Dr Ong believes that everyone is born with musical ability and that this ability can be fostered and developed with appropriate parental and teacher guidance and involvement. There is no such thing as a tone-deaf child. If there was, there would be children who couldn’t speak inflection-heavy languages, like Mandarin, for example. A failure to develop the child’s aural ability when young however, will be harder to overcome when they are older. Of course there are different levels of aptitude in everyone for any particular skill, but aptitude can be positively or negatively affected based on the physical and social environmental factors of the home and school environment.
Oftentimes children don’t receive the best musical training or examples, because parents do not perceive the need for it. However, in any field if you learn from someone who is less than a master of that skill, you run the risk of developing bad habits or at the very least the development of your own mastery will be much delayed, if not impossible. Barring natural genius, a student will only be as good as their guidance.
Jonathan believes therefore that teachers have an ethical responsibility to be the best educators and musicians they can be. To this end, he has prioritised his own pedagogical development and taught in a wide range of educational contexts. He served as a trained early childhood music educator in preschools in Los Angeles, conducted music therapy activities and directed performance ensembles in retirement villages, taught group and solo piano classes as an assistant lecturer at the University of Southern California, and was a performance coach and guest artist for contemporary popular music at the University of Eastern Washington. He currently serves as a lecturer, tutor and a performance ensemble director for the University of New South Wales, a group piano teacher at East Hills Boys Technology High School, accompanies for multiple instrumental studios across Sydney, teaches over 20 students in the Ongcore Music Studio in Ashfield and is a broadcast presenter at FineMusicFM 102.5. Additionally he performs casual work as a teacher and pianist for St Andrews Cathedral School, Moriah College and Sydney Grammar School, devises and delivers Suzuki workshops in New South Wales and Queensland, and conducts frequent masterclasses for students of other teachers upon request.
As a pianist, Jonathan has always striven for excellence. He has been awarded full music scholarships at every level of education, starting with his music scholarship at Sydney Grammar School. He topped the state of NSW in the HSC Music 2 course, was awarded the Sony Youth Foundation Music Scholarship for his Bachelors of Music at the University of New South Wales, and was also awarded full scholarship to attend the Banff Music Festival in Canada as a Young Artist. Jonathan was also awarded full scholarships and an assistant lectureship at the University of Southern California, enabling him to obtain his Masters and his Doctorate of Musical Arts there.
In addition to this, Jonathan participated in piano competitions from the age of five with immediate and continuing success, and has extensive performance experience in Sydney and Los Angeles. He has taken masterclasses with master pianists like Earl Wild and John Perry.
As a result, you can be assured that Jonathan will bring this experience and knowledge to bear in a friendly and accessible way in your lessons.
Parental involvement is highly encouraged. Learning musical skills has many similarities to learning a new language. The more you hear and practice it, the faster you will improve and the quicker mistakes will disappear. This is why people visit countries on immersion experiences. If you have a child taking music lessons, you should be as involved as possible! Scientific research shows that the child’s intrinsic motivation to pick up any skill is heavily influenced by how that skill is used and valued by the parents. Many children plateau in their progress at about a year of progress as material becomes more difficult, and parents give in and let them quit. This is in fact when your child will need the greatest amount of support to keep going. While your child may only have an hour a week with the teacher, you are with them almost all the time! This will boost the effectiveness and progress of lessons dramatically.
Video recording your lesson is also highly encouraged. There will be a lot of material presented in the lesson, and this will reduce the development of errors in posture, technique and musicianship between lessons. Additionally imitation and modelling are natural modes of human learning. Video recording your lesson is another great way to boost teaching effectiveness.