AFTER 65 years of teaching piano, one of the things that strikes Judy Hall is that many pupils have never been taught how to relax as they play.
The veteran Moe piano teacher says training for teachers on beginning techniques, such as ''decontraction'' - French for being relaxed - and seating, is not readily available.
''I'd like to see a better technical foundation for the first three years,'' says the 90-year-old, whose sessions on Common Faults and Handy Hints for Piano Teachers and The Musical Career of Sadie the Cleaning Lady will be a highlight of this week's Victorian Music Teachers' Association 2013 summer conference.
''The dropout rate for piano students at the five and six grade is very evident because lack of technique prevents them from going further.''
The first time Mrs Hall heard an orchestra was in the early 1930s, when her family bought their first radio. ''I suppose it's hard for you to imagine, but until then I'd only heard the local musicians and the brass band.'' She was enthralled and after she began playing piano by ear, her father sent her for lessons at two shillings a pop.
Her early musical education left much to be desired, with the exception of Sister Lucy from St Joseph's nuns who ''at least taught me enough to do exams''.
''Only Sister Lucy sat beside me, the others used to stand at the window and conduct me. They would say: 'That's lovely dear', when I would be murdering Haydn and Beethoven.''
When Mrs Hall was 19 she became a private pupil of Czech pianist Edward Goll, who also taught at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music for many years, where she finally learnt technique. ''It was here music was born and I made a pledge then that I would never let another child experience such wasted years.''
She returned to Moe as a newly-wed and began teaching privately at 24. But it was not until 26 years later when she attended a summer school in Sydney on beginning techniques for the piano, taught by Italian Lidia Baldecchi Arcuri, that she found what she had been searching for as a teacher.
''I thought: 'That's the best thing that ever happened in my life','' said Mrs Hall, who twice travelled to Genoa to study with Professor Baldecchi Arcuri.
With her focus on decontraction and economy of movement, Mrs Hall has taught hundreds of students, many of whom have passed the Associate Diploma in Music, Australia (AMusA).
Her pupils have included Timothy Young from the Melbourne trio Ensemble Liaison, conductor Paul Fitzsimon, Vanessa Scammell, the music director of South Pacific, and many other professional musicians.
''It's like I've built up a huge family, I've got a big stable,'' Mrs Hall said.
For more information on the music conference go to victorianmusicteachersassociation.org.au