“By challenging the misconception that you can’t learn to play piano as an adult, Keyboard Encounters has revolutionized the way piano is taught,” says Mark Anderson, Marketing Director, Yamaha Keyboard Division. “Rather than focusing on simply being ‘the best,’ it groups students according to age, musical background and goal, offering revolutionary methods for each individual to measure and progress towards their target.”
Developed by Yamaha in 1992, Keyboard Encounters was introduced following a year and a half long test-marketing period, previously unheard of in the music industry. Intent on creating a new standard for group piano courses, the program’s developers collaborated with top Yamaha dealers to perfect the program.
Taking up to two years to complete, the program consists of six modules and a supplementary book that focus on each student’s self-discovery and self-motivation. Learning classrooms are equipped with Yamaha Clavinova digital pianos that include record and playback features to enhance the learning experience. The program also features accompaniment software, developed especially for Keyboard Encounters and the Clavinova that encourages progress and makes playing more fun.
The overwhelming benefits of Keyboard Encounters compelled the company to offer the program to its own employees starting in 1996. The program’s success has led the company to offer guitar lessons and drum circles, among other activities to staff as a part of a company-wide wellness program.
"Personally, I feel fortunate to have been with the Keyboard Encounters program from its inception,” says Program Director Charles Anderson. “We have received countless letters and emails over the years from students expressing their gratitude for starting their musical journey with Keyboard Encounters, as well as from teachers who enhanced their approach to teaching by teaching group piano. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing students light up while playing the songs they love.”
When getting acquainted with the program, Bill Jones of Bill Jones Music in Knoxville, Tennessee asked, “How long has this course been out there?” recalls Myrna Crooks, who conducted the training program at the dealership. “When I said we were getting ready to celebrate 20 years, he shouted, ‘Good! I’m so glad to hear that. I don’t want a new course that might get pulled before the bugs get worked out; I want a course with staying power!’”
After the training program, Bill Jones’s teaching staff concluded that in comparison to many newer programs, “Keyboard Encounters is so much better.”
“What an awesome program for adults!” says Dennis James, President of SoCal Pianos. “A class becomes a group of friends – and they all come to compare their progress with their peers – a fun and healthy form of competition.”
While the program has enjoyed tremendous success nationwide, one location stands out. Vincitore’s Music in Poughkeepsie, New York, has one KE group that has stayed together since the program’s inception two decades ago. Calling themselves “KEY Forever,” the group decides by committee which pieces are played in order to suit eclectic musical tastes. When asked why they continue the program, member responses were varied but positive. “It allowed me to fulfill a childhood dream to play the piano,” said one student. Another noted, “It is the enjoyment of making music in a friendly atmosphere – we have become friends.”
Many Keyboard dealers cite the program’s ability to accelerate music learning, while promoting a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as students can begin playing familiar songs from their very first lesson, rather than just basic scales and chords.
“At Yamaha we believe that everyone has music within them…Keyboard Encounters is a way to help bring it out!” said FAME Yamaha Music School teacher Gloria Leiter, one of the participants in the pilot program.
According to veteran Keyboard Encounters instructor Deborah Beach, “Keyboard Encounters is where tradition meets technology. Students emerge from this program able to create music on their own. That’s what it’s all about.” Beach, who has presented the program at a variety of retail venues nationwide, also noted, “Yamaha gives you all that you need to succeed.”
For more information about Yamaha, write Yamaha Corporation of America, P.O. Box 6600, Buena Park, CA 90622-6600; call (714) 522-9011; email infostation@
Yamaha Corporation of America (YCA) is one of the largest subsidiaries of Yamaha Corporation, Japan and offers a full line of award-winning musical instruments, sound reinforcement and home entertainment products to the U.S. market. Products include: Yamaha acoustic, digital and hybrid pianos, portable keyboards, guitars, acoustic and electronic drums, band and orchestral instruments, marching percussion products, synthesizers, professional digital and analog audio equipment, Steinberg recording products and Nexo commercial audio products, as well as AV receivers, amplifiers, Blu-ray/CD players, iPod docking systems, home-theater-