Seymour Bernstein’s legacy to piano students and teachers

When my blog well runs dry, I have only to draw on a reservoir of wise words from pianist/teacher/author/composer, Seymour Bernstein.

And if replenishment is an overarching need coupled with inspiration, this referenced interview provides both in bucketsful.

Intro: In 2018 Seymour had the honor of being guest artist at the Young Artist World Piano Festival held in St. Paul, Minnesota where Autumn Zander, a faculty member and an editor for the European Piano Teachers Association interviewed him.

In a compelling exchange that preserves some “colloquialisms for spontaneous flow,” Seymour insists that among many publications, “this one comes closer to the person I really am.”

Besides a pervasive, running theme that bonds Bernstein to the joy of making his students “feel better about themselves” through their individual creative journeys, he explores a world of practicing, learning and growing that has a strong philosophical underpinning.

To this end, I’ve extracted a few choice quotes that will surely elicit nods of recognition among piano lovers everywhere.


(Paraphrase) In the arena of “mistakes” that piano students will obsessively focus on, giving authority to “note perfect” you tube performers and recording artists whom they try to “emulate,” Bernstein provides a reasoned reply.

Well, you see, that becomes a thing in itself. “I musn’t make a mistake” and if I make mistakes along the way in saying something, I have to deal with those mistakes–and see to it that they disappear–but not at the sacrifice of saying something. In fact, I’m going to leave in the mistake because what I’m saying is powerful, and too bad, I’m human. (my emphasis)

Seymour’s “human” framing of his creative process filters down to his students in an interaction that promotes emotional well-being and growth. His mentoring fosters the belief that practicing has a direct application to life.

Bernstein: “We have to determine what goes on during productive practicing. It is a process of integrating our emotional, intellectual and physical worlds…Having achieved this integration through the practice of music, we would be foolish to leave it behind when we leave the piano. Our responsibility is to pay attention to how such an integration feels, and project that feeling into every activity of life.

“For example, we learn to listen to our inner voice when we practice and be sure that the instrument is reproducing what we hear internally, so we should speak to people and interpret what they say with the same discrimination and sensitivity.”

Streams of Bernstein’s inspiring words flow throughout his interchange with Autumn Zander.

“Finding your spiritual reservoir and inner voice steers you, and when you leave the practice room, you take that sense of whole integration with you.”

One of my favorite you tube postings by Seymour Bernstein is a treasured fusion of music and words that deepens the meaning of the pianist’s artistry, life’s work, and legacy. It’s the perfect Coda to the pianist’s captivating interview!

Link: http://www.seymourbernstein.com

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