Scott Houston teaches adults how to have fun at the piano.
Learn piano in benefit seminar
If you've been dusting the piano for years but never sit down to play, Scott Houston might have the musical solution.
'The Piano Guy'
Workshop: 1:30 to 5 p.m. April 8
Place: PBS Hawaii, 2350 Dole St.
Admission: $150, includes all materials
Call: 973-1187 to register
Next week, Houston, better known as "the Piano Guy," will present a 3 1/2-hour workshop -- what he calls the nonclassical "kindergarten version of a jazz piano class." A portion of the proceeds will benefit PBS Hawaii.
"I'm not teaching students how to perfect classical music. The whole thing is about teaching adults how to sit down and have fun at the piano," he said.
Few adults are cut out for weekly piano lessons, Houston added. "The failure rates are off the charts. Eighty to 90 percent of people quit lessons before they can play music that they enjoy."
He knows the statistics firsthand, through his family's music publishing company. "We would sell about 65,000 copies of 'Piano Book 1' each year, 2,500 of Book 2 and less than 300 of Books 3 to 6. The vast majority of students never got beyond Book 1."
Houston applauds those who do make the commitment to weekly classical piano lessons, but says he uses a different method in his weekly public television series, "The Piano Guy." "These secrets are easy enough for total beginners to use. All you need to do is sit down and get started."
Houston classifies his program with the painting, woodworking and cooking shows many people watch on a regular basis. "Hopefully, they get the process and do it later. It's definitely struck a chord with the public," he said with a laugh.
Wannabe piano players can see "The Piano Man" at 2:30 p.m. every Saturday on PBS.
In his workshop, Houston will teach beginner musicians how to read a lead sheet with a single-note melody line. "It's simpler to learn to play this way. It takes away from needing to be a great note reader." By the end of the session, participants learn techniques for playing jazz, pop, blues and rock.
Houston has helped raise more $14 million for PBS nationwide through such pledge programs.
"In the beginning, I was worried that there were not enough people interested in playing piano," said Houston.
But he has learned that many people -- especially those who attend his workshops or watch his program -- do want to achieve a certain level of musicality so they can show off with a tune or play Christmas carols during the holidays.
This fits in with his approach: "I want people to have the time of their life, playing their favorite music."
Houston has been exposed to music throughout his life. Although his passion was drums, he decided to sit through a few piano classes during a summer camp in Wisconsin. His instructor, John Radd, taught him all of the basics he now includes in his workshops. "My jaw dropped open the whole time. I learned the way professionals play."
Houston plans on continuing to educate the masses through his television series and his book, "Play Piano in a Flash."
"I've never had so much fun in my life. It does my heart good. My epilogue: Thousands of people are playing piano who couldn't before, and I'm eternally proud."
"The Piano Guy" airs 2:30 p.m. Saturdays on KHETPBS.