In August, we’d like to showcase Wade Stoneback, a particularly successful piano teacher at our Lebanon Campus. Wade has been with us for several years. He teaches a great variety of musical styles, and his students love him. In below interview, Wade talks about his approach to teaching and his musical interests.
You are a very popular piano instructor at our Lebanon location. What is your teaching secret and how do you keep your students motivated to practice? I think it is important to work on pieces of music that the students are interested in. I love when students approach me with a song that they want to learn. I have some students who want to learn either a certain Bach piece or Chopin piece, but other students who may want to learn the new “21 Pilots” song they heard on the radio. Certainly the Lesson books are important (and still must be incorporated into piano practice), but we can take the concepts they are learning from the Lesson books and apply them to whatever piece they want to learn. If a student is truly motivated to learn a piece of music of their own choosing, then practice at home will come naturally.
When did you start playing piano and why did you choose this particular instrument? I didn’t start playing piano until I was in 9 th grade. I played trumpet since 4 th grade, but I wanted to learn the piano when I really started listening to music more and more on the radio. I loved that classic sound of hearing a singer accompany themselves on the piano. No matter what the song, I was drawn to the ones that had piano or synthesizer in them.
What is your favorite composer and why? Mozart is my favorite composer. He was the master of writing melodies that are not only very complex, but also very pleasing to listen to. Also, because Mozart’s music is so flowing and eloquent, many listeners think it must be easy to perform. However, it is one thing to be able to read through a Mozart piano sonata, but it is a different matter entirely to play it well.
You also teach popular music. Who is your favorite performing artist and why? My favorite artist is Billy Joel. He not only is a great composer, but also a very gifted performer. Many times on stage he is playing a very complex piano part while at the same time singing a melody – very hard to do, but he makes it look so easy. Having said that, I am also very inspired by the great Progressive Rock artists of the 70’s and 80’s - great bands like Rush, Styx, Kansas, Yes, and Genesis. Their style of writing is very majestic, and their use of piano and synthesizers in their music made me perceive the keyboard as a very “cool” instrument.
What do you enjoy most about teaching piano lessons? I love seeing the spark in a student’s eye when they get it - meaning that “a-ha” moment when a musical concept sinks in and a student has an understanding of what is going on musically. I love teaching the theory behind what a piece of music is trying to say – it’s like music dissection, very rewarding.
What is the biggest challenge for music teachers? The biggest challenge for me is teaching a student who is taking lessons not because they want to, but only because their parents want them to. Musical success always has to come from within the individual. I have never had success with a student who has no desire to play.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? I like the fact that as I teach, there are also other teachers teaching students in other studios at the same time. There’s a feeling of camaraderie among the teachers and students. When walking through the hall, it’s fun to hear other students learning their instruments. It’s great to be part of a staff that is passing on their love of music to others. It’s definitely a musical family that I’m glad to be part of.
Other than music, what are your interests and hobbies? Spending time with my wife and daughter… and watching every NY Mets game that I can!