Piano teacher works with people with disabilities

February 28, 2008 10:51:22 AM PST
A Barrington piano instructor is able to teach over the telephone. He is also able to adapt his teaching for people with disabilities.

Six years ago, Mark Miller created the Distance Learning Jazz Piano Institute. Most of his students live all over the world, so Miller has rarely had the opportunity to watch them play.

Chris Guintoli lives in Walnut Creek, California. One year ago, he started taking piano lessons from Mark. Chris has macular degeneration.

"It's actually the preferred method for me, not having to strain and try to look at sheet music, but to have Mark walk me through and literally have both of us using our ears," Chris said. "I find, you know, much less stress, and it's almost as if we're on the same playing field. And it's amazing how he can pick up over the phone little, you know, if I miss one key in the chord he know exactly what I did and can redirect me."

Mark has been playing the piano for more than 40 years.

"Basically my ears are my eyes," Mark said. "I can hear what they're playing because of my training, and so when they're playing I basically call them on the cordless phone and they pick up their cordless phone. And then they put on their headset. And they walk over to the piano, and that allows me to instruct them, because I'm listening to the piano while they're playing but I'm also speaking to them in their ear."

Sloan Morris has juvenile macular degeneration. He visited Mark in Barrington for her first piano lesson, but his future lessons will be taught over the telephone.

"I was looking to pursue a hobby I could do at my own pace, in my own home, and just grow with it," Sloan said.

"Some of my students have played before, but they were never taught chords, and really chords are the most expeditious way to play the piano," said Mark.

Andrew Scarr lives in Cincinnati. He plays with one hand.

"I have mild cerebral palsy from birth, so I have some issue controlling the left side of my body," Andrew said.

He has taken a few lesson from Mark, who has written one-handed arrangements for him.

"The piece I play completely with my right hand. It's been very nice to be able to adapt the music to my right hand and make it sound so good," said Andrew.

The cost for an hour piano lesson is $90.

For more information on the Distance Learning Jazz Piano Institute, go to www.pianoweb.com. Or you can e-mail markmiller@pianoweb.com or call (847) 382-6308.