Ten Minutes With… Rebecca Simon

Rebecca runs a busy studio in Canberra ACT, teaching, accompanying, and coaching aspiring young (and older!) musicians. Between this, her family and juggling numerous volunteer positions in the community, Rebecca leads a full life and is learning (slowly) the art of pacing oneself. Her favourite things in no particular order are chocolate, sunsets, jazz, Mozart, learning new things, socialising, and sleep-ins.

When was your first piano lesson?
Bit hazy on this, but there is footage of me at 18 months on my mum’s lap, getting started. The lessons were sporadic as the baby siblings came along, but I gained such a love of music from Mum that I really treasure, and which influences my teaching a great deal.

Do you have any favourite memories of your teachers?
My first teacher after Mum was absolutely marvellous, filling in the numerous gaps (theory and scales especially!) and teaching me to read music properly without ever dampening my enthusiasm and love for music. I remember her entering me into an “accompaniment at sight” category at the local eisteddfod, which got me hooked for life on the adrenaline of sight reading! Other great memories include piano class at uni with the wonderful Wendy Lorenz: watching videos of Evgeny Kissin, discussing technique, scale relays, spending hour-long lessons on a handful of bars (learning the art of fine details!), and so much more.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to piano teaching as a profession.
After completing my AMusA at 16, commencing a music degree at 17, and gaining a great deal of experience in accompanying and chamber music along the way, it seemed logical to start teaching to supplement our income as newlyweds living in the very musical town of Armidale. Ten years later, I have more than tripled my teaching load and no longer rely on other day jobs! The evolution of my teaching has been constant and a journey of great discovery, right from the first student I had as a 14-year-old (which incidentally was a child with complex learning needs and ADHD, who tested my ability as a young teacher quite significantly!) to now as a mother of my own children with a large and diverse studio.

How many students do you generally teach per week? What age range do you teach?
I teach approximately 40 students a week, mostly at home, with one day spent between two local schools. My students range from five-year-old cuties to about mid-60s at the moment.

What are your go-to winners for repertoire for beginners?
I’m a huge fan of Samantha Coates’ new How To Blitz! Rote Repertoire pieces. Mixing things up and keeping a good variety is important for me as I teach a lot of beginners!

Are there any pieces that are your current favourites?
I’m loving Daniel Light’s Nocturne in E Major and am also learning Mélancolie by Poulenc, which I discovered on Spotify the other day!
What music do you listen to in your downtime?
Not enough – I forget to put it on! Our family soundtrack is varied to say the least – everything from medieval choral music to Radiohead to Bill Evans to Bach’s Cello Suites to Ben Folds. My husband is always introducing me to something new. My go-to is usually something calm and soothing to counteract the craziness of my life, although you may find my Spotify history includes Michael Jackson, Ed Sheeran and lots of The Idea of North.

What are some things you do to look after yourself as a teacher?
This is a very good question and probably something I do find tricky to fit in. My life is pretty crazy with three small children and a busy studio, but I really value professional development, keeping things fresh by reading articles, sharing ideas, and networking with teachers. Playing the piano myself just for pleasure – this is my 2019 goal. Listen, sing, remind yourself of why you love music and that will flow on to your teaching. We never stop learning!

At the end of the teaching day, what book would you pick up to read and unwind?
Let’s be real, it’s usually a quick flick through social media rather than reading a book. But among the 30 books on my bedside table at the moment, those that I’m enjoying are The Me, Me, Me Epidemic (Amy McCready), The Help (Kathryn Stockett) and It’s All Under Control (Jennifer Nicole Lee).

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