Confessions 2: Are teenagers difficult to teach?

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student”, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions…
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 2

This question was born of my own frustration as a teenager, and seeing the skill level I wanted to be at and the skill level I was achieving.

“Are mid to late teens a difficult age bracket to teach? Why?”

Ioana Andreea Boancă : Not necessarily. It’s more difficult to convince them of the importance of studying in a certain way and acquiring a certain repertoire when all they’d rather play is…. I don’t know … John Legend?

Nikolas Sideris : Oh no! Not at all! I tend to connect with them brilliantly. Probably has to do with my very outgoing personality, along with the fact that I (also) work in the computer games industry, as a composer and a sound designer, which means that by default the teens will be interested in what I do and say!

Jenny Walker : Never had a problem with those who are keen. There are a few who care more about their nails, or whose parents push them regardless, but I have plenty who stay with me, including 30 at school.

Jimmy Rotheram : In a classroom situation, for me personally the most difficult demographic is year 9s – 13/14 year olds, particularly the difficult girls. I taught at a college – music A level and Musical theatre BTEC. The music A level students were all amazing – I’m still in touch with them all and they are all doing well in music. There were quite a few theatre student primadonnas at that age who were challenging.
In private lessons, people are so different and individual away from their peers that it’s impossible to say what is a difficult age. Each age range and developmental stage has challenges.

Donal Gormley : No. They’re usually very interested and know what they want. It’s normally one of their priorities and they do some practice!

Alex Bowen : I believe no age range is more difficult than any other because each person is an individual and even in group teaching, each group is unique.
When teaching piano lessons, I often enjoy working with the mid to late teens – if they’re just starting out (as I was at the age of 14), they’re usually doing it off their own back and can be incredibly motivated. Also, at this age, music can take on a new social function in the lives of my pupils – they can play in competitions at school, or in bands, or they might be interested in making videos to share online. This is all highly motivating for them, and a wonderful musical outlet.
Also, for teenagers (and adults), I often find that I become a bit of a life coach as well as a piano teacher! I’m an adult, but not a parent or relative. They get private time with me each week and generally they know that I speak the truth and am compassionate. I know that a lot of my pupils, past and present, have really benefited from the counsel I’ve been able to provide.

Sarah Martin : Haven’t found them any more difficult than any other age and I think it’s such a shame to label this age group as difficult to teach.

Naomi Craddock : No, they are individuals with varying needs, as any age group is.

Alison Mathews : I don’t find them difficult to teach and agree with Naomi’s comment above.

Frances Magdalene Wilson : I actually find them easier to reach than young kids but I think this may be a personal preference as I’ve always found it difficult to communicate with young children. I find my teenage students (13-16) are engaged and conscientious. I suspect this has a lot to do with the demographic of the area where I live.


When I was particularly young learning piano, I didn’t have any goal in mind, I just attended lessons and rose gradually step by step. School teachers have told me that teaching young children a foreign language, has a way of being accepted into the forming brain better than trying to teach a much older student.

So the answers to this question, were surprising to me, but also very encouraging.

The comment by Donal Gormley from Northern Ireland, that teenagers are more interested and know what they want, was certainly the case with me. By the time I was about to finish lessons, I really did know what I wanted and actively sought it out from all sources, including videos of live concerts, records and other friends.

Of course the YouTube generation now have a plethora of tutorials and specific genre tips that possibly make it too easy to learn things without the hard yards of mistake making and time, but I guess all forms of education are giving students a push in the right direction?

Next: in Confessions 3, Simon asks whether some students are naturally gifted… stay tuned!

Simon Reich

Simon is a pianist and award winning composer from Victoria, Australia.
Further information : Simon Reich Music
Simon is a regular contributor to Pianodao.

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