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Meet Howard Richman of Richman Music School in San Fernando Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Howard Richman.

Howard, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been teaching piano since I was 17. I had the opportunity to go to Interlochen National Music camp in Michigan when I was 15. It was really a beautiful experience. While there, I became friends with a singer who had some questions about the piano. After I showed her some things, she said “you are a really good teacher.” Of course, that fed my ego, but I thought about it for a while and realized that I AM a good teacher. I’ve had my share of tyrannical teachers and I had made a mental note, that “if I ever taught, I would never be like that.” I enjoy teaching through positive reinforcement, rather than negative reinforcement. I enjoy working with people of all levels and backgrounds. Many of our students are complete beginners and many are highly-advanced studio professionals who need some polishing on various issues. In each case, my goal is to help that person to get to their next level.

Where many piano teachers would tend to teach children only, from the beginning, I had a mix of children and adults. Many of my adult students are those that had quit for 40 years because they often were forced as a child to play and had some type of trauma. One of my specialties is to connect the act of playing piano with helping to release old limitations or beliefs or blocks on the emotional level so that the student can move forward and reach their goals.

After I graduated with my master’s degree from CalArts, I was invited to join the piano faculty, which I did from 1984-1987. That was a great experience. But since then, I’ve been teaching privately in the west valley. For many years, I had the vision of expanding my school to include teachers of other instruments. So, at the beginning of 2017, I started making that happen. I’ve been working hard to select teachers who are not only good at their respective instrument but who enjoy teaching and who follow a similar philosophy of self-empowerment. We now have almost every instrument represented at Richman Music School. Many of the teachers teach not only in-person in their studio, but also drive to the home and also teach online lessons, for those who are out of the area. Most of the teachers are willing to offer one initial lesson at no charge.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
When I first started teaching at 17 and I would have some adult students, I have to admit that it was a bit surreal because until that point, a kid is normally “looking up” to an adult. So, on an emotional level, I think I felt strange or even guilty at first, that I would be teaching someone older than me! But I soon realized that it didn’t matter and as long as I was able to help someone improve, that the age difference didn’t matter. I did study to be a concert pianist and I am ever-grateful for that seriously-intense training. However, my last six months of my master’s degree, knowing that I had changed my mind about that life path were certainly difficult.

I was practicing eight hours a day because I wanted to complete my degree but my heart wasn’t in it. I was much more drawn to teaching and encouraging others.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Richman Music School – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Richman Music School is select group of top-notch teachers of each instrument who love to teach and get excited about the results in their students. Though we are based in the valley, many of our students come from Los Angeles and other surrounding areas and in fact around the world (via online lessons). This is because it is very hard sometimes to find a good local teacher in certain areas. Our teachers can take you to the highest level on your instrument. What is also unique about us is that we are creative and flexible. For example, we sometimes have an actor who needs to look like they know how to play the piano and we can create a crash course to help someone land that role. Or in other cases, rather than learning how to read notes, the person wants to learn how to play by ear or to read chord symbols and improvise, or even compose their own songs. All of these things are possible.

We like to tailor the training to the individual needs of the student, rather than have a cookie-cutter approach. We offer lessons on piano, voice, violin, viola, cello, harp, guitar, ukulele, banjo, bassoon, clarinet, flute, oboe, English horn, saxophone, baritone horn, French horn, trombone, trumpet, tuba, drums, harmonica, accordion, harpsichord, organ, composition, conducting, music theory and midi/electronic programming. Over the years, we have taught many celebrities, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Vonda Shepard, Josh Keaton, Brianna Haynes, Starr Parodi, Aidan Gallagher, Anthony Holiday, Briana Evigan and Dick Gautier.

“A grateful tip of the hat to Howard. He’s a fantastic teacher. After a 25-year hiatus from piano, I took it up again two years ago, struggling to relearn things I should have picked up long ago. I worked on my own – using apps, chord charts and downloads to learn songs I’m currently playing with other people – and things I’ve always wanted to play on my own. It was a struggle. A couple months ago, I decided to find a teacher to help me apply theory concepts to the songs I need to know – and be able to learn them faster. The problem I had was that every teacher wanted to read music as it was written. This is fine, but I’ve already done that and don’t need a teacher for that. Howard’s strength is that he doesn’t force things the student doesn’t want to spend time on. That’s not to say he won’t force the work that’s needed, though. I am enjoying practicing and playing a lot more now. He’s got a healthy mix of theory, agility (inversion drill with eyes closed!), reading, polish material… All good things. I have no reservations giving an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ to Howard.” —Lori Weber

“’I feel good again’ is the song on the album that I wrote entirely by myself! I would never have been able to do that without the piano skills that you taught me! I am so grateful for you!”—Brianna Haynes, Singer/Songwriter

“Paul did a fantastic job helping Joshua to learn and appreciate the basics of trumpet playing. His ability to connect with his students and motivate them is amazing. Joshua made significant progress in the time Paul worked with him.” —Jeff Hayflich, satisfied parent

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We enjoy our local business but it is possible that we may expand to different cities. We already have a few teachers who have joined us from far away, including Canada. One thing that we plan on doing is to hold regular free introductory workshops where people can lean a bit about various instruments which might help them decide if that instrument is something that they might want to pursue.

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