Judy, Seymour, and Ludwig


It was no surprise that Judy, one of my adult piano students came to her lesson yesterday gushing about Seymour: An Introduction. And naturally, in the nick of time, I grabbed my super-charged, helium packed iPhone and added the latest film rave to my growing collection.

Need I say more?… or is it SEE MORE?.. Seymour?

Seymour pic

The video speaks for itself and includes a nice chunk of Beethoven’s F Major Sonatina, as Judy honored the composer by playing superbly well considering her exposure to piano lessons has been fairly recent.


Yet, she did herself proud and proved that LIFE at the piano can begin at any age. Would you believe, 64?!

Enjoy! and Don’t forget to pack in 81 minutes of Seymour’s movie. (Directed by Ethan Hawke, and impeccably edited by Anna Gustavi)


Seymour Bernstein: From Maine with Love


Love the Second Time Around


Click the “Theater” link to check movie schedules around the country

Posted in adult piano instruction, Beethoven, blogmetrics.org, documentary, Ethan Hawke, film, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Ludwig Van Beethoven, piano blog, piano blogging, Seymour: An Introduction, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Piano Technique: When an adult student is in the Zone!

It’s always valuable to snatch a lesson segment when a student gets it just right and has the equivalent of a runner’s high at the keyboard. It’s certainly instructive for both teacher and pupil to observe what conditions predisposed a pupil to a level of ONEness of body, mind and spirit.

Last night, Jocel displayed such fluidity supported by my framing rhythmic prompts that wrapped his F Major scales and arpeggios into a cohesive frame. Naturally, the goal in the long run, (no pun intended) will be to have him internalize a singing pulse, taking its consciousness into his practice module during the week.

(P.S. Pardon the HOT zone wired webcam mike, that was inadvertently un-silenced)


In truth, both teacher and pupil are on a common wavelength of experimenting, analyzing, and refining during piano lessons: each bounces off the other through a mutual journey of awakenings.

As Seymour Bernstein sagaciously says, if we are good teachers we give our students a lot of credit for being our mentors and naturally, the reverse is true.

When a student gets it, so do we!

Posted in arpeggios, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, piano technique, scales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love the Second Time Around: Seymour, An Introduction

Sonya in front of poster

I’ve seen Ethan Hawke’s sensitive film portrait of Seymour Bernstein twice as I amass a film archive of interviews and written tributes.

Need more be said?

Run to see a cinematic masterpiece so well framed by Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post: ‘Seymour: An Introduction’ is a soaring, sublime ode to art and life.



Posted in documentary, Ethan Hawke, film, Seymour: An Introduction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Imagination and mental imagery in the piano learning environment

It shouldn’t be the same old five-finger warm-ups and scales without an infusion of emotion/imagination. That’s why I decided to experiment and have two adult students communicate a juxtaposed shift of mood between a MAJOR penta-scale (five-finger position) and its companion parallel minor. Neither pupil expected to be asked to raise five step-wise notes to a level of emotional engagement.

So here’s what happened:

Peter started with Parallel thirds (in a five-finger Db MAJOR and minor) frame.

Laura took off with a B Major/minor penta-scale.

Later in his lesson, Peter infused a G Major Arpeggio with a “floating” contour…

Another keyboard view of G Major arpeggio

Experiences with mental image prompts encourage expressive music-making and will be valuable in all practicing phases.



Posted in adult piano instruction, imagination, mental imagery, piano blog, piano lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Multiple SKYPE CALL RECORDER Playback views for a Piano Lesson: J.C. Bach Prelude in A minor

overhead and treble clef

As prep for my presentation to the Music Teachers Association (Alameda Branch), I’ve put together a series of exemplary SKYPE Lessons demonstrating the technology to best advantage.

In fact my May 11th Program title is, “Teaching Piano by Skype: Braving a High-Tech Universe.” Monday, May 11, 2015: 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

My plan is to project blogs on a big screen that have have embedded you tube videos with various captions for multiple playback views. (Skype Call Recorder)

The Details

When a student is watching his/her computer, she can see me in full screen, but as a lesson progresses, on my end I can RECORD the event using various views (LOCAL-me; REMOTE: the student; or SPLIT SCREEN-me and the student) These settings can be altered while a lesson is in progress without interruption. Changing views does not stop the record process.

When I review and import the lesson footage to iMovie, I then upload it to You Tube and send the student a Lesson PLAYBACK with multiple keyboard views for increased pedagogical value.

This particular lesson by Skype from Berkeley, California to Staten Island, New York illustrated the process:

J.C. Bach Prelude in A minor

JC Bach p1

Page 2

p2Preludein A minor

A Preceding Technique Lesson Segment (A minor scale and Arpeggio)

Teaching supplements

These were Video recorded supplements for Gayle re: the theory and Harmonic Rhythm of J.C. Prelude in A minor. They are embedded in the attached blog:


My Legato Pedaling segment included playing and naming A minor chords on each scale degree with an ear-training dimension, along with a harmonic Analysis of the first half of the J.C. Bach Prelude

This second segment examined part B with its string of Secondary Dominants:

About Gayle from Staten Island (She’s a transfer student with less than a preceding year of formal piano lessons)

A transplant from San Francisco to New York City (but originally from Chicago) Gayle made her first performance appearance in a SCREEN SHARE at our KICK-OFF SKYPE/LIVE piano recital. That meant she and all my piano students here and afar could watch Gayle in a pre-recorded segment. One other student, about to give birth did the same with Chopin’s C# minor Waltz thanks to the Miracle of Technology!

As it happened, I created Gayle’s video profile framing for her “Happiness” offering by Turk.

Gayle also made a transition from playing a digital piano, to acquiring a lovely Baldwin Acrosonic that was LANDED by FACE TIME, if you can believe!

Here’s how it played out from a first love meeting to marriage made in heaven (with my long distance matchmaker efforts)



Finally, I’m looking forward to spreading the Gospel on Skyping piano lessons at the May 11th MTAC Branch Meeting.

Here’s hoping for a good reception and turnout!




A Piano Lesson by Skype Primer


Multi-cam Views during Skype or Face Time Piano Lessons


My Overhead Web Cam adds to my Online accouterments


A North Carolina piano student by FaceTime talks about the ONLINE private lesson experience:

Sample Piano Lesson by FaceTime: From Berkeley CA, to North Carolina (Chopin Waltz in A minor Op. Posthumous)

Sample lesson Excerpt (Ab Major and minor thirds/staccato in Five-finger position)

Face Time lesson to London, England from Berkeley CA

Different webcam angle (side view–keyboard panorama)–roll into G Major arpeggio
This was lesson to London, England, but on Skype (Because of poor reception we switched permanently to Face Time)

Split screen FACE TIME Lesson to Fresno, California: F# minor Arpeggio

Split screen short video –my piano in side webcam view (A Major arpeggio in tenths) to Fresno, California

Same as above but longer video to Fresno, California

Split Screen with side webcam view of my piano: G Major Arpeggio (North Carolina)

For humor: Earthquake Skype lesson video

Skype lesson/baby interruption (Alaska)

Posted in MTAC, music teachers association of california, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano teaching, Shirley Kirsten, Skype | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Piano Technique: Attaining speed and clarity

Last night, one of my adult students observed me doing a quick glide warm-up over a two-octave scale before we officially started our lesson. Uncannily, his inquiry about how I managed to attain fluency at peak tempo, turned out to be the focus of our first fifteen minutes together, and it got me thinking about how I could help the pupil navigate his A# minor Natural scale to brisk speed in specific, well thought out steps. (We fragmented the last two ascending octaves)

What evolved in baby steps, was a back and forth exchange that built on a primary foundation of blocking clusters of black notes; isolating thumb points with a relaxed forward follow through supple wrist motion; then alternating thumb placements with cluster black note groups–We continued with rhythmic rolls into small note groupings and then to larger ones, building to peak. Breathing was a big part of our undertaking: Inhaling a relaxed chestful of air, and then slowly expelling through the scale. Once the scale had a sparkling journey through two octaves, we worked on varying dynamics: crescendo, diminuendo, then playing all Forte followed by piano (soft).

Our lesson segment unfolded out as follows:

Posted in adult piano instruction, blogmetrics.org, piano, piano blog, piano lessons, piano technique, scales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Run! to see Seymour: An Introduction, Ethan Hawke’s film masterpiece

Seymour in scarf

I went! I cried! I applauded! Those of us immersed in the arts as students and teachers, felt especially validated.

On the East Coast, harpsichordist, Elaine Comparone was riveted to the Big Screen just as I nestled into a snug seat at the Albany, California Landmark Twin theater. (East Bay, California)

She perfectly summed up what seemed beyond words to express:

“I found it moving, touching and masterfully put together! How did you like that performance at the end that moved from his studio to Steinway Hall? Wonderful job of editing. And the camera work throughout was artistically first-rate—not gimmicky. The clips at the end of various musical performances and audiences was just the cherry on top. .. The part about his service in Korea and how he made the best of it was great. Also the reaction to seeing the fawn and thinking he had died and gone to heaven. I thought the whole thing was just wonderful! That young man who played the Rachmaninoff—-wow!! I loved it all. It deserves to be nominated for the Academy Award. I hope it wins! Kudos to Ethan Hawke for his fine work! And that Kimmelman. What a sweet, sensitive man!”

If some of these characters interwoven into a gorgeous mosaic sound unfamiliar, please satisfy your curiosity, and ingest 84 minutes of heavenly film work as quickly as possible.

A pleasurable afterglow will linger for days, weeks, months and years….

For me, it was a joyous cinematic journey in the good company of Jocel, Alana, and Bernie who generously shared their enthusiastic responses to Ethan’s treasured documentary.

Thanks to all!

NOTE: The photo I took, and gave to Seymour as a gift in 2012, sits on the wall of his apartment’s entry-way. It’s seen fleetingly mid-point in the movie.

houseboat on water



Posted in Ethan Hawke, Ethan Hawke documentary, piano blog, piano blogging, piano teaching, Seymour Bernstein, Seymour: An Introduction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments