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10 February 2010


To The Prospective Student,


In August 2005, at the beginning of my first lesson with Claude, I vividly remember our first encounter: I was asked, “What do you need my help with?”  This was for me – and still is – the question that revealed Claude's ability to instil confidence in his students.  Instead of telling me what I lacked, he listed all the qualities that make me unique, and then explained ways in which I could become better.  Claude sees abilities that I cannot see in myself and somehow helps me to learn musical skills that I once thought were unachievable.  In my opinion, this marks out Claude as an exceptional tutor and mentor.


When I began lessons in 2005 with Claude, I studied voice and piano on a weekly basis, primarily in relation to R&B and similar music genres.  After a year or so, I decided to put more emphasis on the piano, and this continues as the focus now.  However, we do occasionally revisit singing, and throughout my time with Claude, we have also discussed my composing and lyric writing.  In addition, we have learned some J. S. Bach, and jazz and improvising, which I wish to explore further.  The lessons focused on lyric writing have provided me with a more poetic and mature insight into this aspect of composing.  Our singing focused lessons have opened my eyes to how my voice can be an extremely powerful instrument.  So to label Claude just as a piano teacher would not do him justice.  While the piano is his instrument, his knowledge of various instruments and their techniques, and his ability to interweave music with real life separates him from being "just" a music teacher.  Our lessons often remind me that being a musician is a lifestyle.


In most lessons, I am encouraged to operate outside of my "comfort zone", and were it not for the results this has yielded, I would be sceptical about learning in this way.  Since I have decided to train to be a music teacher myself, I often find myself closely scrutinising Claude's teaching methods as those I might employ myself one day.  For example, sometimes he encourages me to discover my own approaches to becoming a better musician, which he then helps to refine.  In all my experiences of teaching in my life, this is somewhat unorthodox, but in fact, it has inspired my self-confidence and helped me to claim "ownership" of my progress.  This has been particularly useful recently, as I am only able to see Claude once a fortnight.  In addition, this freedom from a conventional regime, such as the Grade Exams, has alleviated my fears of being driven down a standardised path, as I have wished to protect my personal approach to being a musician and composer.  The Exams curriculum is not a direction I have ever wished to follow.


The skills I have achieved with Claude seem to be ones that are impossibly hard to teach: imagination, flexibility, self-awareness, as well as the technical aspects that allow me to implement those skills at the piano.  However, one of the most valuable I have learned is the patience required to better myself as a musician.  I came to Claude in a rush to be a virtuoso, but he has all but dispelled this naivety and replaced it with a calm knowledge and appreciation of the work and patience put in by those who have excelled.  Claude's wisdom, fascination and enthusiasm is subliminally infectious, and that is a most unique teaching technique in itself.  I recommend the experience.  Good luck.


Yours faithfully,

Dominique Laviolette





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