Scott Hughes – Piano Teacher

Piano Instructor
University of the Arts
Temple University
The Walden School
Jazz, Contemporary, Classical

piano, jazz, lessons, philly, fishtownI’m a lifelong pianist who has been performing around Philadelphia for the last decade. As soon as I was tall enough to reach the keys, I started playing and never looked back. I have studied both music and education at the University of the Arts, Temple University, the Walden School in Dublin, NH. Having played both classical and jazz for many years, I approach education with an emphasis on individual creativity, confidence in self-expression, and ear training built on a strong foundation of musicianship. In addition to my work as an educator and performer, I’m the owner of Tonic Publishing, LLC, a company that creates games and tools to help students improvise and compose in new ways.

When did you begin playing Piano, and why?
I think I was about 5. My family wasn’t particularly musical, but my grandmother did have an old piano sitting around. I must have pounded on the keys until my parents decided that lessons might make life a little more tolerable, which I’m grateful for to this day.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
The musicians I admire are the ones who approach the instrument from a unique angle. So to that end, I try often to embrace my own idiosyncrasies and preferences and help my students to the same. You end up with a more personal relationship with the instrument and a more enriching experience.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
Absolutely. I remember the first time I learned about playing by ear. As a trained classical musician up until that point, it was exciting to know that sometimes you could play notes that aren’t written on the page. Who knew?

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
I remember I was working on a song and my teacher said “I want you to go home and listen to this song five times every evening this week.” Maybe excessive for most students, but the point he was making is that music is a language, and like any language you need to listen a lot if you want to understand it.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
My first year at UArts, we were assigned to learn ten jazz standards in all twelve keys for a performance-based exam. I’d never attempted to to this before, so as a young musician it challenged everything about my playing — technique, analysis, ear training, and confidence.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
Producing and launching Tonic, my small publishing company that makes games and practice tools for musicians and teachers.

Favorite thing about teaching?
I love how every student is a little different, so I get to constantly come up with new ways to explain things, present information, and dig into songs and ideas that are unique to each person I work with.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Follow the fun. You have to either turn your practice sessions into a game, and if that doesn’t work, go work on something else. Don’t bang your head against the wall. There’s a lifetime of songs and skills to learn and there’s no single way to do it, so do it the way that feels good for you.

Personal music projects:
I perform regularly with improvised comedy groups in the city. One of my groups, “Thank You, Places” does a fully improvised musical, both music and lyrics, based on an audience suggestion. You can check us out at Philly Improv Theater on Saturday nights.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow from Scott Hughes on Vimeo.