Sis. Susan Triplett, tell us a little about yourself, your background and ministry.
I was classically trained in piano, violin and viola, and had decided at a young age I wanted to make a career out of music. I was baptized in Jesus’ name and received the Holy Ghost in my senior year of high school, and the Lord took over my dreams and plans. I attended the University of Tennessee as a music major. During my junior year in college, I married my husband, David Triplett, balancing college classes and teaching at the Christian school at the First Apostolic Church in Knoxville. Our pastor was Bro. Billy McCool. My husband and I started a home missions church in Clinton, Tennessee in 1983. All along, I taught piano and violin lessons.
Smaller churches often lack individuals to play keyboards, piano and organ. What options do they have, and what are the drawbacks of each?
Music is such an integral part of Apostolic services. Smaller churches do what they can, but the goal is to have live music, usually with the piano at the center of the music department. Smaller churches generally want a piano player first, then add other instruments as God fills the need. My ministry provides students with piano courses that teach them the basics.
Learning keyboards can take years of expensive lessons. Is there a faster way?
Most Apostolic church musicians do not utilize note-reading but play by ear or chord. Learning to play by chord is much faster, usually taking weeks or months. Playing by chord provides the perfect accompaniment for Apostolic singing.
How long does it take the average person to be able to play a collection of simple choruses in church? Is it necessary to already have a music background?
No previous musical experience is needed with our piano courses, and the average student can play beginning-level songs and choruses in a few weeks. The most successful students are the ones working to fulfill a need for a piano player in the church.
What makes your lessons unique from other courses that are on the market?
I focus on making the lessons easy for the beginner. That is what makes my lessons unique. Everything is explained, and I developed a system to teach rhythm, using word phrases. This has been the mainstay of the courses. As a student progresses, concepts are added step by step. This system has really worked over the last 20 years.
Around 1994, a piano student asked me to teach her how to play “the way we play in church.” I knew this was coming, but how do you teach someone to play by ear? I went back to my college training in music theory and ear training and came up with the answer. Those early lessons for this student resulted in our first beginner piano course series, Learning, Playing, and Mastering the Piano by Ear. Many people learned to play for churches using that course. Sis. Dedie Cooley used the course as curriculum at Jackson College of Ministries, and she assisted me in producing the Advanced Piano Techniques in 1997.
Music changes, so we released the Piano Praise series in 2003. We are revising the course again and have just released Piano Praise and Worship. Soon, we will release Piano Praise Heritage, an update of the old Piano Praise series. The student can then play the new and the old. We also plan to release a Spanish version of Piano Praise and Worship.
What is included with your lessons? How far do they take a student, and how much practice should they expect to devote each day?
Our newest course, Piano Praise and Worship, includes a 117-page workbook with three instructional DVD’s of over five hours of teaching. The DVD’s walk the students through the workbook, and the course takes students from beginner to an upper intermediate level. Practicing half an hour a day will produce great results.
What kind of success have you had? Can you share any success stories?
I have personally taught my piano courses to hundreds of students through the years. I taught Sis. Fallon Erickson of First Apostolic Church in Maryville, Tennessee as a young girl. She had the interest and drive, and today she is an accomplished pianist and teacher. I have taught at piano camps, and students I have never met learned on their own through the courses.
How long have you had your newest course on the market?
We introduced Piano Praise and Worship at the 2015 UPCI General Conference. I taught it to several of my students to prove and perfect it before marketing it.
What’s the story behind its development? What prompted you to develop this approach?
This new course addresses modern praise and worship music only. The student learns to play 32 popular praise and worship songs. The course has been about four years in the making. The new music is easy for young people to learn, because they were raised on it. However, for older musicians like myself, it is a whole new world − not difficult, but different. The student learns chords, rhythms, fills and concepts pertaining to modern praise and worship music.
What does it cost, and how can we order it?
The cost for the workbook with three DVDs is $89.95. Order at www.pianobyear.com.