Theresa Dwyer is a pianist and piano teacher. Located in Grahamstown, South Africa, she offers in person and online lessons in piano, music theory and general music knowledge.
Theresa obtained her BMus degree at The South African College of Music, UCT, majoring in Piano Performance under Prof Francois du Toit and Mr Jose Dias and Music Theory under Prof Hendrik Hofmeyr. She has also completed courses in Chamber Music under Prof Albie van Schalkwyk, Kodály teaching method under James Cuskelly (Australia) and Piano Teaching Method under Dr Justin Krawitz. Since graduating, Theresa has continued her piano studies privately with Emeritus Prof Albie van Schalkwyk as she believes it is important to keep advancing her level of playing.
Although Theresa studied performance at university, she discovered in her final year of studies that she was also passionate about teaching and inspiring students in their love of music. Since then she has put most of her effort into becoming a good piano teacher and continues to study as many different teaching ideals and philosophies as she can discover. Besides taking inspiration from her many personal teachers, Theresa has used and adapted the philosophies of many great mentors of whose books she has read. These include most especially, Maria Montessori, Shinichi Suzuki, Zolten Kodály, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and W. Timothy Galway. Theresa has also learnt a lot from the many students she has taught over the years. With 10 years teaching experience, Theresa has realised that no two students are alike, and is constantly adapting her teaching style to suit the needs of each individual student.
Theresa specialises in very young beginner piano students – from around 4 years of age, or even younger - and adult beginners. However, she offers one on one or group lessons to students of all ages and levels. The wide variety of ages and levels that she teaches, keeps her inspired to constantly find new and better ways of getting information across to a particular student, and lessons with Theresa are certainly never boring.
Very Young Beginners
Many piano teachers will not take on students under the age of 7, and many schools don’t offer piano lessons to students unless they are in at least grade 2 or 3. However, Theresa believes that the best age to start learning to play the piano is around age 4. Over the years, Theresa has developed a strong method for teaching piano to young beginners, and is constantly amazed be the abilities of this age group to understand music and to concentrate during lessons.
Many adults wish they had learnt piano as a child but believe it is now too late to start. However, in Theresa’s experience, no one is too old to learn piano. Contrary to popular belief, adult piano students learn, on average, faster than children and are only hindered by their impatience and their disbelief in their own abilities. Learning to play the piano requires much coordination and fine motor skills, as well as many other aspects of the brain, and is difficult for everyone. However, with patience and perseverance, Theresa believes that everyone has the ability to achieve skill in piano playing.
Adults Other Levels
Most adults who have learnt piano at school, either for a few years or throughout their entire schooling, never play again once leaving school. Theresa finds this sad as the ability to play the piano is such a beautiful skill to have, and one that can bring joy through your entire life. It’s time to come back to that skill which you put so much time and effort into in your younger years. Whether to play just for yourself, play with friends, or even do exams as an older student, the possibilities are all there for you.
School age students – all levels
Whether wanting to take music seriously and take music examinations or learn piano “just for fun” (or anything in between), Theresa offers tailor made music lessons to suit your needs. Have fun while training your brain in this special skill that will bring you joy throughout your life.
Many people are dubious about the idea of online piano lessons. Before the COVID 19 pandemic which necessitated online learning, Theresa herself never believed it could be possible to teach piano online. However, she has changed her mind over the last few years and has discovered the many pros to online learning. Theresa now teaches students from all over the world thanks to online possibilities. If you are still not sure that online will work for you, sign up for a free trial lesson and test it out.
The advantage of group lessons
Theresa offers one-on-one and group lessons to music students of all ages and levels. Groups are small with never more than six at a time. There are many advantages to learning piano in a group class. Some of these advantages include:
- Learn Ensemble Playing: Piano can be a lonely instrument to learn and many piano students end up playing only solo their entire lives. However, the ability to play in a group is often not only more fun, but more useful.
- Learning with friends: It is often more motivating to learn piano along with others than to learn alone. Many piano students battle with feelings of isolation and loose motivation to practise. However, the group aspect of lessons not only makes the lessons themselves more fun, but provides a healthy competition among the students and motivation to practise often increases.
- Financially easier: One-on-one piano lessons can become quite expensive. Although you are probably paying your piano teacher less than your psychologist, those hourly rates do add up. Group lesson rates are lower than individual, one-on-one lessons.
A 20-30 assessment lesson is available for all potential private students free-of-charge. This provides an opportunity to consider the best lesson options for the individual student, and also for the student to decide whether s/he wishes to take regular lessons. This session does not bind the student to any obligation to continue with lessons.
For information and to arrange initial assessment, please contact Theresa.
- Maximum eight students per class
- Classes take place in person in Grahamstown
- Classes run for the first eight weeks of each quarterly school term
- Cost per class per term: R 640
- Discounted rate for students who sign up for three or more classes: R 480 per class
- Term 3 dates: July 17-September 10
Scales, chords and improvisation
A perfect class for those who want to learn how music works, this class teaches students how music is constructed so that they are able to make their own music at the piano, better understand music by other composers and become comfortable with the “grammar” of music. No prior knowledge of music is needed.
In this class students have an opportunity to play pieces with others – up to eight people playing on up to four pianos at once! Students learn to work together with other musicians, developing rhythmic and other skills needed for playing music in a group. This class is designed for both students who are complete beginners and those who have some prior music knowledge
This class teaches the skill of reading and playing music notes at sight. Starting from absolute basics and building up from there, students will cover all the basic patterns needed for processing the music as they read. This class is Suitable for both students who are complete beginners and those who have some prior music knowledge
Music Theory 1
This class covers the basics of music theory from beginner to ABRSM grade 5 level
Music Theory 2
This class covers harmony, chord progressions, chromatic alteration, modulation, and analysis. A basic knowledge of music theory is required in order to register for Music Theory 2
Following the ABRSM syllabus, this class covers aural skills from grades 1 to 5 level.
This class introduces more efficient ways of practising by giving students techniques to learn more pieces in less time, memorise music correctly and efficiently and cope with learning music in real life situations. This is taught in a practical way where students solve problems found in actual pieces they are working on. This class is suitable for students who have already had at least 1-2 years of piano lessons and are playing at around grade 1-7 level
Exam and Solo Repertoire
This class is designed for students either working towards a piano exam, or for students learning specific solo repertoire for fun. Students need to arrive for this class with a piece or pieces either partly or fully learnt and be prepared to play to and discuss the pieces with the teacher and other members of the group. This class is suitable for students who have already had at least 1-2 years of piano lessons and are playing at around grade 1-7 level
Piano and General Music Knowledge
This class is aimed at younger students who have no prior musical training. Students are introduced to a variety of skills including piano technique, listening, singing, rhythmic skills and how to read music. Students learn to play and sing fun and simple songs in an encouraging environment. This class is a great preparation for students who wish to go on to take external graded music examinations as well as for students who want to learn the beautiful skill of piano playing for their own enjoyent. Parents are encouraged to sit in on this class and join in the fun
My main goal as a music teacher is to make lessons a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for all. I believe that every child (and adult) has the ability and the right to learn music, and that music is an essential part of education. There are more and more scientific studies being done which show the benefits of music lessons to the brain. Music lessons also enhance such skills as creativity, self-discipline, coordination, problem solving and emotional intelligence.
I love teaching. I wish to inspire others as I have been inspired by my own music teachers. I believe that education should be a two-way process, with input from both teacher and student. The private, one-on-one aspect of music lessons gives me the opportunity of getting to know each student personally, so that together we can follow what for each is a unique and individual journey into the art of music making.
I am fascinated by the educational practices of others and have read extensively on many pedagogues' philosophies and methods of education. I draw on many of these and my own teachers’ methods, as well as my previous experience as a teacher, when planning and executing lessons for individual students.
As a piano teacher, I shy away from teaching just “piano” but rather strive to teach music as a whole. I therefore incorporate into lessons, over and above of the usual subjects of piano technique, sight-reading and aural skills, aspects such as theory and history of music, philosophy and psychology of music, music appreciation and the art of practising. Every student has his/her own individual interest in different aspects of music, and I endeavour to provide a stimulating and exciting grounding in any of these that prove attractive.
I accept students of any age. One is never too young or too old to benefit from a music education; whether one wishes to take music "seriously" and become a musician, or to do music "for fun" as an extra mural activity, to pick up those music lessons that you haven’t had since childhood, or to start completely from the beginning. Every student has their own reason for wishing to learn the art of music, and as a teacher, my purpose is to provide the foundation and the opportunity for that student to start the journey.
At what age can a child start music lessons?
At any age. The renown pedagogue, Shi’nichi Suzuki, taught what he coined the ‘mother tongue’ approach. He believed that children should learn music as they learn to speak their native language. In order to do this, one must start as young as possible. However, just as it is possible for a person to learn a language later in life, it is also possible to learn music from any age.
Am I too old to start piano lessons?
No! Anyone can benefit from the joys of music lessons. I teach age-appropriate lessons that will help you determine best what you want to get out of learning the art.
Do I have to have a piano at home?
It is advisable that you have regular access to a piano in order to practise, either at your home, school or work, or at a friend’s house. Regular practise is an integral part of learning music, and you will not get very far without it.
The amount of time you spend practising is very much determined by your individual needs and goals, and will be different for every person. I advise daily practise for everyone wishing to advance consistently, but this can be anything from 5 minutes a day to 5 hours a day, depending on the individual. Always remember that it is not about the hours you put in, but the quality of the practise session that is important (eg. How focused you are, how clear your goals are, and whether you are having fun). This is something we will discuss in lessons.
How long are lessons?
Lessons are 30, 45 or 60 minutes depending on your age, level, goals and time constraints. The length of the lesson is something we will discuss and decide in your initial assessment lesson.
And how often?
Again, this is something we will decide once we have established your needs. Regular lessons of once or twice a week are the norm.
What about exams?
We have three external music examination boards in this country, UNISA, Trinity Guildhall, and ABRSM. Any of these can be taken should a student wish. Although I believe exams can be useful for a music education, they are not always essential, and can sometimes be destructive. Again, it is entirely dependent on your individual needs, as to whether or not you decide to take exams. This is something we will discuss in the assessment lesson.
What about music theory?
I believe studying music theory is essential to helping with the understanding of music. I therefore incorporate basic music theory into practical piano lessons where appropriate. However, I don’t wish practical lessons to become too theoretical. For those interested in exploring theory further, or needing help with passing a music theory exam, I offer private or group music theory lessons and tutorials.
You say everyone has the ability to learn music. Then why do you need an assessment lesson?
The assessment lesson is there to assess your level and goals, not to decide whether you have ability or not. I use the assessment lesson to work out long and short term plans, to discuss what your aim in taking music lessons is, and to get to know you personally. The lesson is also there to help you decide whether or not you want me to be your teacher.
Do you believe in talent?
There is no doubt that there are some people who have more of a natural ear or a natural technique for music than others. However, that does not mean that it is not possible for anyone to learn music. In my experience, enthusiasm always trumps talent in the long run. Those who are enthusiastic and persistent have the advantage over those who are naturally talented in the end, for they have had to work hard and think more deeply in order to progress, and therefore have a more thorough understanding of the art. Always remember that everyone is different. You should be pursuing music for the sake of music, not in order to compare yourself to others.
Do you teach any other genre of music apart from Western classical?
No. I have been trained almost exclusively in Western classical music. It is the genre that touches me the most, and that I feel I understand the best. Although I appreciate other genres of music, as I appreciate other mediums of art, I am not qualified or knowledgeable enough about these to teach them. Nor do I wish to be, as there is still so much to explore in my own genre.
What about African music? Is that not important, seeing as we live in Africa?
Yes, African music is extremely important. As are Jazz, fine art, wood carving, and dance. One might just as well ask me to teach in all of those mediums. I believe that any art can touch any person, regardless of culture. Those with an interest in African music should certainly study it further, but with an African music expert. I love western classical music in a way that I will never love any other medium of art, and I wish to inspire students to feel that love as I do.
People say classical music is dying out. Is it not too old fashioned an idea to take classical piano lessons?
No one can answer this question as well as the English conductor Benjamin Zander. Rather than try and explain it myself, I suggest you watch this 20 minute talk he did for TED in 2008. He explains classical music in a way that will make you see it in a new light, and if you have any interest in the subject, I guarantee you will not have wasted your time by watching it. www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion?language=en.
What is my role as a parent in my child’s music education?
For the younger students, I encourage parental involvement. This can be helpful, though it is not essential, for the very young child. If as a parent you have never played an instrument yourself, why not take the opportunity of learning alongside your child, and explore the joy of music making together? Alternatively, if one has the time, sitting in on lessons in a discreet and non-invasive way, can be of huge benefit to a child’s morale and enthusiasm.
You mentioned the benefits of music to the brain?
Science is showing more and more the benefits of regular music lessons to the brain. Here are some links to a few of the many articles available on the subject.
Phone: +27 (0)76 727 7225
Please provide us with all the days and times you are available for the initial trial lesson. The more options you give, the more chance you have of getting a trial. Please see the FAQ page for any questions you might have. Additional questions will be answered at the trial class.