“Art must remind us of human excellence and must have some healing properties.”
You are here because you, or someone you love, wants to play the piano. For many, this is an intimidating prospect. How do I go about this? How do I choose the right teacher? How long will it take? The answers (and the questions) are different for everyone, but what unites you is the desire to express yourself through this medium, and enter the world of music. Welcome! You have taken the first step!
I am a lifelong musician, student, and teacher. My musical journey began at the age of five with piano lessons. Later, I earned a Bachelor of Music from Peabody Conservatory and a Master of Music Education from Holy Names University. I have taught for fortyfive years, continuing my own study and practice along the way.
For over twenty years, I studied piano with Barbara Wilkens*, a unique and profoundly great teacher who lives and works in Palo Alto. With Barbara, I explored and learned two wonderful bodies of knowledge that have become integral and essential components of my teaching.
The first is called Balance**. Used in this way, Balance describes a way of learning or re-learning sitting and moving from a natural, centered alignment of bones. This allows your muscles to be in maximum relaxation. This is of tremendous importance in playing the piano comfortably and well.
The second is the Taubman Approach, which through careful attention to arm, hand and finger movements provides one with all the tools necessary to interpret the musical score and play the piano with great ease. Together these two techniques help you, the pianist, to achieve a beautiful tone, develop speed and expression, and allow for a lifetime of comfort in playing no matter when you choose to begin.
My varied education and experience teaching in many different settings enables me to work with a wide range of students. I have taught both in the classroom and privately over the years. As a consequence, I feel uniquely qualified to determine where students are in their learning and understanding. It is a joyous process for me to then help them gradually achieve their musical desires.
Also, I re-train people who are injured, or simply want to learn to play without tension and with great freedom and joy. All ages are welcome. I especially enjoy working and playing with people who are returning to the piano and people for whom playing piano is a life long dream.
My goal for my students is to give them the highest quality and most complete musical education that I can in a warm, encouraging, and challenging environment.
Jan is a beautiful musician and a patient and caring teacher. I feel very lucky to have studied piano with her for many years. She created a safe environment where I felt I could express myself, musically and personally. I always looked forward to my lessons with Jan. I have so many good memories of lovely music, cups of tea and laughter!
Jan encouraged me to play in a recital after a long absence. Performing in front of an audience had always terrified me, but Jan promised I would be fine. She suggested we play two duets together so I wouldn’t have to perform alone. We carefully chose our duets and got to work. We practiced tempo and dynamics until I felt comfortable with each piece. Jan was very supportive when I thought my nerves would get the best of me. The night of the recital arrived, and to my surprise I survived! I was very happy with our performance and it was a thrill to share my music. I was proud of myself and grateful to Jan for believing in me. Without Jan I would have never had the courage to perform and enjoy a moment in the spotlight.
Jan is an inspiring teacher and a wonderful person. Whenever I get the chance to play the piano, I always think of her. I know I will forever have the gift of music in my life because of our time together.
I loved hearing you play. It is so deep, so true, so from the heart. And with an incredible technique to support it. I love how gifted you are, and how hard you work at it. It takes both, doesn’t it? A natural inclination, and a willingness to practice and be with it. I could listen to you for hours and hours!
Donna Gorman, parent and adult student:
Through my daughter’s study of piano with Jan, I began studying myself at the age of forty-eight. It has been an extraordinary journey. Jan provides a thoughtful, stimulating and individualized course of study in a very nurturing learning environment. Her depth of experience in specialized areas of technique and body posture offers a solid foundation for life-long learning. I am continually amazed by my progress in learning how to read, play, and listen to music. Jan is the most inspiring teacher I have ever had! This is piano instruction on the highest level.
Christine Dillon, chiropracter, friend, and student:
It is my pleasure to write that I have been studying piano with Jan for 10 years. I arrived as an adult beginner with a good ear but no concept of how to read music. Jan, ever patient and kind with a great sense of humor, encourages me to try various methods of learning this new “language” of music. She pays special attention to the proper biomechanics of piano playing, so I will not incur any injuries, and as a Chiropractor this is important to me. I love the pieces of music we choose together and learn to play. I especially enjoy playing duets with Jan, as they are very musically satisfying.
If you have ever wondered if you could start playing piano as an adult, or if you simply want to revisit your childhood practice, call Jan Sarvis.
“Jan is the most wonderful person. When you have piano instruction from her, you don’t just gain a great piano teacher, you gain a friend.”
“Jan Sarvis is a superb piano teacher. Not only is she adept at teaching piano skills and technique, but perhaps more importantly, she has a special gift of being able to connect with her students to inspire them musically and beyond. Her kind, respectful manner, sense of humor, patience, and interest in her students; individual learning styles are greatly valued by both my daughter (Julia Betchart) and myself. We feel so lucky to have found Jan!”
“I have known Jan for many years, and we have worked together in a number of musical contexts. At first, Jan was my own teacher upon my return to the piano after fifteen years away from formal study. I directly benefitted from the knowledge and skills she gained through her work with Barbara (including Balance and Taubman), not to mention her conservatory education and life as a dedicated student of music.Jan was the instructor of a delightfully-spirited Kodaly-based singing and music education course for children and their parents. All involved consider it a special experience, one with positive, profound, and long-lasting impact. She also served as a patient and gifted piano teacher for my daughter, as well as a number of other children, teens, and adults I have known.
In every situation, Jan’s unique talents and intuitive approach allow her to encourage the appropriate course of development for each student, all while maintaining good humor and mutual respect. As an educator myself, I cannot recommend Jan highly enough.”
Doreen Powell, adult piano student:
“I started piano instruction with Jan when I was 62 years of age. Her intelligent and expert guidance soon dispelled my beginners nervousness, which enabled me to make rapid progress. Within quite a short time I was able to play pieces that I never thought I’d be capable of playing.
During my years of lessons I feel that I received a comprehensive musical education from Jan, as she so generously shares her wealth of musical knowledge with her students. It was always a pleasure to receive lessons in her home studio, which provided a relaxed and nurturing learning environment.I feel that it was due to Jan’s encouragement and dedication to teaching that I did so well.”
Velvy Appleton, parent:
“Jan teaches so much more than piano—lessons with her are weekly life experiences with tea, animals, nature, gardening, recipes, and love. My whole family cherishes the time we get to spend with Jan.”
Nick Rodin, student:
I first started working with Jan Sarvis more than thirty-five years ago. At that time she was teaching classical guitar, and I learned from her the technique that I still use today. More important, though, it was from Jan that I discovered the difference between playing a bunch of notes and playing music.
Many years later I decided to find Jan in the hope of studying with her once more. Although she teaches piano now instead of guitar, I still find it well worth my time to make the 100-mile trip to her studio as often as I can.
Jan is able to help me make small corrections to my hand positions and posture that add ease to my playing and make it more fluid. She helps me to hear a piece more deeply, to find what is needed to make a piece come alive, to make it musical. Although she has her own ideas about interpretation, she never pushes them. Instead she uses her ideas to help me develop my own musical intuition. I know that Jan is devoted to helping me become the best musician I can be.
For more information about Balance and the Taubman Approach, see the following websites:
** http://www.sonomabodybalance.com/ (North Bay: Dana Davis)
** http://www.balancecenter.com/ (Palo Alto HQ: Jean Couch)
“Whether by voice or by instrument, musical performance requires physical control and precision of a high order…In no other subject is a person called upon to make four or five decisions per second and act on them continuously for such stretches of time. This combination of constant, continuous vigilance and forethought with ever-changing physical responses constitutes an educational experience of unique value.”
Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967)