I am an adult learner living in a rural area where good piano instruction is difficult to find. I am so happy to have found Dr. Isaacs! She is an absolute gem and a master of piano pedagogy. I’ve only been studying with her since January 2014, but my weekly Skype lessons with her have brought my playing to a whole new level. I feel improvements with every lesson.
Dr. Isaacs has the extraordinary gift of identifying exactly what I’m doing wrong in each practice and each piece (by measure, almost by individual notes), then coming up with a plan to fix those problems. She breaks down the steps of each fix into digestible parts so I can I understand what to do, and practice the fix. Dr. Isaacs knows the “tricks” to break bad habits, and can identify the weak points in my technique. She helps me understand that elusive thing called “the touch” and devise practices to help me internalize and implement it in my playing. The end result is a musicality that I did not think I even possessed.
Example 1: For YEARS I have not been able to play something as simple as scales/Hanon exercises evenly. I did not even realize I was not playing them evenly. Dr. Isaacs taught me how to do the sixteenth notes finger exercises using rhythmic variations. That fixed the problem for me in 2 weeks! That sounds simple, but it was a fix that took me YEARS (+2 weeks) to fix because no one was able to give me the right “tool” to fix that problem before. My other teachers did not notice it or did not know how to teach me a workable technique to fix it. I was so happy with the unexpected results and could not believe that the fix was so “simple”.
Example 2: Years of accumulated bad habits as well as lack of good piano instructions have led to the point where I could not even hear the unevenness of my playing. Clementi would roll over in his grave. Dr. Isaacs taught me how to use the metronome correctly and how to make gradual improvements in my music with it. I have learned to respect (rather than resent) the metronome, as I slowly come to hear the errors of my playing without it. Without Dr. Isaacs’ insistence that I play and practice with the metronome in incremental tempi, I would not have stepped back to fix the root of the problem, and would continue to learn new pieces and playing them poorly for the rest of my days. Now, I learn new pieces always with the metronome at a slow tempo, then allow myself to progress up a tempo notch only after I can play perfectly at the slower tempo. I have found this incremental stepping method to be a great motivator, since I can see improvements with each practice.
It is such a wonderful thing to be able to learn from a great teacher from the comfort of my home, on my own piano, at a time convenient for me, without having to drive long distances and fight traffic. I find the Skype lessons (with a teacher like Dr. Isaacs, who knows how to teach effectively through Skype) to be not only productive and efficient, but also highly enjoyable. To me, Skype lessons are less interrupting than when there is a teacher physically present. I find it difficult to pick up the thread again when I am stopped abruptly during playing. Perhaps because it’s easier to do so in person, my piano teachers in the past interrupt me a lot as I play to point out errors whenever they occur. I think as a result, I always play in fits and starts since I was never allowed to play through, and it takes me a lot longer to complete a piece – my brain “freezes” more easily perhaps because it learned to anticipate the interruptions. In contrast, during my Skype lessons, Dr. Isaacs lets me play each the piece through, even with the mistakes. As I play, she notes the specific measures where errors occur or improvements can be made, then we come back and focus on fixing those specific measures. She explains to me what I did wrong in each part, and devises a practice plan to fix those mistakes. I find this process to be much more effective for me than constant interruption whenever an error occurs. This seems to allow my brain to process the flow of the music and absorb the changes more easily – I don’t exactly know how it works, but for me it works.
What I like most about lessons with Dr. Isaacs is that she teaches me not only how to play piano better, but also how to develop good piano practice methods and habits. I think the latter ability is exceptionally rare, and what separates a good piano teacher from a great piano teacher. Dr. Isaacs is without any doubt from me, a great teacher. I feel very fortunately to have found her and I hope to learn from her for a long time to come, and through Skype I don’t see any reason why not, even if I end up moving across the world.
Hanh, V., Florida