Is Annie Chen the Right Piano Teacher for You?
Get to know Annie better with this in-depth, informative interview.
Q: Hi Annie! Can you start by telling me for how long have you been
playing and teaching piano?
A: I have been playing the piano for 27 years and teaching for 19 years!
Q: For any student looking to find a music instructor, what do you feel
you bring to the table that distinguishes you from other piano teachers?
A: I taper each lesson to the student's needs! I am very patient, nurturing, and at the same time firm! I have over 18 years of teaching experience.
Q: Tell us the 3 main reasons you hear students stating for wanting to
take piano lessons.
1. The student wants to learn to play or master a favorite song or piece.
2. Adults who always wanted to learn but never had a chance as a child.
3. Parents aspiring to be able to play with their children in order to motivate them or to play ensemble.
Q: What are the most common challenges you've observed beginners facing
in learning to play piano?
1. Curving the fingers.
2. Be able to count aloud.
3. Staring at the keys/fingers at all times instead of reading the music.
Q: What is your approach to helping students overcome these challenges?
How can you help them?
1. Pretend that you are holding an orange at all times!
2. Practice with separate hands first! And work in small sections (i.e. 1 or 2 bars, or 1 phrase at a time.)
3. You're welcome to peek, but NO staring! The notes, fingerings, and dynamics are all on the music.
Q: How much time should a beginning student be ready to devote to
practicing on a weekly basis, if they want to make good progress?
A: A beginner should practice at least 5 days a week for 30 minutes per day. You can break up the 30 minutes into 2 sessions if necessary.
Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching piano to adults?
Adults are fun to teach! We have a great time in class. I always make sure that they feel they left every class having learned something!
Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching piano to children?
A: A child's yearning or thirst for knowledge is itself a motivating factor! They look up to you for approval and support. When I see the satisfaction they've gained after mastering a certain piece, their reactions and hugs create a rewarding experience for me!
Q: For parents, how long, on average, should they expect their child to
need to take music lessons before they can play their first simple tune?
A: Most of my beginner students can usually play a song by the third class! Each student learns at a different pace. The student's success is based on a combination of help from the teacher, parent, and of course the student (The Magic Triangle!).
Q: How will intermediate or advanced students benefit from coming to you
for further instruction? How can you improve their musical abilities and
satisfaction in playing the music they love?
A: An intermediate or advance student can benefit in further strengthening their technic, theory, ear training, sight reading, and music history. I register some of my students for the Certificate of Merit Evaluations (sponsored by the Music Teachers Association of California). Learning the piano is not just learning to play notes, but to become a well rounded musician!
Q: What local opportunities are there for your students to play their
instruments in a performance setting?
My students perform in two formal recitals a year, aside from many other
performance opportunities. I enroll my students in various evaluations and
competitions when I feel they're ready and prepared for the challenge. Some
of the students have gone on to perform with their high school band, musical
and played solo with the orchestra. And many local organizations in Alhambra,
Pasadena, and San Marino have called on some of my students for their holiday
Q: To take our last question a step further, are there any local musical
venues where you have performed, or any local orchestras/groups with whom you
A: Caltech's Beckman Auditorium, The Music Center,
The Newman Recital Hall (USC), Harbeson Hall (PCC), and the Donald R.
Wright Hall in Pasadena are just a few of the venues I performed in either
as a soloist or with a chamber group.
Q: Tell us about a music students you've taught who have made you really
A: Some of my students have gone on to UC Berkley, Manhattan School of
Music, UCLA, and Cal State Los Angeles.
Q: When do you know that you've succeeded with a student?
I feel a sense of achievement when I am able to witness a student completing his or her first piece. The accomplishment that student portrays as they perform their piece with confidence and enjoyment only validates my continued passion for teaching.
Q: When did your interest in music begin?
A: Music has always played an important role in my life. I was born
into a musical family. My mother was a vocalist who sang with a variety of
groups and mediums. Playing the piano has always felt natural to me.
I was seven years old when I entered my first competition. Competitions
were fun and challenging. It motivated me and the music just flowed.
I started teaching at sixteen years old. It was very rewarding to see
that I could make a difference in helping others feel the same excitement
that I felt when performing.
Q: Please tell us about your formal music education and credentials.
A: I received my Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Southern California, where I studied with Nancy Bricard, Bernandene Blaha, and James Bonn.
Q: What is the style of music you love playing best, on your own time?
A: I prefer playing Classical music for its depth and intricacies.
Q: Please share the highlights of your performance/working experience.
A: I have performed in master classes with such world-renowned artists as Nelita True, Menahem Pressler, John Perry, Cecile Ousset, and Andre Watts. Privately I have also worked with Constance Keene, Cecile Ousset (Puycelsi, France), and Bernardo Segall. I have earned many awards and honors such as first prize in the International Piano Concerto Competition of Washington D.C., the International Young Artist Peninsula Music Festival and numerous Music Teachers Association of California piano solo/chamber music competitions and scholarships. I am an active board member of the Music Teachers' Association of California-Los Angeles Branch, Music Teachers National Association, and California Association of Professional Music Teachers. I maintain an active schedule as a solo artist and keyboard collaborative performer.
Q: How has music enriched your life?
A: Teaching and music is not only a job for me, but a career which I have been blessed with. I have met many of my colleagues and friends through my interaction with music. Former students and parents of former students have become lifelong friends. This alone is reward enough for choosing music as a profession.
Q: What do you want students to get out of getting to work with you?
A: Students who work with me are taught to be independent and self motivating. I would like them to be able to teach themselves once they are out of the classroom.
Q: Can you share a free tip that prospective students can benefit from
A: Always eat a banana before a performance. It does wonders to calm your nerves.
A little something more about Annie Chen, piano teacher at Music
Teachers on Main:
Annie Chen received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Southern California, where she studied with Nancy Bricard, Bernandene Blaha, and James Bonn. Ms. Chen has performed in master classes with such world-renowned artists as Nelita True, Menahem Pressler, John Perry, Cecile Ousset, and Andre Watts. Privately she has also worked with Constance Keene, Cecile Ousset (Puycelsi, France), and Bernardo Segall. Ms. Chen's has earned many awards and honors such as first prize in the International Piano Concerto Competition of Washington D.C., the International Young Artist Peninsula Music Festival and numerous Music Teachers Association of California piano solo/chamber music competitions and scholarships. Ms. Chen is an active board member of the Music Teachers' Association of California-Los Angeles Branch, Music Teachers National Association, and California Association of Professional Music Teachers. Ms. Chen maintains an active schedule as a solo artist and keyboard collaborative performer. She is currently on the faculty of the Music Teachers on Main and Pasadena Conservatory of Music.
What students say about Annie:
"Annie Chen earned her Masters Degree in Piano Performance with me at the University of Southern California, where, for 35 years, I was a Professor and former Chair of Keyboard Studies. I found her to be an extraordinary and gifted pianist and young woman. She displayed immense talent, imagination and character. In the years following graduation she became an equally gifted teacher who is able to communicate both fundamentals and musicality to her students. Her warm and engaging personality makes her an asset to all with whom she associates." - Nancy Bricard
Professor Emeritus, Keyboard Studies
Thornton School of Music, USC
"I'm one of Annie Chen's adult piano students and have been taking lessons from her for about three years. What a wonderful teacher she is!! I feel that I've learned more working with her than I learned from much longer time spent with prior teachers. She is nurturing and patient -- but challenging at the same time.
She has encouraged me to take on more difficult pieces and to work through the occasional frustration. I am tackling pieces that I never thought I would ever play. She also conveys a very strong sense of musicality that has a broad range over diverse musical styles. And she is very practical and easy to get along with. When a lesson is over, I always feel that I've learned something and had fun. " - Allen Katz
Contact Annie Chen To Set Up Your First Piano Lesson:
Call (626) 824-3868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org