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Sister and brother piano lessons in the Hills

second pic east bay

I enjoy my weekly journey to a home way up in the Hills of El Cerrito (neighbor to Berkeley) There, I teach Lucy and Fritz who play a lovely, resonant Baldwin Acrosonic that I advised mom to purchase (over at DC Pianos) Acros happen to be among my favorites in the spinet/console category.

Lucy at the pianofritz at piano
The Back Story

Lucy was a transfer student, coming to study with me at about 7, and at the time she’d brought the Bastien primer, and various binder-inserted patriotic songs with chord symbols, etc. (Throw in “Happy Birthday!”)

She played by finger numbers, since most method books are short-cut based, riveting students relentlessly to five-finger positions.

Going back five years in time, I recall finding Lucy beautiful music, leading within 12 months to the James Hook Minuet, that I sourced from the Toronto Conservatory series, making sure she began her one octave scales (FJH Classical Scale Book) in all keys framed by the Circle of Fifths.

Arpeggios were partnered, woven as broken chords, rolling through sound space.

Phrasing with a supple wrist, singing lines, shaping them, practicing with separate hands became our steady learning model and over months melting into years, I watched a little girl grow into a very expressively musical pre-teen. (Her scales rippled across the keyboard beside a splash arpeggios)

Lucy is now 12, and has more recently learned Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” (NO transcription), Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous, Ballade by Burgmuller, and now “Inquietude” by the same composer. This past week, she embarked upon Mozart Sonata 545 in C (first movement-Allegro) The latter will apply her dedicated scale work.

Both Lucy, and her younger brother Fritz, (who began lessons with me at 6) have done well, knowing that patient, baby-step practicing will reap long-term rewards.

Here are two sibling lesson samples from 6/7/2013.

Lucy is practicing “Inquietude” with an ear toward “harmonic rhythm” (staccato bass chord progressions) and an awareness of curvy groups of three notes, figured in the treble. (her flexible wrist nourishes a nicely shaped set of notes)

My Playing in Tempo: (Lucy will gradually inch up to Allegro agitato as the piece ripens) There is NO rush to the finish line. The process is what matters.

Background, Friedrich Burgmuller

Burgmuller (b. 1806, d. 1874) was a colorful Romantic composer who enticed students to learn his program-inspired music. The Op. 100, Twenty-Five Progressive Pieces that includes “Inquietude,” is a treasure trove of appealing miniatures framed by imaginative titles. (“Sincerity,” “The Clear Stream,” “Sorrow,” “Angels’ Voices,” among others)


Fritz, 9, is practicing William Gillock’s “Flamenco,” an engaging, rhythmically-driven piece with an ethnic Spanish flavor. (very popular among young piano students and adults alike)

In this pertinent video instruction Fritz demonstrates his parceled out learning coupled with a physical awareness of a supple, spring forward wrist for the opening section, and a rolling motion, for the contrasting middle section.

brige E Bay from Hills

William Gillock:

Born: July 1, 1917 – LaRussell, Missouri, USA
Died: September 7, 1993 – Desoto, Dallas, Texas, USA

“The noted American music educator and composer of piano music, William Gillock, learned to play the piano at an early age. He attended Central Missouri Methodist College, in Fayette, Missouri, where he studied both piano and composition with N. Louise Wright, who recognized his remarkable talent and encouraged him to make music his career.

“Even the earliest of his compositions show a rare inventiveness and originality of harmony and texture, as well as the Gillock trademark, melodic beauty. Called “the Schubert of children’s composers” in tribute to his melodic gift, Gillock composed numerous solos for students of all levels and ensemble music for students and their teachers to play together. He summed up his guiding compositional principle by saying that “melody and rhythmic vitality are essential to compositions that students want to learn.” This and others of his thoughts were transmitted to thousands of teachers and students through the hundreds of workshops he conducted over the years throughout the USA.”

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