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An 8-Year old begins piano lessons!

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An exciting musical journey has begun! Liz, an 8-year old who prances by my apartment singing mellifluously, became my newest piano student last night. Her lesson opened with, “Welcome to a universe of the imagination,” an inspired framing that kept student and teacher riveted to 45 minutes of collaborative music-making. (The duet form was the perfect vehicle to grow the child’s earliest relationship to the piano.) It evoked memories of my Russian mentor who played harmonically rich Secondo parts, while at 6, I tinkered with three-note Diller Quaille melodies beside her.

“Ding Dong” was my signature piece, brought to life each week in a bed of blossoming sonorities that Mrs. Vinagradov provided. She’d mentored me in a tiny attic space of the quaint Kingsbridge Music School perched on a hill in the Bronx.


Yesterday’s FACEBOOK message that I’d posted hours before Liz’s lesson, was the harbinger of delights to come in a shared “new” environment of musical growth. It was also my reconnection with the world of children, who’d faded into the past as pupils since my teaching efforts were redirected toward adults.

“Exciting day!” I announced in the warm glow of social media friends!

“I’m starting a brand new beginner this evening–An 8-year old whose parents are safe-keeping my Steinway M grand. This will be a journey of imagination, expression, colors, emotion, natural, flowing connections to the keys, and intertwined relaxed breathing. I look forward to a mutually enriched learning adventure.”

In preparation for the maiden event, I’d browsed many teaching materials, finally settling upon Time to Begin, a Music Tree primer, that was originally created by Frances Clark. Ironically, I’d shelved a very early edition of the book that I’d used to teach one of my children at the tender age of 4, yet into the present many of the duets we’d played were included in the latest 2000 renewed copyright. (The cover and book lay-out had become more appealing, while the fundamental teaching philosophy remained intact.)

Clark, to her credit, did not embrace five-finger crutch learning, but taught students to rotate fingers around landmark notes (Treble G, Bass clef F, and Middle C), which promoted solid note-reading and other skills. It definitely earned my support for the MUSIC TREE series with its development over the years. (Note co-editors, Louise Goss and Sam Holland)

Right Side up Music Tree

Finally, as follow-up to Liz’s first lesson, I’ve posted three recorded segments that launch the “series” “LIZ’s Piano JOURNEY” that welcomes comments from teachers, students, and all piano lovers.

P.S. Camera angles will be adjusted and improved for forthcoming weekly videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

A CD with colorful accompaniments comes with the Primer

CD Time to Begin

CD reverse Time to Begin

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A Fear-less, Horizontal Approach to Staccato playing

Most piano students become DIS-connected when asked to play staccato. Their full blown trepidation wedded to DETACHMENT is so conspicuously on display during scale and arpeggio playing that a teacher must first devise mental cues to bring the student down to earth, in a comfortably secure traction with the keys.

It’s no surprise then, that LEGATO playing (smooth, note-to-note connection) may be the paradoxical entryway to staccato journeys across the 88s. In an octave-by-octave transit that essentially draws on a pianist’s ability to hug the keys, if not drag notes using touch-sensitive weight transfer, a resultant grooved, grounded, and gravitational centering will become the psychological and physical model for subsequent crisp releases. (It’s a natural transition that feeds relaxed and well-shaped staccato playing.)

In the following videos, two adult students respond positively to “horizontal” framings of their arpeggios and scales. They also make nice playing transfers from legato to well-contoured staccato.

Diminished 7th Arpeggio
(In slow and incrementally quicker tempos–Note that a slow-paced staccato rendering retains a horizontal dimension with teacher prompts.)

F#-minor Scale (Melodic form)