Meet our Teachers - Pedagogy Specialist, Charlotte Ong

In an age where children are overstretched and time so precious, how does one strive to deliver inspiring piano lessons?

“We assess, adapt and formulate to the needs of our students. That is the key.”

-Charlotte Ong-

Charlotte has been nurturing talents for 19 years, and she continues to inspire many of our students in her piano lessons at D-Flat Studios. Her wealth of experience and training started from a passion ignited by instrument. She quips, “the piano is full of complexities and nuances. There is so much you can express through it.”

Having completed her piano diploma at a young age, she graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Classical Piano Performance from the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. She then spent three years in Australia teaching in state schools, working with children four years and above. And to keep abreast with the latest pedagogy, Charlotte also possesses a post-graduate Associate Diploma in Piano Pedagogy.

We caught up with Charlotte for an interview after one of her classes. 

How did you decide on a career in music and teaching?

The decision came early - I decided to pursue a career in music after completing my ‘O’ Levels. I felt I was gifted with some talent at the piano but more importantly, I was very inspired. That motivated me to spend a considerable amount of time practising and perfecting the craft. My parents were also supportive - driving me 3 hours for music college auditions. Thankfully I was accepted!

19 years later, what do you make of it now?

Music education is a long term pursuit, and the skills you learn stay with you for life. As teachers it is important for us to keep learning to stay on top of syllabus changes in music education. And we are also required to assess, adapt and formulate according to the needs of our students. Its a challenging objective, but one that is very rewarding when children enjoy their music.

Any favourite composers?

Definitely Beethoven, but my touch and techniques are better suited for Romantic period pieces, like Chopin.

How do you approach a new student each time?

I like to explore different teaching methods as every student learns differently. It has become second nature to be able to identify what activity works best with the students’ personality.

I value the ability to play-by-ear and always make time for aural dictation exercises in class with students as young as four years old. I wished my teachers did that with me when I was younger as I was only exposed to it in college at 17 years old. In the early 2000s, before iPods and iPhones, I bought a cassette tape recorder and played a few sight-reading examples whilst at school and travelling home. Then I would replay the tape to test myself on the aural dictation questions.

Aural training should be done consistently and not one month before the ABRSM examinations. This is what I inculcate in my students as soon as they start lessons with me.

Do you believe musical talent is in-born nurtured?

I believe every one is born with different levels of musical talent but these talents can be nurtured as well, with parental support and the student’s hard work. When I was at university, I struggled a lot with musicianship classes like aural training. Unlike my naturally talented classmates, I worked really hard to achieve good results. Growing up, I strangely did not enjoy watching cartoons, and so I spent my time practising and studying. So I believe a large part of it can be nurtured.

How do you feel when your student whom you saw from a complete beginner finishes his/her Grade 8 examination?

It is a bittersweet feeling especially when the student has been with me for about 10 years. I tend to experience nervousness and tears of joy whenever a student receives his/her Grade 8 results. I do hope every student has at least an Associateship diploma from Trinity College London (ATCL). Even though most stop at Grade 8, I hope they continue to engage and play the piano.

Charlotte teaches piano at D-Flat Studios. Do have a chat with her the next time you see her in the studio!