David Hughes, Pianist And Teacher

David Hughes, Pianist And Teacher

5.0 (3)

About this pro

I'm a highly experienced pianist with a doctoral degree in piano performance from Indiana University (Bloomington). I've performed and won prizes internationally and make my living exclusively by playing and teaching the piano.

For my full bio, teaching philosophy and to hear recordings, etc., please visit my website: http://davidhughespianist.com

Music making is such a wonderful activity that involves all aspects of a person: physical, mental and emotional. I am a highly analytical person and enjoy teaching because it gives me a way to transmit all the aspects of my "pianistic consciousness" to others. 

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Philadelphia, PA 19148
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3 Reviews


  • Richard Brand

    David came to my home for classical piano lessons for about four years. He is a talented pianist knowledgeable about a wide range of classical music. David allowed a great deal of flexibility in the things I played, usually allowing me to select music I enjoyed while occasionally suggesting new material which I would never have discovered. He seemed to intuit my interests and needs, so there was nothing formulaic in his approach. He communicates great enthusiasm for the classical repertoire while he had a particular interest in more contemporary and experimental works. I would highly recommend him as a teacher.

  • Angela Chan

    I have been taking piano lessons with David Hughes for more than 5 years. As someone who has very little time to practice, I always appreciate that David patiently meets me where I am with my skill level and tailors our lessons to meet my needs. He's a very perceptive teacher and makes great suggestions that help me improve my practice and develop better habits. With David, playing piano is not just about gaining technical skills; he frequently encourages me to get into the character of the piece and to think about what the music is actually saying. He encourages me to be a better listener to my own playing as I practice. David is also a gifted musician and frequently shares his reflection on his own growth as a pianist, and I benefit greatly from hearing his experience. It has been such a pleasure to learn from David and I highly recommend him as a teacher.

  • Brooke Burkey

    David is fun, patient, and extremely talented! He's always on time for lessons and his rates are quite reasonable.


What is your typical process for working with a new student?

At the age of 21 or so I came to the conclusion that to make further progress in my technical and musical development I would need to completely overhaul my physical and psychological approach to the instrument. This has led me to a 10-year (so far!) investigation into holistic methods of bodywork (Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method), Zen philosophy, the pedagogy of pianist Abby Whiteside (the subject of my dissertation), and various other thinkers, musical and otherwise. I've availed myself of private instruction in some of these areas and incorporate them into my teaching.

I believe that the process of learning is more important than the actual result attained: to do more with less is one of my main goals as a performer and teacher. With older students I work to expand their pianistic consciousness to detect and eliminate harmful habits and attitudes. My work with younger students is more focused on prevention of these habits. I incorporate ear training and music theory into lessons and encourage my students to perform. Above all I believe that the study of music should be linked to the study of one's self. I do not follow any one "system" of pedagogy and find that with any kind of set approach something is inevitably left out. I am continually discovering new things and try to get my students to do the same.

What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?

Oberlin Conservatory: B.M., piano performance

Indiana University: M.M., D.M., piano performance

Do you have a standard pricing system for your lessons? If so, please share the details here.

Please inquire within for fees. I prefer to teach at my place--travel is possible but will incur extra fees depending on distance, scheduling and parking situation.

How did you get started teaching?

Like most pianists I started out focusing on performance and then started teaching out of necessity. Fortunately for me I do enjoy teaching because I like analyzing things and giving direction, and providing instruction also teaches me things about my own playing. I consider myself both a performer and teacher, and try to balance the two.

What types of students have you worked with?

I've taught students between the age of 6 and 74 and most of my student are adults. Students have ranged from complete beginners to fairly advanced (working on Beethoven sonatas, Chopin etudes, etc.)

Describe a recent event you are fond of.

Barbara Hannigan's marvelous solo recital of late 19th/early 20th century German song repertoire in Philadelphia this season.

What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?

What teacher you select depends on what you want to accomplish, what interests you, and more practically, what you can afford. Selecting a teacher based on price may be a necessity in one sense, on the other hand using this criterion as an exclusive factor is rarely a good idea. If you want to want to learn the masterpieces of the classical genre and work specifically on technique you should seek out a highly trained person that plays these works; if you seek something less intensive than this (popular music, hymns, etc.) or do not have much time to put into practicing then you may not need a teacher with that kind of experience.

I wish I could say I'm a great teacher for everyone, but I'm not, and no one is. You should feel free to have lessons with several different people before making a descision (If that's what you're doing, teachers appreciate knowing this up front, however). Teacher and student relationships can really vary. I'm a teacher that gets very, very specific and provides a lot of information and direction. For some people it's overwhelming and it doesn't work for them, others quite enjoy it.

There is a loose correlation between the price of a teacher's lessons and the experience/"resume" of the teacher, but just because a teacher is more expensive does not mean they are better. An experienced concert pianist may charge hundreds of dollars per hour for one lesson but that's mainly due to their stature as an artist--it doesn't mean that for the average student their $250 lesson is five times better than someone else's $50 one. 

The rates teachers charge really depend on a wide variety of factors including their location and basic "market" demands, so again I will say that while money is most definitely an important factor, it should ideally have little to do with your decision as possible.

What questions should students think through before talking to teachers about their needs?

Much of this is addressed in my answer to the previous question but I will say that students should think about how much time they're able to practice and whether they're really able to make a regular commitment to lessons. Piano playing needs regular practice and constant reinforcement if you want substantial improvement and many people underestimate how much effort it will take.

If you are a parent and want to know how you can get the most out of lessons for your child I will say that it is ESSENTIAL that you be actively involved in your child's piano education if you want them to play to the best of their ability. This means attending lessons whenever possible, paying attention to what happens during the lesson (even taking notes if necessary) and seeing that your child implements the teacher's directions in regular practice sessions.

I completely understand that some parents may not want to be involved to such a degree, but unless you're dealing with an extremely talented child most kids stop lessons after a year or two if they are not "pushed" to a certain extent. It's really all up to the parents. Many children participate in many after school activities, several sports, etc. etc. If piano playing is "just another activity" that has to compete with many others then you will probably not see great results.

...But the family may not want these results, and I'm not negatively judging anyone that doesn't want to be super intense about their child's piano lessons. American culture discourages pushing kids around too much. You may be familiar with the stereotype of the "tiger mother"--well, you may not want to be that mother but the fact of the matter is that if you want big results then you need to make big efforts and it takes big discipline. Other aspects of the child's life may be compromised due to that approach. They may have less fun, or have less time to play. Personally I think moderation between the two extremes is the ideal solution for most families but to conclude: a child's piano education is ultimately in the hands of the parents, not the teacher, even though it seems it might or should be the other way around.

I would say the exact same thing to adults students about practice. Generally it's easier for adults to understand and accept these ideas since they are the person who is both paying for the lessons and practicing.

Lessons offered