Early Years

Keith taught his first piano lesson when he was fifteen years old. His mother, also a piano teacher, gave him his first students and guided him in their instruction.  However, Keith’s passion for teaching piano began before these first students.  At this time, Keith was already spending most of his afternoons in the studio listening to the steady stream of piano lessons that his mother taught every afternoon.  He would sit quietly at the table on the other side of the room, under the guise of doing his high school home-work.  In reality, he was soaking up each and every lesson.  These experiences not only laid the foundation for his teaching skills, but also were the roots of his deep knowledge of music theory, and his remarkable familiarity with teaching materials and repertoire.

Los Angeles

Keith continued teaching throughout his years at USC; usually just a handful of students on Saturday mornings.  Despite the potential difficulties for a college age young man teaching his first lesson of the day at 9 am on Saturday morning, Keith still remembers this as his favorite day of the week, and eagerly anticipated seeing his young pupils come in the door.  Keith augmented his teaching experience during his Masters degree when he was awarded one of the much sought after Assistant Lecturer positions given to a few select graduate students at USC.  As an AL, he taught class piano to non-keyboard music majors, as well as class piano to non-music majors taking it as an elective.

It was also during these years at USC that Keith became a member of the Music Teachers Association of California (MTAC), the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT), the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), and the National Guild of Piano Teachers.

San Francisco

Keith’s first local MTAC membership was in Pasadena. Upon returning home to San Francisco after finishing his degree work, he became a member of the Contra Costa MTA. At this point, Keith began teaching 30 to 40 students a week, seeing each student twice a week: once for private lesson, and again in class with other students. It was his experiences and immersion in teaching at this time that inspired him to create Academy Records so that he could produce CDs of the standard teaching repertoire. This led swiftly to his association with the Neil A. Kjos Music Company and the creation of his large catalog of teaching materials.

During his years as a member of the Contra Costa MTA, Keith’s students were regular participants in the various performance, competition, festival, and evaluation programs offered through the Music Teachers Association. Keith also became very “hands-on” involved in creating and running programs for the Association.  He and his mother hosted numerous master class events, bringing in such respected teachers as Adam Wibrowski, Joanna Hodges, and John Perry, to give classes to local students and teachers.  Keith began and ran for ten years the Sonata Contest – a program which still continues in Contra Costa and averages 300 student entries each year.  Fond of a hosting a good party, Keith opened his home each December to the teachers of the Contra Costa MTA for the annual Christmas Party.  He also hosted a gala fundraising event for the CCMTA, to which he invited Jake Heggie, composer of the opera Dead Man Walking to perform and speak.

Santa Fe

In 2003, Keith relocated from California to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  This move was originally intended to be a one year hiatus from teaching, but after only a few months in Santa Fe, Keith knew that this was a place he wanted to call home. The time away from teaching gave him the opportunity to finish writing Piano Town and spend many months on tour giving workshops to piano teachers.  Keith also had to face the fact that he was experiencing teacher “burn-out” – a shocking realization for such a dedicated and passionate teacher – and that he needed to recharge the batteries and refresh his perspective.

During Keith’s first two years in Santa Fe, his teaching experiences were mostly on tour; giving workshops and promoting Piano Town, as well as  master classes and occasional coaching sessions.  He now has a handful of private students that he sees on a weekly basis in his own home.

Keith is very active in the Santa Fe Music Teachers Association.  He and Kathleen Ryan introduced the Sonata Contest which they had so successfully co-chaired in California, to the SFMTA in 2007. Still fond of entertaining, Keith hosts thrice yearly “Performance Salons” – informal get-togethers for the teachers to play for each other and socialize.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend it,

than any other person can be.”

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

© 2017 Keith Porter-Snell