Teacher Feature: Danny Robles | The Music Gallery of Highland Park

Danny Robles
We are so excited to have Danny teaching piano with us. He is a passionate, professional instructor whose kind, but determined personality contributes to a comfortable and highly productive learning environment for both children and adults. Danny is committed to continually deepening his understanding of music and sharing his experience with others who love to learn.

MG: Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
I love movies! Although my favorite part of a film is listening to the sound. And I don't mean the soundtrack. Sometimes I hear a cool sound effect, or I hear a suspenseful soundscape in a scene, and it instantly grabs my attention. Outside of playing the piano, I do a lot of work in sound design at my home studio. This could be anything from composing a short little minuet in the style of Mozart or layering a bunch of samples to create an authentic-sounding dinosaur roar. Some of my other hobbies include vinyl collecting, audio post-production, or reading education journals, but all those things seem to come back to music one way or another.
MG: Has learning to play an instrument helped other areas of your life?
Everything in my life right now, I can probably trace back to the moment I started learning the piano. Piano got me interested in composition, which got me interested in production, which led me to work in sound design on some local theater productions. People might think that the only thing piano lessons are good for is learning how to play the piano, but that couldn't be further from the truth. For me, learning an instrument helped me broaden my interests. It gave me opportunities to try new things. Perhaps the most important thing though, that learning an instrument has taught me, is the value of patience. Too many times I'll have a student come to a lesson with a piece hastily prepared, often being played too fast, sloppy, and overall not very good. We'll play it together slowly. And I mean slow. It might even take us 15-20 minutes to play a piece once. But by slowing it down so much, you're able to focus on every note. You start to see the deliberateness in every motion from your shoulder to your forearm, to your wrist. My teacher taught me that progress takes patience, hard work, and diligence, and I believe that that holds to more areas of life other than music. 
MG: What inspired you to start playing the piano? What do you think keeps you interested?
The only reason I started playing the piano was because I wanted to learn the opening theme to Super Mario Bros. 2. More than a decade later I still play that piece weekly. Today though, what keeps me interested in piano isn't just the thought of learning new pieces. What keeps me interested in music is the theory behind it. I know a lot of people are turned away by music theory because it's too hard, or too academic, or that it strips away your creativity. None of that's true. Music theory is fun, excited, and creative, and with a good teacher to guide you, it's one of the most interesting things a musician can learn.
MG: What advice would you give to parents to help their kids practice at home?
Why don't they want to practice? That's the first question you should ask. Some students don't like to practice because the material might be daunting, or they might not be confident enough in their abilities. I've heard too many lessons begin with the phrase, "I can't do it," and ending with the phrase, "that's not so bad!" Some students will need some external motivation, while others might be content with their intrinsic desire to learn. Everybody's different. Now some students don't practice because they find it boring. They'd rather what they already know, rather than work on something new or tedious. Nobody likes practicing scales at first. Eventually, your child will realize they're not as good as they'd like to be, and the thought of being a great pianist will push them to begin practicing more. It just takes a certain level of maturity. Working on something hard now as investment for the future. I've seen this trait in seven-year-olds, and I've seen this trait absent in adult students. What parents can do though, is foster a warm and inviting atmosphere around the piano. Piano isn't something we should loathe, it should inspire us! Watch videos on youtube of pianists we admire, listen to piano music that inspires. Begin every practice session with a "Hello Piano! I love you!" and end every session with a "Good job today Piano! See you tomorrow!"
Now, if your child repeatedly shows a disdain for the piano, and refuses to practice, maybe try something else. Life's too short to do something you despise. Maybe their attitudes toward music will change. I took lessons when I was 6, quit after a week. I took lessons again when I was 9, quit after a month. I took lessons when I was 12, quit after two months. I began again when I was 14, and I never let up.

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