I began piano lessons with Ramona a couple of years ago, as an adult student with only a few years of lessons completed, and no previous musical instruction. During our first meeting, Ramona gave me some immediate feedback on areas of improvement and some goals we could set to begin our journey. I was impressed by her flexibility, both for our lessons and for my practice, since I worked a demanding job that required some travel.
As we began our lessons, I soon found out that Ramona’s teaching style was also very flexible depending upon the student – their abilities, the types of music they enjoy learning and playing, the ability to pair singing with playing, and where they wanted this experience to take them musically. She taught me new ways to practice to speed up my improvement, and offered a variety of tunes, both classical and popular, exposing me to different styles and developing my repertoire. Ramona weaved music theory and transcription into our lessons and used tunes I wanted to pursue as vehicles for learning.
Over these past two years, Ramona has become much more to me than a piano teacher! Her warmth and compassion shine through to our discussions about music and everything else. During her “salons” in which her adult students perform their work, we enjoy an evening of socializing, music and fun. I’ve witnessed the love and support of the entire group, regardless of ability. Because Ramona fosters a strong work ethic, we all push ourselves to do our best. The variety of music is amazing, proving Ramona’s love of many types of music and her ability to teach across different genres.
Ramona is warm and thoughtful, upbeat, bright, certainly talented, and a wonderful teacher. She is focused, very patient, and sets short and long-term goals for her students. Her vast experience as a musician, performer, composer, and teacher combine beautifully in a rewarding learning experience. I wholeheartedly recommend studying piano with Ramona Borthwick!
“I am an adult piano learner and musical theater composer. I came to Boston looking to shore up my sight reading, performance ability and jazz/chord voicings. I chose to work with Ramona after carefully considering several teachers in the Cambridge-Watertown area because after my initial interview I felt that she brought the best balance of flexibility and rigor.
Ramona was extraordinarily adaptable — she let me make my own schedule for lessons and tried to listen carefully to my needs for each session, which ranged from reviewing drafts of sheet music to performing my own work to drilling on rhythm and sight reading. Not only did I reach many of my goals with Ramona, my work was chosen for a musical theater festival about a year after we began working together. I really appreciate her guidance and advice and would gladly recommend her to other adult students.”
“Ramona Borthwick connects people to music and one another with consummate expertise, eclecticism, taste, generosity, respect and joy. Four years ago, our son Graham came to Ramona on the verge of abandoning piano, but within months would take to playing several times a day. She woke up the musician we knew was inside him and he is now thoroughly immersed in well-balanced, mutually enhancing study of classical piano, jazz, and music theory. The relationship Ramona has fostered with Graham has become what it will always be—one of the most profound of his lifetime, central to the “quality” of his daily life, cultivating not just a better player (in more than a musical sense), but a better person, more curious, more compassionate, more adventurous, more confident. Ramona’s are the most fortunate piano students imaginable”
Nelina and Clifford Backman
“Our son, 15, started studying with Ramona about a year ago. In this year, he has made tremendous progress, in his listening and practicing habits, in his interest and love of Jazz music, in his technique as a pianist, and in his ability to perform and improvise, both solo and in a combo.
Ramona is very sensitive and very dedicated, both as a professional musician and artist, and as a person and teacher. Her love of music and teaching are evident in everything she says and does. She spent hours in helping our son prepare for auditions for a prestigious Jazz summer school, in choosing the repertoire, in working on all the details, in encouraging him, and in conducting the actual recordings in her studio. Needless to say, he got accepted!
As we recently moved abroad, they now continue with lessons over Skype. While we initially had doubts about how effective would remote Skype lessons be, we now see that they are as effective and enjoyable. Hard work and progress continue in full steam, despite the physical distance and time differences.”
Tel Aviv, MA
“Ramona taught me more things in a year than I’ve learned in any other year taking lessons. She showed me that there were many ways to think of harmony, and that just because the music calls for one chord, doesn’t mean you can’t think of it as a different chord. She showed me voicings that sound great in solo settings, and when comping in an ensemble. Some of the greatest things I Iearned from Ramona pertained to improvising. While most teachers have a classic American approach to jazz, Ramona’s style is influenced more by European players such as John Taylor. She taught me how to use many different pentatonic and hexatonic scales as well as upper structures to create different colors and textures in a solo. Overall, I became more comfortable using the chords as more of a guide instead of as symbols telling me what I could and couldn’t play.
One of the greatest things about having Ramona as a teacher is that she understands the too-often forgotten connection between music and spirituality. A lot of musicians out there have a dispassionate and unconnected approach to the piano, but Ramona isn’t one of them.”
“What a difference a year makes! My son Danny has played the piano since he was in Kindergarten. He had been taking lessons with an instructor who had given him a consistently challenging array of music in a variety of genres, based on Danny’s interests. Once he discovered “real” jazz in his junior year in high school, all bets were off, he couldn’t get enough of it. Ramona Borthwick took Danny on as a student that summer on a trial basis, and we haven’t looked back.
Ramona’s obvious passion is jazz, but it’s also teaching. It’s rare to find such a perfect balance of a gifted musician who is also an academic and teacher in the same person. Her undeniable positive energy is equally contagious. She listened, not only to what Danny was playing but to what his ultimate goal was and after just six months of lessons, helped him successfully audition for elite college music programs.
Ramona has a huge amount of personal talent, vast musical knowledge and an unparalleled capacity for coaching. She is as talented a musician as she is a compassionate, insightful and beautiful person. My son has benefited from Ramona’s guidance personally as well as musically. It is my honor to recommend her as an inspiration to anyone trying to understand and play beautiful music.”
“I restarted my piano lessons last year (after a 25+ year break) with Ramona and she has already helped me enormously. I wanted to improve my abilities in classical, blues and jazz piano, including improvisation, composition and performance skills, and Ramona fit the bill. Her specialty is jazz composition and performance but she also has an impressive musical pedigree and a strong background in classical music. Her teaching style is flexible and responsive – for example, during a lesson we can spend time discussing jazz chord voicings, move on to technique practice, then on to performance practice for a classical piece.
I also enjoy the periodic “salons” that Ramona holds with her adult students where we practice our performing skills in a relaxed atmosphere while also enjoying good food, drink and conversation. Because of her musical abilities and knowledge, her teaching techniques, her enthusiasm for music and her upbeat energy, I think Ramona is an excellent teacher and I recommend her highly.”
“I can’t recommend Ramona Borthwick enough as a teacher. I could go on and on about her attributes (and I *do*, to friends), but here are just a few, in my view: her prodigious musical, technical and pedagogical abilities, her fantastic positive spirit and sense of fun (and great sense of humor!), her persistence and insistence that things be learned and done the right way, her incredible knowledge of a host of classical and jazz styles, her flexibility, and ability & willingness to listen, her ability to find a workable solution to technical/learning issues, and yes, her stubbornness in insisting that things not be dropped, but pursued and become polished over time.
Ramona also is a great teacher of theory and rhythm. I am just with her for a year at this point, and I feel that I’ve learned so much (and suddenly I’m getting compliments on my playing from friends and neighbors and family) but I’m even more excited about what I can do in the next few years with Ramona. If you are serious about becoming a much better pianist *and* musician, she can be an awesome resource.”
“I returned to piano as an adult and I have taken lessons with Ramona for two years. I cannot recommend her enough. Her instruction is engaging, comprehensive, and generous. She makes me excited that there is a lifetime’s worth of things to learn about music. And she encourages me to work towards more musical skills than I thought were possible. I also admire her as a pianist and composer. So I have total trust in her expertise and musical aesthetic. Her studio is a lovely space and it is a pleasure to be in her company every lesson!”
“Ramona obviously loves playing jazz piano and loves teaching it as well. A highly competent and instinctive player herself, she has nonetheless an unusual ability to see the music and the musical challenge from the perspective of the student. In my case, I had already done quite a lot of classical piano. She quickly understood where I was coming from and where I wanted to go, and she had an arsenal of strategies to help me get there. She was generous both with her time and her ideas, obviously committed to her students and taking personal satisfaction in their progress. Her explanations were thoughtful and clearly articulated. I was surprised that the Skype arrangement turned out so well. I suppose sound quality is inevitably inferior to real life but frankly it was hardly noticeable. While that issue may be a drawback of Skype, I found it to be more than offset by the fact that we were both seated at our own pianos at all times, greatly facilitating demonstrations and even quasi-jamming.”
David (student via Skype)
“I came to Ramona as an atypical student – a semi-pro trumpet player of 40 years who wanted to buckle down and learn piano. After realizing that I didn’t really want to work the piano, I asked Ramona about working with me on a broader set of musical skills based around ear training and dictation studies.
Ramona has been wonderful at devising an interesting, logical and productive approach to our work together. As well as being prepared and having some specific work and goals in mind, she has remained flexible and open to my opinions and needs. After several weeks my ears started to really ‘open up’ and I feel like we’re on to something. Soon I’ll be applying our work to the trumpet directly, and then perhaps I”ll learn to play the piano! I can’t thank Ramona enough for her attention, patience, and excellent advice during our time working together.”
“As adults, how many times have we said “I used to play the piano”? I used to say that. I took lessons in my youth and had wanted to play piano again for years. I had not been able to find an experienced teacher who met my needs as an adult learner. Last winter I googled “Piano teacher in Watertown, MA” and Ramona Borthwick was at the top of the list. She answered my inquiry in a timely manner and we set up a lesson. The lesson was both challenging and inspiring. I was impressed with her expertise and enthusiastic teaching style. I now look forward to my piano lessons. Eight months later I am more invested in playing than ever. Surprised by my progress, I am even thinking of performing in public one day down the road!”
“We spent the academic year of 2013-14 in the Boston area, with our two daughters (7 and 12 years old). The children arrived with previous piano experience. We found Ramona while looking for piano teachers online. The first thing that called our attention was the information that Ramona not only teaches piano but is also a composer. Listening to some of her pieces we all had confidence to have found someone special. This feeling was confirmed in our first meeting with her and grew stronger and stronger every class the children had. Ramona is such a wonderful teacher that makes the students do their best with love.
The children were always motivated and dedicated answering to Ramona’s instruction. Their level increased remarkably during the year and their love for music got stronger than ever. We should mention that we found in Ramona, not only a special teacher but also a wonderful friend. Now we are back to our home country, and we miss every single moment we had together. The children are very proud to play with independence and always remember her lovely lessons and advice.”
Eliane & Vitorio
Minas Gerais, Brazil
I played piano as a child for seven years, and then again as an adult for seven years. I started with Ramona a year and a half ago. Since then, my understanding of the music, my interpretation of it, and my application of technique have all improved a great deal!
Ramona pushes you to that next level. She’ll see your capabilities and do whatever it takes to reach past your comfort zone. She takes her time when you venture into a new piece and carefully talks to you about the nuances of the piece, when it was written, what music was like at the time. All that context gives you ideas on how to interpret the piece. When you get a compliment from Ramona, you know you did something well. She won’t say ‘bravo’ just for the sake of saying it. That means that when she does, you feel as though you’ve mastered something new. Each lesson will be different. She expects a lot, but makes you want to deliver. Studying with Ramona makes – making each note and each rest mean something. Each phrase becomes alive. It doesn’t come easily at times. But when it does, it’s so rewarding.
The other great thing about Ramona is her versatility. She will teach you classical and jazz at the same time! Ramona is truly a gifted teacher!
“I came to Ramona a little bit more than one year ago with rusty piano playing techniques. I learned piano when I was a child for about four years with a teacher in my home country. I like to play piano but I stopped learning after I became extremely busy with school work for entering high school and college exams. After I moved to US (first for school; now my life is here), I always want to start playing piano again. I was frustrated by my rusty fingers and thought I will never improve because of my age. Finally, I found Ramona (from Google search ^_^).
After just a little bit more than one year, my piano playing has much improved. Most importantly, I had found my love for piano back. The truth is that I have not learned how to play piano correctly. I had many great teachers in my life and she is now one of them. I believe when you meet a good teacher you would know immediately. A good teacher must be passionate about what she/he teaches. Ramona is a musician herself so no doubt that she loves music. I believe it is what makes her an excellent teacher. What she has taught me will stay with me forever. I would recommend her to anyone, irrespective of the levels of piano playing.”
“I first began learning piano with Ramona at the age of 6 in Bombay, India. After a break (graduation, moving continents) I have re-started lessons with her. There is a Ruskin quote that describes her perfectly – “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece”, and so it is with Ramona.
When you’re learning music with Ramona, don’t expect the usual, expect the extraordinary, for that is what you will get. One day, you’ll think back and be thankful not only for the strong musical foundation you have developed, but for everything she has helped you develop in addition to the music – self-love, self-belief and most importantly self-discipline. No parent can ask for a better musical guide for their children. No adult can ask for a more fulfilling experience than the one they will have with her. We all have our own destiny and to share her passion for music through teaching is Ramona’s. One very rarely has serendipitous moments in their life, meeting her in the 90’s, was mine. Thank you Ramona!.”
“I’ve had several piano teachers over the years, beginning in childhood and later in adulthood, but none of them were able to explain things in ways I could always fully understand as I am very serious student and looking to acheive my musical goals as soon as possible.
I ultimately found the right teacher who could understand my needs and help me develop my skills in playing and composition. I have learnt a lot with Ramona within a very short period of time because the knowledge she shares is incredible & useful. The amount of homework I get is a lot and at the same time its so much fun & challenging. It has taken my playing to another level. The way she makes you understand the concepts in a very simple manner which at one point for me used to be difficult to understand and now nothing seems to be difficult.
Thanks a lot for helping me in achieving my musical goals & creating a new hope in me. And not to forget the internet era, thanks to internet for breaking all the barriers and making the world small. Without that there would have been no access to your teaching and my growth as an artist.”
Abraham (student via Skype)
“Ramona is an insightful and inspiring teacher whose enthusiasm and humor make lessons a joy. My nine-year-old daughter has studied piano with her for the past year and a half, and has made great progress both in practice and in music theory. She has even learned some historical context for the music she’s playing. It’s a great educational experience for her, but we’d drop it if she weren’t having fun as well. After her weekly hour-long lesson, my daughter routinely says, “Is it over already?””
Ramona is an inspiring, patient and very caring teacher. Being an adult beginner, I really admire her patience and persistent nature of making sure I not only master every piece I play on the piano but also understand and learn the music theory. She makes my lesson not only enjoyable, but makes me believe that with continuous practice and determination I will master the song. She is not only my teacher but also a good friend who’s taken me step closer to my belief that very soon I will play the piano well. Thank you for your patience and motivation!
“As an adult who is new to the piano, I find Ramona to be both patient and knowledgeable about about the strengths and challenges of the adult learner. She seeks to really meet my goals for piano rather than following a preconceived one-size-fits-all paedagogy. She has worked hard to improve my technique with an eye always towards my continual progress. Her cheerful enthusiasm makes each lesson a looked forward to pleasure. I’d strongly recommend Ramona to any adult pursuing their dream on the piano.”
“I have been taking online lessons with Ramona for the last three months. Its been a great way to learn Jazz Piano (my first instrument was the saxophone, which I continue to play). I love the Skype lessons for the ease of being in my home. We are presently learning ii-V-I’s with bass lines through all the keys, standards with bass lines, melody and comping. She has hand outs that explain and reinforce the concepts of the lessons. Ramona is a great teacher and a wonderful person. You won’t go wrong taking lessons with her.”
Steve (student via Skype)
“I have known Ramona for several years, initially starting out as being one of her piano students for a period of three years. Some of the many things that lead me to say today, without hesitation, is that she has been the most mature and influential teacher I have ever studied with. (I have had three years of serious jazz education at the Humber College in Toronto, Canada).
Ramona’s approach is to inspire her students, get them very involved in what they are learning. She made sure to cover all aspects of jazz and classical piano training with me, including theory, technique, repertoire, improvisation, harmony, history, listening skills and composition. She communicated her thoughts and ideas with a natural enthusiasm that was such a great motivational factor for me.
I believe that in order to be a truly successful teacher, one needs to possess an extraordinary love for the subject being taught and a keen desire to impress the same on others. I can sincerely say that Ramona fits the description.”
“Ramona teaches piano with artistry, energy, enthusiasm, and extreme focus on technical skills, theory and rhythm. She is friendly, encouraging, committed, serious and is able to be challenging and strict, while maintaining kindness and good sense of humor. Ramona’s ability to bring out the best in her students shone during our first Summer Salon at her studio: her students performed classical, jazz and pop music, some of them even offered their own improvisations and compositions! Ramona is an immensely talented pianist and musician, dedicated to sharing her love of music with her students and we feel so fortunate to have ‘found’ her.”
Nonna & Peter
“I really enjoy taking lessons from Ramona. Combining her preexisting aptitude for music, and her creativity and boundless energy, she is able to make learning, refining, and practicing my piano skills fun!”
“Ramona is an inspiring, professional teacher who has not only taught me piano, but music. I had always felt a oneness with music, but studying with her has brought out the music in me. I enjoy learning theory, history and form with her. She makes every lesson that I attend immensely enjoyable.”
“I am continually amazed at the technical and theoretical progress I have achieved while studying with Ramona. As a forty-something with no prior musical training and an occasional aversion to hard work, I was apprehensive about the wisdom of pursuing my childhood dream of playing the piano. Now, three years later, it seems it was a wise decision since I had the great fortune of finding a wonderful teacher.
Ramona’s remarkable musical gifts combined with her boundless enthusiasm for teaching have given that childhood dream wings and enough sky to last a lifetime.”
“Ramona taught piano to two of my children; Billy who is eight and Katie who is nine. Not only did she inspire and motivate my children to play their best but she was also very personable and was flexible in her approach. My children miss her very much. In fact it was very difficult to find a replacement for her. Every potential music teacher was scrutinized in light of her. Although I found this somewhat frustrating, it indicates how greatly Katie & Billy appreciated Ramona’s efforts.
I would like to say that in my view what is most important to me in terms of my children taking piano lessons is that it is a positive learning experience. This was indeed the case with Ramona. I would highly recommend her.”
“I had not touched a piano for over 10 years when I started taking lessons with Ramona. What I remembered from my childhood piano lessons was very rusty. Under Ramona’s guidance and with her encouragement, it did not take me long to get my confidence back and to start to love playing the piano again. Her enthusiasm, her dedication and her impressive knowledge and love of music are inspiring. She is an exceptional person and a first-rate music teacher.
I am just sorry she had to move away from me.”
“At the age of thirteen, my daughter decided that she wanted piano lessons. I agreed on the condition that she practice as required, and that this endeavour had to be something that she wanted for herself alone. I do not have fond memories of my own childhood piano lessons. I felt that any love of music and piano playing would have to be developed on her own with her teacher. I stayed out of it. I thought the more important relationship should be between the student and teacher.
We were very fortunate to have found Ramona. She has been a great teacher, role model and mentor. My now fifteen year old daughter enjoys playing for relaxation. Her development and improvement over the past two years under Ramona’s skill, care, guidance and direction has been a joy to watch and to listen. Ramona instilled in her what I expect to be a lifelong love of music and piano playing”.
“As an aspiring jazz piano/keyboard player, the experience of studying with Ramona Borthwick proved to be the turning point in my musical journey. She brings about a quick rate of progress toward proficiency on the instrument in the shortest time, and is able to discern where the students’ weaknesses and shortcomings lie. Her teaching enabled impediments and stumbling blocks (technical, theoretical and creative), to be quickly overcome, and obstacles along the way, to be surmounted. She seeks to equip the student with a solid well-rounded foundation- to strengthen the ‘basics’ so to speak (for example: concentrating on the development of technical ability, music theory, the study of western classical music etc.) – thereby aiding the student to develop into a ‘complete’ musician – over and above the ultimate direction the student wishes to take – whether classical or jazz music, being a keyboard professional, or a hobby pianist …
I deeply treasure the time that I spent learning music with her, and have gained much – both musically and personally in my life.”
“The piano learning experience with Ramona is wonderful. I thought I am going to learn piano only, but I end up learning music instead. She make everything so full of life and spirit. She is good in explaining every details and particulars. She make things simple and easy. And most wonderful thing is she treat me as a friend more than a student.
And I really miss her as both an excellent piano teacher and also as a friend.”
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
“Even with my very erratic practicing habits, I have made more progress over the past months with Ramona, than I ever imagined would be possible. Her enthusiasm and love for the piano, has impacted on my relationship with the instrument. I feel that I now approach my piano playing in much more of a “relational” way; meaning that I am much more aware of how my body and mind (and indeed spirit) are all important in making a full and true connection with the music. All these facets are inextricably important in uniting the student with his/her instrument and the beautiful creations of the composers whose gifts of music we bring to life.
Ramona is a teacher who challenges me. Growing up, I took many years of unstructured piano lessons from an aunt of mine, who although a very good teacher, never truly challenged me to excel and grow. Ramona opens up a piece of music as to its musical form, phraseology, and interpretive exploration that challenges me and excites me to “connect” with my homework. This has made a great difference in my relation to the music I play, and indeed all the music I hear around me.
I find it very hard NOT to want to prepare well for my piano lessons; since Ramona’s love of music is infectious and “rubs off” on me in a way that I really WANT to get to know my music well. I always leave my lesson with some new and exciting understanding of the piano, even when my practicing has been absent in between classes. Its a testimonial to Ramona’s excellent teaching that I’m still sticking with the piano these past six months, considering all the stressful happenings in my life (including divorce, two big moves, restructuring of my job, and giving birth to five kittens!).
I’ll end by saying that I am very lucky to have recently inherited a beautiful grand piano from my aunt who used this piano to teach hundreds of students during a career spanning 50 years. Whenever I sit down to practice, I’m conscious of the wonderful gift of music that all these students have enjoyed over these years; and I’m excited that I too am enjoying the gift of music on this instrument.
My present relation with my piano is absolutely due to the inspiration and excitement of the instruction I am receiving from Ramona. I am convinced that the dust would be gathering on my piano if it were not for the excellent teaching I am currently receiving. Needless to say I want this to continue!”