Two Tough Conversations with Prospective Piano Parents

Last Updated on 2022-11-27 | Originally Posted on 2021-01-29

Introduction

As a piano teacher, I find myself doing lots of things besides teaching lessons. For instance, I’ve added sanitizing skills to my arsenal! That includes supplying hydrogen peroxide and clean clothes to make sure the piano keys stay Covid-free! One of the more normal side activities is to speak to parents about teaching their kids. This happens a lot at the beginning of each semester. Turnover is part of the business due to the number of families that move into and out of our area each year.

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Law of the Farm

Last Updated on 2022-11-16 | Originally Posted on 2020-01-01

Introduction

Sometimes it pays to relate the complex world that we create for ourselves to simple principles. Stephen Covey did this when he discussed the Law of the Farm in his manual on life, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Learning a piece of music is not much different than planting a tomato. You have to be attentive from the beginning to the end of the process. I’m sure you’ve seen the difference between a tomato that is scrawny and one that is a spectacular celebration.

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Keep Pushing Forward

Last Updated on 2024-02-04 | Originally Posted on 2019-09-03

One of the challenges of learning new music is that there are literally so many notes. When I look back on the four Chopin Scherzi that I learned anew (2) and relearned (2) this year, that’s 82 pages of printed music. When organizing, musicians usually think in measures. Even using measures, there are 967 measures in the 12-minute Fourth Scherzo. How do you tackle pieces that are so daunting in length? Keep pushing forward.

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Schumann and Beethoven To Go

Last Updated on 2024-02-04 | Originally Posted on 2019-05-28

Listening to music in the online era seems a bit more like just another computer task, whether it be shopping online or even writing an email. The only difference is that it’s served via a music platform, like YouTube or Facebook Live, instead of some other computer, tablet, or cell phone app. So why not Schumann and Beethoven To Go, since that is how it is likely to be consumed?!

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Different Kind of Feedback

Last Updated on 2024-02-18 | Originally Posted on 2019-02-20

The Feedback

I received a curiously different kind of feedback after performing a newly-learned piece, the Chopin Scherzo No. 2: “I am glad that you learned that for yourself and that you shared it with us!” It’s not the typical response following a performance. I knew that the comment was well-intended, coming from one of my favorite people. Still, it took a while to sink in what that actually meant.

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Fear or Laziness?

Last Updated on 2024-02-04 | Originally Posted on 2019-01-31

I was practicing after teaching this week, something I do whenever I have the chance. When learning new pieces, I sometimes find it difficult to get started. Once I get started, it’s sometimes difficult to keep making progress. Such was the case in trying to get through the entire Chopin Scherzo No. 2. It’s a new piece for me, with 780 measures over 23 pages that I’ll perform as a church postlude on February 10th.

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One Very Bad Experience

Last Updated on 2024-02-04 | Originally Posted on 2018-12-12

I had a wonderful run recently as the substitute pianist for the Bella Vista Women’s Chorus (BVWC). My performance agreement included two rehearsals and three concerts with the group, but ended with the final concert this past Tuesday. I had high hopes as I arrived at the venue, since the first two concerts were really successful.  The lobby and grand parlor were beautifully appointed, and a very shiny baby grand piano awaited me. However, during the choral warmup, I learned that this concert was not going to be the success for which I hoped.

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Bach Reaches Audience

Last Updated on 2024-02-04 | Originally Posted on 2018-08-27

It took me a long time to program Bach on a sufficient basis during Sunday worship. At the first job where I was organist and choir director, I avoided playing him altogether. I feared people would not connect. At the next job, I played some Bach, but not a lot. At my current position, where I’ve been since 2012, I’ve fully embraced him. I challenged myself to play the entire Orgelbüchlein, as Bach intended, from Advent to the end of the Christian year. It was extremely meaningful to me, though rarely did anyone make a comment. Bach reaches audience? Not so much!

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Piano Miniatures

Last Updated on 2024-02-04 | Originally Posted on 2018-06-04

What are piano miniatures? My definition would be any piece that’s no longer than five minutes and unmistakably describes its composer. You might think of these as piano encores, and you would be right. The only difference is that I don’t want to save them just for the end of a recital. They can stand on their own, and deserve to be shared whenever the opportunity arises.

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Give Yourself Permission To Stink

Last Updated on 2024-02-04 | Originally Posted on 2018-05-21

Introduction

It’s said that perfectionists never get anything done. Despite that somewhat true saying, the expectation in music is that we aim for perfection. You’ve probably heard the expression for when we slightly miss the mark: “It’s close enough for government work.” Fortunately, there are enough folks who see that lie for what it is. As Sierra Teller Ornelas suggests in this article (h/t Kara Cutruzzula), give yourself permission to stink! Beware, she uses a more salty word for stink.

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