterton studied with Murray Present and Sascha Gorodnitzki. He has taught piano, primarily adults, in New York City since 1982, first at the Henry Street Settlement Music School and then (and presently) at the Turtle Bay Music School. In 1992 he founded "SummerKeys - A Piano Vacation for Adults." He continues to perform, as he has throughout his teaching career, in New York and Maine.


Unlike children, adults can clearly articulate what they want from their teachers of music. As teachers were not used to listening to this. It is important that we do so, however. The panel was free to discuss this subject in an impersonal arena without having to worry about offending any particular teacher.

* * * LUNCH - Included in Registration * * *

During the lunch break, the classrooms of the school were available for eating and discussion of the following topics about adult students:

  1. Is technique different for young people and adults, or does one play the instrument the most effective way regardless of age?
  2. How do you start your adult beginners?
  3. Are there any inherent limitations of adult students that teachers should consider in their teaching?
  4. Do you teach children with the thought they may become adult students later on?


presented by Matthew Harre

Public myths--"Adults can't learn very well"--and private ones--"I'm not really very musical"-- are far more destructive to adult learning than any organic physical or mental limitations. Overcoming these old beliefs is a daunting task for both teachers and students.

Matthew Harre, NCTM, is a co-founder of AMSF and organizer of this conference. He teaches piano to children and adults in Washington, DC. and is the author of the popular web page MusicalFossils. He has written for other publications and addressed numerous conferences talking about issues of adult students.


presented by Phyllis Lehrer and Paul Sheftel

An exploration through discussion and performance of the classical literature for "intermediate" level piano students as well as thoughts regarding the proper preparation for the technical and musical considerations involved.

Phyllis Lehrer is a performer and author of international stature. She was a founding-member of the International Society for the Study of Tension in Performance. A frequent presenter at the World Piano Pedagogy conferences, she co-authored three anthologies with Paul Sheftel for Carl Fisher. She currently teachers at the Westminster Choir College of Rider University where she directs the graduate program in piano pedagogy.

Paul Sheftel is a well-known performer, lecturer, composer, and pioneer in the creation of instructional materials using MIDI technology. He currently teachers piano pedagogy at Julliard School and teaches many adult students in his private studio in New York City.