Lahan Music Studio YouTube Channel/by Patrick Lahan

           I just returned from visiting my family in Florida.  What a great trip!  While we were there, Sarah and I looked through some old photographs of me from when I was a child and came across some old awards and certificates.  One of my certificates reads “Award for Excellence in Piano Practice, December 18, 1989!” It also contains a saying that my first piano teacher drove into my head as a child: “Perfect practice makes perfect,” an important variation on the well-known saying.

            If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts about the book Peak, you know that the topic of practice is important to me.  The author, Anders Ericsson, coined the term “deliberate practice” to describe the kinds of techniques that people use to increase their ability at a certain skill.  One distinction between deliberate practice and less perfect types of practice is that it is goal-oriented rather than time-oriented.  This is why all of my lesson agenda items culminate in a “practice goal.” An example of a practice goal might be to play a preview spot five times every day with correct notes, fingering, and rhythm. 

            In order to help our students and parents toward their goal of “perfect” or deliberate practice, we've created a Lahan Music Studio YouTube channel.  These videos will include model performances, listening assignments and step-by-step demonstrations.  They will be clearly titled and easy to find through our website.  We hope that you find these videos helpful in your practice time!


Peak, Chapter 5: Deliberate Practice on the Job, by Patrick

            Unfortunately, the fifth chapter of Peak is probably not the most applicable for parents of music students.  Yet, the chapter could certainly be pertinent to parents’ professional lives.  The chapter tries to answer the question of what deliberate practice would look like within the professional world.  As it turns out, this is not such an easy question to answer.

            When you look at many professions, it can be difficult to determine what kind of practice goes into being successful at that particular profession.  Take business manager as an example.  How would a person construct a training regimen for business managers to improve their skill at managing a business? 

            In the introduction to this chapter, Ericsson explains that such a professional training program should look something like the Top Gun school that the Navy uses to train fighter pilots.  Think Tom Cruise as Maverick if you want to improve your skill as a business manager!  To explain simply, in the Top Gun program, up-and-coming pilots face off against experienced expert pilots in mock combat.  After each mock combat session, the experts help the younger pilots see their mistakes and strategize ways to improve.  Ericsson sees this as a model for how other professions can use the principles of deliberate practice to train employees.  He explains in detail how similar ideas have been used recently by radiologists to improve the accuracy of their diagnoses.

            Perhaps the most interesting part of this chapter to me concerns experience.  Common sense would suggest that experience leads to better results.  When choosing anything, people want to go with the most experienced candidate.  Well, in study after study performed on doctors and nurses, this common sense notion has been proven untrue.  Indeed, more experienced doctors and nurses don’t have better health outcomes than younger, more inexperienced doctors and nurses.  And it all comes back to deliberate practice!  Because it has been so long since the experienced doctors have practiced deliberately, they not only haven’t improved, but they’ve actually gotten worse! 

            While not the most relevant in terms of helping music students, this chapter gives me hope for the future.  I make no secret about my goal to be the best piano teacher in the area.  And this chapter gives me a blueprint for using the principles of deliberate practice to improve my own teaching.  This gives me confidence that I’ll be able to reach my goal!  How can you use the principles of deliberate practice to improve at your job?   

Peak, Chapter 4: The Gold Standard, by Patrick

            In the fourth chapter of Peak, Ericsson breaks down deliberate practice for the reader in a series of seven bullet points.  These bullet points help to differentiate deliberate practice from other kinds of practice that he considers less effective than the deliberate variety.  It’s important for parents of music students (and music teachers) to understand these criteria and their implications for music learning. 

            The first component of deliberate practice is that it must be done in a field or activity that is established.  Ericsson uses piano and violin instruction as examples in this chapter as both have been done for hundreds of years.  There are established principles that have been verified over many years as effective towards improvement.  Thus, it’s best to have a teacher that is familiar with these best practices in instruction to guide the way for the student. 

            The second part of deliberate practice is that it takes place outside of the student’s comfort zone.  In other words, the level of difficulty for the student should be attainable yet just out of reach.  This idea reminds me a bit of the feeling when playing a video game, like Super Mario Brothers or Angry Birds.  You always seem to get to a level that seems like you’ll never be able to beat it.  Then, finally, you do.  Two months later, you go back to that level and it seems easy by comparison.  Interestingly, that sense of frustration of not being able to pass a certain level is a fundamental part of deliberate practice, according to Ericsson.  In other words, if you are frustrated, you are probably practicing deliberately!

            The third criteria is quite impactful to me as a piano teacher: deliberate practice should be goal-oriented.  It’s quite typical for parents to ask how much their child should be practicing and expect an answer in terms of time frame.  This idea, however well meaning, isn’t quite right.  Practice should be focused on achieving specific goals, not reaching a certain time limit.  Another way to put this is that five minutes of practice that achieves a goal is worth more than ten hours of practice that doesn’t achieve a goal.  An important point on this topic is that it is incumbent on the teacher to make these practice goals as explicit and understandable as possible for the student. 

            The fourth component of deliberate practice is that it requires your full attention.  This reminded me of an anecdote from the book Famous Pianists and Their Technique.  One late nineteenth century piano method advocated playing scales while reading the Bible.  The idea was that if you could do this, then your scale playing technique was sufficient.  Well, clearly this fails as deliberate practice as it doesn’t require the student’s full attention.  It would be a better use of the student’s time to practice scales in a way that does require their full attention and puts them outside their comfort zone. 

            The fifth component of deliberate practice is feedback and modification.  This is where having an expert teacher is so important.  Teachers should be giving a lot of feedback and offering suggestions of how to modify and improve the performance.  Over time, the student will develop the ability to self-monitor and provide some of their own feedback (as their mental representations improve). 

            The sixth part of deliberate practice involves mental representations.  Deliberate practice “produces and depends” on effective mental representations.  As Ericsson describes it, deliberate practice creates a kind of glorious feedback loop.  Deliberate practice produces better mental representations, which then make it possible to improve even more.  “They show the right way to do something and allow one to notice when doing something wrong and to correct it.” 

            The last part of deliberate practice is that it involves building upon or modifying existing skills.  This is another reason why having an effective teacher is so important.  The correct skills must be put in place from the beginning if they are to be built upon properly.  An analogy would be that you don’t want to build a building on a faulty foundation.

            As a teacher, constructing assignments with deliberate practice in mind helps our students to use their time effectively and to improve their performance in an efficient manner.    

Peak, Chapter 3: Mental Representations/by Patrick

            The third chapter of Peak is one of my favorites.  Like many chapters, it begins by using a simple anecdote to describe a complex idea, mental representations.  In the early twentieth century, a chess grandmaster named Alexander Alekhine broke a world record.  He played twenty-six simultaneous games of chess against strong competitors while blind folded.  Interestingly, Alekhine never necessarily sought to be the best blind chess player in the world, just the best chess player in the world.  Yet, his practice towards becoming a great chess player also helped him in blind chess.  Ericsson argues that expert performers, like Alekhine, have detailed, nuanced, and complex mental images of their craft that they can easily recall.  These mental representations, as Ericsson calls them, allowed Alekhine to play twenty-six games at a time without even needing to see the board. 

            I particularly enjoy this chapter because of the interesting philosophical questions it raises concerning music pedagogy.  At initial meetings with parents, I’m often asked “Do you teach them to play by ear or to read music?”  This question is asked as if this is obviously a binary choice, one way or the other.  As an expert musician myself, this question has always seemed strange to me.  But, it was not until I read Peak that I understood exactly why. 

            This chapter made me think about the mental representations that are involved in musical performance at an expert level.  As I see it, there are three components that intermingle in complex ways to form our mental representations as musicians.  And the question from the previous paragraph exemplifies two of them very well! The first component is aural skills (those skills that allow us to “play by ear”).  Expert musicians usually know exactly what they want a piece of music to sound like and they can essentially stream the music in their minds.  They also understand the underlying harmonic relations in the music as their mental picture of the sound is so clear.  The second component involves note-reading and familiarity with musical notation.  Here’s an example: when I perform a piece of music from memory, it is almost as if I can see the score in my mind.  I know exactly what line I’m on.  I know where the page turns are.  I know where I’ve written a certain reminder to myself.  The score essentially scrolls through my mind as I play.  When describing this component, I’m reminded of an anecdote about Franz Liszt (often considered the greatest pianist in history).  He famously sight-read Grieg’s Piano Concerto for the composer but at a level that sounded as if he’d been practicing it for years.  In other words, Liszt’s extraordinary skill as a performer was intertwined with his super-human sight-reading ability!  The third component of our musical mental representations is similar to the bodily awareness cultivated by expert athletes and dancers.  This component could be described as kinesthetic awareness.  It’s how we move when we play or technique.  These three components mix in complex ways to form our mental representations as musicians.

            But what does all of this mean from the perspective of a teacher?  Well, I think that it means that teachers should devise ways to develop their student’s mental representations by focusing on these three areas: aural skills, sight-reading, and technique. This three-pronged approach, I think, really exemplifies the strengths (and weakness) of the Suzuki method.  Suzuki students often have highly developed aural skills because of their listening regimen.  They also have great technique because of the rote demonstrations provided by their teachers.  A perceived weakness of the method is that students could be poor readers if not introduced to notation early.  Thus, supplementing the Suzuki method with note-reading activities is essential.  Likewise, a more traditional note-reading approach could be improved by incorporating the listening activities of the Suzuki method.  In other words, there are multiple ways to teach well as long as the focus is on developing all three components: aural skills, note-reading, and technique.  Focus on these three areas, in particular, will contribute to the development of the highly complex mental representations required for performance at a high level. 

Peak, Chapter 2: Harnessing Adaptability/by Patrick

            Ericsson begins Chapter 2 with a comparison between performing physical and mental activities.  Say a person undergoes a strenuous exercise regimen.  After time, the person’s body will change.  They may lose excess fat, build muscle, improve lung capacity and other physical changes that should be expected.  But what about mental activities?  Over the last twenty years, neuroscientists have conducted a number of experiments that show that a similar change takes place in the brain when a mental activity is practiced over a period of time.  In other words, our brains adapt, change, and get stronger just like our muscles!

            Interestingly, one of the groundbreaking studies that proved the brain’s adaptability wasn’t done on mathematicians, concert pianists, or chess grandmasters, but on London cab drivers.  As Ericsson recounts, learning your way around London is a feat and the entrance exam to become a London cab driver is one of the most tests in the world.  Many people attempt this exam but never pass it.  A scientist studied the brains of London cab drivers and compared them to the brains of people who had tried to pass the test and failed and also people who had never attempted the test.  The study showed that those that had passed the London cab driver’s test had noticeably larger hippocampi (a section of the brain).  Other tests have yielded similar results.  For example, tests of musicians’ brains show higher levels of gray matter than non-musicians.  This shows that our brains (like our bodies) are highly adaptable and can change based on what we ask it to do!

            To harness this mental adaptability, we have to overcome a major obstacle: homeostasis.  Homeostasis is the tendency for a system to act in a way that maintains its own stability.  An example of this would be if a person ran as fast as they could for 30 seconds.  Their heart rate and breathing would rapidly increase.  But, eventually, it would return to normal.  For physical changes to take place (in our muscles or our brains), Ericsson says that we must push ourselves consistently past this point of homeostasis.  This requires a physical change or response from the body (or brain).  To go back to the example I just used, say a person wanted to be able to sprint for 5 minutes straight rather than just 30 seconds.  Consistently engaging in this more strenuous activity will probably require physical changes in the body.  The same is true for our brains.  We must push ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to harness the adaptability of our brain.  The best way to do this, according to Ericsson, is through deliberate practice!

Peak, Chapter 1: Purposeful Practice vs. The Usual Approach/by Patrick

            The first chapter of Peak begins by recounting a twentieth century phenomenon.  Ericsson calls it “the rise of extraordinary performers.”  Basically, over the course of the twentieth century, various records and accomplishments across disciplines have been shattered.  He lists several examples.  In 1908, the world record for marathon running was just under three hours.  Since then, that record has been improved upon by about fifty minutes!  Indeed, the 1908 world record time only just qualifies a runner for the Boston Marathon today.  He also mentions Alfred Cortot, the French pianist.  His early twentieth century recording of the Chopin Etudes was once considered definitive.  Now, it’s considered sloppy.  These are just two examples, though there are many, many more. 

            Ericsson believes that the reason why expert performers have so dramatically increased their abilities in the twentieth (and 21st) century is because teaching and learning approaches have improved.  His thesis is that these expert performers simply engage in more “deliberate practice” than non-experts.  In Chapter 1, Ericsson describes the difference between the practice that most people engage in and the kind that actually leads to improvement.  He calls these two types of practice the “usual approach” and “purposeful practice.” 

            Everyone is familiar with the “usual approach.”  Here’s how it works.  First, you take up a hobby.  Then, you spend time practicing and repeating various aspects of it, quickly improving.  Then, at same point, you reach a level that you consider acceptable.  Maybe that means you can play the first few measures of Fur Elise on the piano, speak a few phrases in German, or hold your own with your friends in a basketball game.  Ericsson writes: “But there is one very important thing to understand here: once you have reached this satisfactory skill level and automated your performance, you have stopped improving.  People often misunderstand this because they assume that the continued driving or tennis playing or pie baking is a form of practice and that if they keep doing it they are bound to get better at it, slowly perhaps, but better nonetheless….But no. Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of ‘acceptable’ performance and automaticity, the additional years of ‘practice’ don’t lead to improvement.” In order to improve past this point, it takes something more than the usual approach. 

            Ericsson then describes “purposeful practice,” a better strategy than the usual approach (but still not as exacting as “deliberate practice”).  Ericsson identifies four characteristics of purposeful practice. The first: “Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals.”  Of the four characteristics, I believe that this one is the most important for music teachers to consider.  Students are too often given vague, unclear, or goal-less practice assignments.  It is my sincere belief that giving specific, goal-oriented practice assignments is one of the best things we can do as teachers.  The second characteristic of purposeful practice is that it is focused.  Going through the motions won’t cut it and won’t lead to improvement.  Playing your favorite piece over and over again won’t lead to improvement.  The third characteristic is that purposeful practice involves feedback.  This is another area where having a good teacher is beneficial.  It often takes an experienced teacher to notice the specific areas that deserve the most attention.  Lastly, purposeful practice “requires getting out of one’s comfort zone.”  For piano teaching, this characteristic is important in two ways that come to mind.  The first is that to improve you need to focus the most attention on the parts that are the most difficult.  The second is that repertoire should be chosen that is slightly more difficult than what the student can currently play.  This keeps the student out of their comfort zone. 


The following are four piano teaching scenarios that demonstrate each of the characteristics of purposeful practice in a positive way.  See if you can tell which of the principles is demonstrated by each scenario. 


Scenario 1, Teacher: “Your goal for this week is to improve your rhythmic accuracy in the A section of this piece.  Use the strategies (tapping, counting aloud, using syllables, listening to a recording, etc.) that we discussed in your lesson to help.  You will have achieved your goal if you can play the A section with consistently (greater than 90%) accurate rhythm.” 


Scenario 2, Student: “At first, I thought the piece that my teacher assigned was really hard.  I especially had trouble with the octaves in the right hand.  But, after working on it for several months, I can play it much better and I feel like I’ve improved.” 


Scenario 3, Student’s parent: “At my child’s lesson, the teacher makes many comments that are both specific and constructive about the performance.  This helps us to know what can be improved.” 


Scenario 4, Student: “When I’m practicing, I’m concentrating on something specific.  Like in this spot, I’m thinking about how it feels to move my hand both quickly and effortlessly.  I have to use my full concentration when I’m doing this kind of practice.” 

Intrinsic motivation and goal setting, i.e. how to get anything done when I am my own boss/ Sarah

I can remember just a few months ago when I wanted nothing more in the world than a few days off: the time to do some deep practice, exercise regularly, read, and rest. I am thrilled to be making my own schedule and building the studio I have long envisioned, but now I'm feeling a bit aimless with no deadlines but my own! I imagine my friends from music school felt similarly after graduation with no weekly lessons or looming recital dates kick us into gear. My first year of school teaching felt like just "putting out the fires;" there was so much to do, I always had something that was an emergency that needed to get done! It is much more difficult to be productive without that immediate pressure.

I must confess that I am a master procrastinator; I've never been able to finish a school paper before the night before it was due. I'm infinitely fascinated by Meyers-Briggs personality types, and I wonder if I'm predisposed to operate this way (I'm an INFP), although I know we can all build good habits regardless of our natural tendencies. Still, my Meyers-Briggs type is eerily accurate. Perceiving types tend to focus on big ideas, while Judging types love checking off the to-do list. I enjoy the feeling of getting things done, but I often get swept away dreaming up big ideas and then lose interest when it comes to actually executing the details. In violin playing, this has meant getting excited about lots of different repertoire and only half learning or polishing it before getting distracted by something else. I'm currently trying to brush up on orchestra excerpts and the first movement of the Mendelssohn concerto for future auditions, learn and memorize the Bach g minor solo sonata for an unscheduled future recital, learn a new Beethoven sonata to play with Patrick, and polish the Brahms G major sonata again for another performance. I'm hoping that by putting it out on the internet, I will now hold myself accountable!

Now that I have all the time I could ask for, I'm trying to figure out how to stay motivated and productive. The following are some strategies I'm implementing for myself that I hope will help my students as well.

1. Lock the phone away. I'm addicted to my iPhone and the constant stream of information. I'm a political junkie and I can't look away from this crazy election cycle. I constantly scroll Twitter for the latest updates. We're networking and growing our new business, and I constantly check my email for responses to the messages I've sent. I unconsciously switch between my apps and refresh ones I just looked at a minute ago. Of course there are benefits to the smartphone culture, like being able to connect with friends at all hours of the day and being more informed about what is going on in the world. I hate feeling like a zombie, though, and it's hard for me to practice for 5 minutes without picking up my phone. I love my music apps like Tunable, but it is worth investing in an old-fashioned metronome and tuner to get the phone off your music stand! I've been putting my phone in the other room and only letting myself check it once per hour. And let's have sympathy for our poor students who have never known life before the instant gratification of smartphones; I'm totally addicted and they didn't come out until I was in college! Still, I know I just wasted time in other ways growing up...

2. Schedule performances. I have plenty of grand ambitions about getting out there and performing and learning new repertoire. I suppose I've been waiting until I feel ready, but there is no better motivation than setting a date! Now that I've put it out there, I guess I have to do it. Stay tuned!

The Greater Baltimore Music Teachers Association holds a "matinee" get-together the first Wednesday of every month where they perform for each other. Patrick and I attended our first at the beginning of the month, and it was such a warm environment to ease back into performing and test out new repertoire. We are so grateful to our kind new colleagues for welcoming us and we look forward to attending these meetings regularly.

It is also so important to get our students playing as much as possible, even in casual settings. Regular group/studio classes are great for performance practice and for building a sense of community in the studio. I'm also looking forward to having my students perform for the ASTA certificate exams, a great opportunity to measure progress and get feedback.

I was also excited to learn about the CLEF project based in Baltimore. They perform at nursing homes in the area about twice a month, and any student can volunteer to play. I can't wait for my students to participate as a way to get performance practice and give back to the community. Check them out at

3. If you can't make yourself do it, get a buddy to hold you accountable! I started doing YouTube yoga last August when I moved to Oklahoma. I'm not an athlete and I've struggled to find a physical activity that doesn't make me wish for a swift death, so I was delighted find that I was really enjoying beginning yoga. Patrick and I started Yoga with Adriene's 30 Day Challenge. Once I got into the school year, I had days when I did not want to do the yoga video when I got home. I had woken up at 5 am, taught a full school day, taught Suzuki lessons after school, and just wanted to collapse on the couch and watch Netflix. Patrick held me accountable, though, and made me do it every day even when I yelled at him for it. And at the end of 30 days, I felt stronger and healthier and so accomplished. Then, Patrick decided yoga wasn't his favorite and I started just doing it on my own. When I did the 30 day challenge again later in the year, it took me 3 months to get through it! The moral of the story is sometimes we need the support of our friends and sometimes it's just more enjoyable that way.

Get a practice buddy and tell them your goals for the day. Check in with each other. Send each other videos. A little shame can go a long way! Who wants to be my practice partner?!

4. Remember that excellence is the culmination of a lot of mundane work. The most important ingredient in achievement is just showing up consistently. Every day. For YEARS. We got to see the dazzling feats of the Olympians in Rio this summer, but what we didn't see was them showing up to practice and doing their drills and workouts. For hours. Every day. For YEARS.

Again, I am impatient and easily distracted. I get annoyed when I have practiced a tricky passage the way I know I'm supposed to and it isn't perfect that very day. An inspiration to me in regular, consistent practice is my former roommate Kristin. I heard her do the same Carl Flesch warm-up in the room above me every day. For YEARS. And girlfriend is on FIRE! She plays beautifully in tune! She wins auditions! It is important to stay engaged and fresh, constantly evaluating our practice, but there is no substitute for that daily technique work. I must always remind myself to find joy in the daily routine and know that it is laying the foundation for something greater.

These are some strategies I am trying out to guide my practice now that I'm the only one in charge of my growth, and I'm hoping that putting them into action will help me guide my students better, too. I'd love to hear your ideas! 


Peak's Introduction: The Gift/by Patrick

           We’ve all seen people that astound us with their abilities.  Considering we’ve just had the Olympics and we’re in Baltimore, Michael Phelps comes to mind.  It’s common when seeing these amazing abilities, people react by saying that they’re “gifted” or have a “gift.”  Ericsson, the author of Peak, agrees that these people do have a gift.  But it’s not the gift that most people assume!

            To make his point, Ericsson uses Mozart and a recent study performed in Japan as an example.  Mozart possessed absolute pitch (often referred to as perfect pitch), an ability where a person can remember and identify a single pitch without any reference to another pitch.  It’s a relatively rare ability, so rare that it is perfectly reasonable to assume that some lucky people are just born with this rare gift.  Indeed, this was the general consensus concerning perfect pitch for the last few hundred years.    

            Yet, a study conducted in Japan in 2014 directly refutes this idea.  A Japanese psychologist studied 24 children aged two to six years old.  He devised a simple system designed to teach them to have absolute pitch.  I won’t get into the details of the system or the study too much, but the result was that at the end of the training with the children, every single one of them had developed absolute pitch (this is why the development of aural skills especially in younger students is such an important part of our teaching philosophy).  Thus, it can’t be an innate ability that a person is born with if every single child can be taught to develop it! 

            So, to get back to the opening, Ericsson writes that there is a gift, but it’s not the gift that we assume.  He writes: “In short, perfect pitch is not the gift, but, rather, the ability to develop perfect pitch is the gift – and, as nearly as we can tell, pretty much everyone is born with that gift.” 

            The rest of the book goes on to describe the implications of this idea beyond just perfect pitch.  After researching expertise for over thirty years, Ericsson has found that everyone is born with the ability to develop skill as long as they go about it in an effective way.  This has huge implications for how we understand concepts like talent and also for how parents might raise their children.  It’s also why Sarah and I know that each and every one of our students has the potential to play with artistry and ease.  I’ll continue blogging about Chapter One and “purposeful practice” in the next couple of weeks.      

Parental Education and Peak/By Patrick

           Over the past two years, Sarah and I have been brainstorming about what we can focus on in our studio to help our students reach their highest potential.  One of these is parental education.  We are committed to cultivating intelligent musicians with the help of supportive and helpful parents.    

            In particular, I’m hoping to contribute to parental education by using this blog space to discuss one important book each semester.  The parents in my studio will be invited to read the book along with me and contribute to my blog posts with their own comments and insights.  The books that I choose will sometimes deal with music, but will more often delve into broader issues of education and parenting.  I’m proud that the first book that we will read as part of this parental education program is Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. 

            Peak is different from other books that I’ve read in my time studying pedagogy.  While many of the books that I've read are filled with anecdotes and pseudo-science, Peak is based on research.  And the implications of this research are truly encouraging.  Peak makes me excited to be a teacher and I can’t wait to convey the important findings in it to the parents in my studio. 

            Anders Ericsson, the author of Peak, is a psychologist at my alma mater, Florida State University.  He has spent the last thirty or so years studying a new academic area that he calls the “science of expertise.”  If you could boil down his research into one statement that defines this burgeoning field, it would be something like “innate talent doesn’t exist.”  In other words, no one is born with exceptional skills in certain areas. 

            Well, you might be saying “what about those prodigies that I’ve seen on TV or read about in books?”  Excellent question!  Ericsson debunks this idea using perhaps the most famous example of a prodigy: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  If we look more closely at Mozart’s actual biography (and not just the mystique surrounding his genius), the picture is not one of innate talent but one of consistent, systematic, and deliberate training. 

            Mozart’s father, Leopold, wrote one of the first treatises on violin playing and he had practiced his teaching skills extensively on Mozart’s older sister, Nannerl.  So, by the time Mozart was three, Leopold began teaching young Mozart full time.  By the time Mozart was six or seven and performing for kings and emperors, Ericsson estimates that Mozart had probably accumulated several thousand hours of musical practice. 

            Ask yourself: do I think I could develop significant skill in an area if I spent several thousand hours practicing it?  The answer for almost everyone is “yes,” which is why I found Peak so uplifting!  As Ericsson explains, the secret to acquiring skill isn’t innate talent but how much time you spend doing what he calls “deliberate practice.”  With enough good training, anyone can become an expert.  I’ll be blogging more about Peak and deliberate practice in the coming weeks as Sarah and I get ready to start our first semester here in Catonsville.         



We've arrived in Music City, Maryland! / By Sarah

After a long, long drive and plenty of heavy lifting, we're finally settled in Catonsville! We chose this spot because of it's proximity to Baltimore and Ellicott City, and we couldn't be happier. It has tons of character and charm and we're so close to everything! It's great to be back on the East Coast near my family and friends again, although I am sure I will feel a pang as my former students in Oklahoma start school in the coming weeks.

Last week, I was privileged to play in an original fantasy rock musical called Magic Under Glass, composed by Michael Kline and performed by the outstanding Toby's Teen Professional Theatre. I dusted off my electric violin and had a blast collaborating with the band through a much different process than I am used to. Mike gave me the freedom to create some of my own parts based on the chord charts, which I have not done much in the past, but I had a great time watching the material grow throughout the rehearsal week and adding my own touches to it. It was a truly memorable and engaging experience, and I look forward to playing on the soundtrack soon!

Over the past two weeks, we've set up the house and studio space and started meeting with some wonderful prospective families. Patrick and I have been talking for years about opening a studio and the type of program we envision. Our goal is not for every student to become a professional musician, but for each student to deeply develop a skill to their fullest potential. In developing well-rounded musicianship, students will gain confidence, build a skill they can enjoy for a lifetime, and understand the process of developing expertise, which can be applied to any discipline. A point from Robert Duke's book Intelligent Music Teaching really resonated with me: no matter the level, the goals for the student are always the same- to play well, with good posture, good tone, accurate rhythm, in tune, and expressively. Only the difficulty of the repertoire changes. Even if the child is playing "Mississippi Hot Dog" on open E, they are capable of meeting those goals, and it is our job as teachers to help them meet those standards every step of the way because they can. We will delve deeper into our teaching approach in later blog posts, including our focus on deliberate practice. We're hoping to fill our studio this fall, so spread the word! :) 




Our first blog post!/by Patrick Lahan

I'm so excited to share our first blog post with everyone!  Sarah and I have been planning this endeavor for over two years now and things are just starting to come into focus.  On Monday, I will defend my dissertation.  Assuming things go as planned, I will officially be Dr. Lahan in less than 48 hours!  Then, on Friday, Sarah and I start the drive to Maryland (podcast suggestions are welcomed).  By Sunday, just over a week away, we'll be in our new house in Catonsville.

As if the next week won't be crazy enough, I'm sure the next two months are going to be a real ride.  We've already put in so much work towards getting this studio off the ground and it seems like we're only starting to scratch the surface of everything that we need to do.  We've got to form an LLC, buy insurance, contact everyone on the planet, draft documents, meet parents, plan curricula, get my piano shipped from Florida, plan our wedding.....plenty of stuff, I'd say. It will be fun to share a little bit of that process on this blog and we hope that you enjoy following along.  

Sarah and I would really appreciate any feedback on this website now that it is up and running.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please let us know.  We're hoping to have some better pictures to add to it soon.  Also, we are now accepting students for the coming school year.  Our fall semester will officially start at the end of August/beginning of September but we would like to start interviewing students and parents in the next couple of weeks.  If you know anyone in the Baltimore/DC area that is looking for excellent music teaching from expert teachers, please send them our way.  Until then, keep an eye out for more posts from us.  You can follow us Facebook and Instagram (@lahanstudio).  We'll be on Twitter, Snapchat, and other media sites shortly.