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The argument for learning piano on an acoustic

Today I was scoping out some Baldwin Acrosonic pianos on New York Craig’s List as I have a few East Coast Skype students who are playing not-so-terrific sounding digitals. They cannot produce a singing tone on them, or enjoy the “feel” of a real piano. (the so-called hammer-weighted feature, notwithstanding) Naturally, not every “real” piano is worth any serious attention, but there are pianos of the small variety (if there’s a space issue) that play a lot bigger than they appear, and have musical value.

In my experience over the years, a well-cared for Baldwin Acrosonic, considered the Cadillac of the spinet and console variety with its innovative wide sound chamber, is a decent acoustic option, particularly if it’s a first piano purchase. (These range in price from $450 to about $850 on the used piano market) One of my pupils got hers for $250 a few years ago, since I knew the fellow who was selling it and he gave her a bargain price. He threw in the moving for a song. Another, who relocated from Berkeley to UK had his Acrosonic packed up and transported by boat to its destination.

I have five students who own these, and they’re very happy with them. My preference is for the 1960s era Acros. Once one gets into the 80s, they are not the ones made in the US, but were sold off to Asian companies. Not the real deal. Those in the 50s are nice, but I tend to favor the next decade.

This morning I logged onto FaceTime (A New Jersey piano owner) and had the seller test out the piano for me. Naturally, it would have been nice to be PRESENT LIVE beside the piano, but I had some good information based on the ONLINE test run across the keys. While the hammer assembly looked clean, as I asked the owner to open the lid, I would have a Registered Technician detail it, and I would urge him to TUNE the piano before it’s considered for purchase. I’d want to test the tightness of the pins and the wear on the hammers. (the evenness of the action would be a factor in the overall evaluation as well)

Many sellers argue that since the piano is being moved, why bother to tune it? But that makes no sense because tuning it is like presenting a well-tended house for sale. Why would a seller want to showcase a piano that is not Up to pitch and ready to go? If I went to a piano showroom, the pianos I’d sample would be IN TUNE, regardless of the need to tune the instrument once it settled into a new environment. The advice of Larry Fine is well-taken, right out of his best-selling, Piano Book.

When I purchased my singing nightingale Haddorff, I insisted that it be tuned before I sealed the deal, and the information gleaned from the tuner was essential to my decision-making.

My Haddorff 1951 console, gorgeous inside and out

No digital piano can match a decent acoustic–the touch is DIFFERENT on a digital. It’s not a real piano. That’s a fact. Yet so many will argue that real pianos have to be tuned, and they can sound really awful, too. Well, who would buy an “awful” piano to begin with. One must discern what one is buying and have experts second on a prospective buyer’s intuitive love for a particular piano. For certain, there are many lovely acoustic pianos on the used piano market at very reasonable prices that are worth bringing home and this is one of them, among many.

acrosonic

It doesn’t hurt that the above is drop-dead good-looking as well.

***

Follow-up report by Dave Eggleston, Registered Piano Technician (RPT)

Acrosonic piano, Brooklyn Bridge Park, cosmetic appearances of pianos, George Gershwin, Gulbransen piano, Haddorff piano, piano, Rhapsody in Blue, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Sing for Hope, Steinway M grand piano, Steinway piano, used piano, used pianos, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, Wurlitzer piano, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Pianos, Old Age, and Cosmetic Imperfection

I wish I could order an instant make-over for gorgeous-sounding pianos that suffer rejection because of imperfect exteriors. By example, one of my students who’d grown attached to her respectable-looking, 70′s era, walnut console piano, was devastated when her family whisked it away during a move to a bigger house. Apparently, the instrument’s wood grain clashed with the decor of a newly furnished living room.

In another “case,” a prospective piano buyer declined a resonant 1980 Wurlitzer spinet because it had a scratch or two, only noticed upon ultra-scrutinized, up-close inspection.

Yet, the beginning 6-year-old student for whom it was intended, would have ignored the piano’s dings, compared to its pleasurable ping.

***

My first real piano, a Sohmer upright in glossy black, wasn’t much of a looker, but it played to the heavens and sang like an angel. What more could I want.

After Oberlin graduation, a Steinway M, 1917, bestowed as a gift by my father, had its share of nicks, glossed over with glop an East Bronx shop owner had in his apron pocket. Decades later, its many moves to performance venues and rebuilding shops, incurred more dings, while my love for its golden sound intensified over time.


***

Pianos absorb the prevailing culture’s obsession with eternal youth and cosmetic perfection. Not surprisingly, quite a few with great soundboards and strings are put on the Goodwill Industry truck as the last stop before the scrap heap.

Connell York, age-defying piano tuner, ivory-key scavenger, and hammer-assembly collector, owes his treasure trove of piano-associated skeletal remains to the premature retirement of towering old uprights. These “antiques” are lined up on Craig’s List as either “free” for the taking, or priced not to sell. As ornate as some appear, their age and size make them piana non grata.

As piano stores drop away like flies and digital entertainment centers appeal to buyers of all ages, acoustic pianos with or without cosmetic eyesores are being put out to pasture. What was once considered space-saving and attractive about spinet and console pianos, is now passe.

Pressing buttons that ignite a shower of big sounds whooshing around the living room beside the streamlined I mac, iPhone, and super big screen plasma TV, are a sign of the times. “Old” technology is not “in.” Even a space-age looking Roland will be replaced by something more spiffy, sexy, and up-to-date.

But back to acoustic pianos that have aged out and lost their family heirloom status. My 1951 Haddorff console was one of those passed down through three generations and suddenly sent on its way. While I benefited from the owner’s decision to cut the umbilical CHORD, it was sad to see this beauty leaving its home without a tear of regret.

Contrast this emotionless separation to circumstances surrounding the sale of an old nameless player piano housed in the Central Valley. A middle-aged owner bound for Las Vegas shed tears upon her blemished piano’s departure, admitting that a “part of her arm” was taken during the heart-wrenching move.

Last year, I spoke to the music-teacher owner of a vintage Gulbransen Grand who reluctantly placed it for sale on Craig’s List. While she sang its praises, describing a piano of great tonal beauty, she expressed a desire to “clean house” in the aftermath of her spouse’s death, and start a new life without lingering memories of the past. The poor piano, loaded with extra-musical baggage carried a burden it least needed. As it was, an older grand with a $3000 price tag in a depressed economy would probably not sell. Like other pianos of this vintage, it would join the roster of fine pianos appealing to the few and far between.

(A recent sale of a 1962 Sohmer baby grand, priced down to $1500, was driven by its beautiful art case, Queen Anne scrolled legs, and florid rack. A hastily produced video about this piano surely helped! But bottom line, its drop dead good looks sealed the deal!)

At DC Pianos in Berkeley, Dennis Croda has an interesting crop of vintage pianos that are appealing in appearance and sound. An Acrosonic console from the 60’s was purchased by a student of mine over there that shimmered and resonated to the exponential. Its gorgeous tone, plus embellished case, gave it more than an edge over brand pianos of comparable size.

(I’ve always regarded Baldwin Acrosonics as the “Cadillacs” of console and spinet-variety pianos. They’re at the top of my list in the used instrument category because of their wide, innovative sound space)

****

Three-thousand miles away in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Pat Frederick resurrects very old pianos of historical importance that have life breathed into them through regularly scheduled performances. These instruments, replete with dings, still sing in a voice that preserves what composers of the past intended.

(Frederick Collection of Pianos, http://www.frederickcollection.org/)

In this spirit, pianos that are heading for a premature demise around the country might be revitalized in some form or another. Youngsters starting lessons should have the chance to play a piano that doesn’t sound electronic and devoid of personality. With decent piano maintenance, instead of benign neglect these instruments’ lives can be extended without the dire, end of the line, need for life support.

Even cosmetically unappealing Oldsters should have a place to shine in the musical universe.

In tempo with the times, New York City hosts street pianos decorated in graffiti as part of “Sing for Hope.”

Watch concert pianist, Jeffrey Biegel give a flawless performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on a twangy console in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Needless to say, the composer would have appreciated this Tin Pan Alley celebration.

***
My blog with a tie-in.. but more attuned to resurrection at its conclusion
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/pianos-old-age-and-cosmetic-imperfection-2/

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Digitals, Acoustics, the economy, and piano lessons

After I showered myself in digitals these past two days, I pleasantly dried out and came home to my dearly beloved acoustic pianos. (Two Steinways and a Haddorff)

Now nothing is perfect in the world of electronics or acoustics. There are a repository of pitfalls associated with each, and it can be maddening to deal with fine pianos that have regulation and voicing problems which are not easily addressed due to a dearth of qualified piano technicians. The latter is worth a few blogs that may ruffle a few feathers. I’ve kept my folder with related material as Top Secret but soon to be released. Would these be Wiki leak sensitive?

Back to digital/acoustic comparisons, and their respective merits.

I used to be a purist, lecturing parents that they must have an acoustic before starting lessons for children, and then as the years ticked by and I watched the economy crash, people losing homes, moving into tight-fitting spaces, I let my guard down. As long as the digital was not a 61-key bell and whistle job and had the hammer weighted option, I went along for the ride for a reasonable period of time. Sooner or later the family should graduate to the real deal.

On the other side of the coin, it could be argued that so many acoustic pianos on Craig’s List, Oodle and elsewhere were ready for the scrap heap, with notes twanging, sticking, and otherwise going blank. What an awful maiden musical voyage for a beginner guaranteed to send him overboard without a second wind. It would be doomsday before lessons started.

Why not celebrate the spiffy digital with those tantalizing extras, brightening up homes in dire economic times. Didn’t the little spinet piano, a space saver, come into prominence after the Great Depression? The big uprights couldn’t easily fit into the parlor, and who could afford a grand. Times were changin’ and piano manufacturers adjusted to the needs of buyers.

Are there parallels today? Piano stores are closing. Not too many families are gathering in the parlor to sing Home Sweet Home around the tall, stately upright. Their abodes are foreclosing and they can barely squeeze any size musical instrument into the corner.

Piano lessons aren’t a top priority these days, being the first to go with budget trims.

As solace, why not come home to your portable digital, tap a few buttons, and ease into the easy playing mode with a strings split “Harvest Moon.” No hassle or brain drain.

For those parents still determined to take Baby Einstein a step further in his journey, or who believe in the Mozart Effect, I hope they would preserve the acoustic piano culture and save it from imminent extinction.

After all, there are still piano finding expeditions that result in quality acquisitions at reasonable prices: Acrosonics, Knights, a Haddorff, Aeolian Table Style piano, a resonant Yamaha P-22, and more.

These living, BREATHING instruments, not transformer connected, provide years of joyful playing, as long as they’re minimally maintained. No bordering fireplaces, vents, heaters, or humidity showers, please, and tunings are recommended once per year to keep strings toned and conditioned. (Engage an ear tuner, if possible, or one who will not spend 15 minutes programming a machine to perfect octaves and walk out the door leaving the piano in worse shape than it was before. Ask for an intervals check at some point in the visit)

Maybe when the economy is on an even keel, an acoustic piano and a digital might grace every home to round out the musical experience. It won’t be an either or situation, just an expansion of consciousness in more than one tonal universe.

In any case, (pun intended) let piano lessons resume!

RELATED: Is the Acoustic Piano Culture at Risk?
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/is-the-piano-a-dying-breed/

antique pianos, appraisal piano, blog, blogger, blogging, California, El Cerrito, El Cerrito California, Fresno California, humor, piano, piano finding, piano finding adventure, piano maintenance, piano repair, private party marketplace of pianos, used piano, used pianos

The double standard as applied to used pianos and their sale

I’m always surprised by the condition of many private party market used pianos, as if a double standard is operating when comparing a house sale to a piano sale.

I will sometimes walk into a home that is on the market that is clean and sparkling while the offered musical instrument is dusty, out of tune, and often missing a bench.

Ads on Craig’s List will say that the piano is in mint condition but “just needs a tuning.” Most of these instruments, when played and inspected up close and personal will sound so sour that one wonders if any tuning can salvage them. The concern would be whether the ill-maintained piano would even hold a tuning for the long term, or if the strings are so aged that they would have to be replaced. (cost prohibitive when dealing with a vintage piano)

I always watch myself delivering a lecture to a seller about the value of tuning a piano regularly–how it maintains the tension of the strings, and is part of over-all instrument care. Inevitably, I will get perplexed and vacant stares.

One would think that sellers would understand the value of tune-ups as they relate to cars. Why not transfer that awareness to pianos?

They would surely not market their house without making sure the A/C was in tip top shape and ready to go–same for any appliances like the stove or fridge. How about the plumbing, heater, etc. All would be well maintained, hopefully, and thoroughly checked out before a new home buyer took ownership.

Sadly, time and again, the piano is treated differently, like a pariah that’s frequently shuttled off to the garage where it is shown to interested buyers.

I find it particularly pathetic to find a piano photographed in the garage with bottled paint thinners/ chemicals in front of it, such as one I encountered recently. It’s not only repelling, but I can only imagine the cost to the instrument.

On one occasion, I visited one such garage space during two weeks of continuous rain in the Central Valley, and the piano (formerly, a viable Kawai) had literally become drenched with water. A technician who accompanied me, recommended installing a damp chaser which he monitored for one week.

Now why would this orphaned piano of former value, have been so abused?

What about prices that some sellers attach to their ill-maintained pianos? Many of these instruments, not tuned for decades or more, might have chipped keys with or without cigarette burns. Some have missing pedals, or none at all. (Yet they attach questionable appraisals over-estimating their value)

One piano seller actually photographed her 19th Century Fritz grand without the pedal harp or the pedals. She had to hunt them down and once found, it made absolutely no difference, because the piano’s strings were over the hill and barely produced a discernible sound. I heard what amounted to clanging silverware every time I depressed a jagged key:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/the-ghost-of-fritz-was-i-dreaming/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/did-the-ghost-fritz-ever-sell/

As a piano finder, having a side-line hobby that assists my students, I circulate through many homes in poor and affluent areas of town, and despite economic disparities, a good percentage of piano sellers don’t think much about how their piano is presented.

Sad but true.

Hopefully, with education and enlightenment, sellers in the private party marketplace will let their pianos enjoy a renaissance of care and repair.

Finally, this Craig’s Listing, worth a few chuckls, sums it up: (No pic accompanied this ad)

Tune me please..I’m your Piano (Fresno/Clovis)
Date: 2011-04-16, 2:47PM PDT
Reply to: sale-ajyas-2329440506@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
Well…I”M YOUR PIANO….just wanted to let you know that I’M STILL HERE!!! Loyally holding up these pictures and magazines….Patiently waiting for you to PRACTICE!!! or actually PLAY ME!!!…..I know, I know …I sound a little funky lately, but I really just need a little attention maybe a TUNING MIGHT HELP…YA THINK???…Sorry didn’t mean to shout…, I know, the economy’s in the toilet, your jobs on the line, you broke your fingernail, and your head hurts a lot lately…WELL THAT’S STRESS…AND I CAN HELP!!!! Music is a great tension reliever, (something to do with the middle part of your human brain….) A LITTLE CREATIVE EXERCISE COULD DO THE TRICK!!! And think of the opportunities soon to be coming your way, a new line in the “personal interests” section of your resume, new topics of conversation at the next board meeting or luncheon. WOW. you’re obviously an intelligent, caring, renaissance type person filled with an appreciation of culture and brimming with new ideas!!! The mind boggles with the sheer amount of social and economic doors flying open for a person of your obvious intellect and vision!!!! So…relax, turn off CNN, give FOX NEWS a rest and contact this guy…he’s prompt, reasonable, has 25 years of experience and was taught by his father…and I promise I’ll do my part to make you forget the global economic cell phone i-pod twitter obama rush facebook o’reilly BS for a few hours a day..(well maybe we’ll start with 20 mins or so…)

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Rekindling Marble Hill memories, and a remarkable twist of fate

I was deeply moved to have discovered the Marble Hill Reunion site which inspired my own cherished memories of the projects in the Bronx where I romped during my childhood and early adolescence.

My family moved from Featherbed Lane near Tremont Avenue to Marble Hill when I was about four. It was quite a notch up from a one room flat that had roaches, rats, and an ice box, barely containing enough food for a week. The iceman cometh. My parents needed the space, and rents were reduced for wartime veterans, so the projects were a perfect match.

During the early years we watched the construction of the Major Deegan Highway and P.S. 122, but having spent my first year of school at P.S. 95, I had a painful memory of being lost in the school yard with a dog tag around my neck. Fortunately, I managed to find my bearings with the help of a third grader who led me to my class line.

I played marbles in the projects and shot bottle caps around a designated square in the little playground near building 5. I bounced a ball off the logs and climbed the concrete fort. My big brother, Russ, hung out with “Joe-Joe” Gonzales who was the projects hell-raiser. They both spoke in whispers about rumbles that never happened, but I think Freddy S. went to prison.

We bounced our Spauldeens into the night, and jumped over the chain links into the grassy oval at the risk of being nabbed by the housing guards. I remember the bike rides around the periphery, making believe I was on the open road, in some fantasy place. The projects had secret hiding places, stairwells, back entrances, tender young bushes, and immature trees waiting to blossom.

Lost parakeets swirled through oaks and maples never to be recovered. I took walks from the projects to the Isaac Raboy Jewish school near the Amalgamated, and put those sticky, gummy tree fallen residues on my nose. I loved the brisk romp back to Marble Hill where I would look forward to the evening TV line up of Howdy Doody, Ozzie and Harriet and Lassie. I managed to be in Bob Smith’s radio studio peanut gallery, but missed my chance to be on the “Merry Mailman” show. I became sick with a head cold, and my mother never told me about the ticket that had arrived in the mail.

From our ninth floor apartment I could hear soap operas playing out through transparent, paper thin walls and bathroom pipes at the projects. I witnessed them if I put my ears to forbidden places– A nasty breakup with all the juicy detail of adultery and betrayal. I couldn’t stop straining my ears to listen. And one day, I had the audacity to string up a banana, and lower it in front of the neighbor’s window down below. Someone snatched it while the little rascal above us tossed a bowl full of chicken soup and noodles overboard that landed as a splattered mosaic on our window. The toddler’s mom never suspected that he dumped his dinner.

When I practiced on my Sohmer 1922 studio upright, my first dream piano, it would elicit nerve-racking thumps from the neighbor in apartment 8L. To my embarrassment, I would meet up with him from time to time in the elevator, and he would leer at me and shout “shad-up,” in a harsh tone of voice. His thick German accent made me cower, and thankfully his wife would put her hand over his mouth to spare me further embarrassment.

I remember some of the family tragedies and the postings about them in the lobby. A young father stricken with a heart attack; a mom who lived on the third floor died of cancer and left behind a 6-month old baby, and two school-age daughters.

Some names I didn’t see on the Marble Hill reunion roster from building #5: Gary Gindick, Michael Hershkowitz, Louise Chotras, Mona Koenig, Mark, Bob, and Lenore Wolin, Gertie Stamler, Susan Wolfskehl, Fran and husband who owned the Pizza place on Broadway.

And who cannot forget the elevators stalled on various floors spelling panic!!!

Nights were intolerably hot in summer. It was unbearable to be encapsulated in a project apartment with no air conditioning.

And what hankerings some of us had to own pets but couldn’t. Tanya Nickel who lived in 12L, building 5 had an illegal cat that jumped out the window and perished.

I had my very first pet, Terrance the turtle that I picked out at the circus. Most Marble Hill residents had fish. (guppies were very popular)

My mom threw ice cream money out the window from the 9th floor, and too many times the carefully wrapped dime and two cents landed in the bushes. I remember “John,” the wandering ice cream man who didn’t have many teeth and pushed a modest cart. I loved my favorite, a vanilla ice cream sandwich.

I went to PS 122 when it first opened, and took the sweet walk to Bailey Avenue. I was a tomboy who played stick ball with the kids from St. John’s in the school yard. (I located some memorable pics of the playground that are contained in Lehman College Archives)

Some of my classmates left school during released time, and when they came back, they talked about confession, the devil, heaven, hell and limbo in between scaring the likes of most of us, Jewish kids. (me, included)

The most pleasant project memory I hold dearest to my heart was of my parakeet, Tykie swirling about my bedroom landing from time to time on the Sohmer’s keyboard, leaving little bird droppings in his wake.

He and I spread our musical wings as I traveled through the piano repertoire as a beginner playing Diller-Quaille, next advancing to intermediate level pieces in Burgmuller’s collection of 25 Progressive Pieces. I was practicing “La Chasse” just before the little bird succumbed to pneumonia on a sultry afternoon.

Such was life in the projects, ephemeral but full of treasured reminiscences tucked way in a safe place, to be retrieved at the right moment.

Footnote: Less than a year ago, as I was traveling home by Amtrak from the Bay area, I overheard two women at the Richmond station, speaking with heavy Bronx accents. Being the extroverted ex-New Yorker that I am, I impolitely intruded upon their conversation, asking if they were from the Bronx. (Both spoke in the well recognized dialect.) Wouldn’t you know, by a twist of fate, they not only hailed from my neighborhood, but lived beside the old Music School off Kingsbridge Road where I took my first music lessons.

A sixth degree of separation? I discovered that they had known Mrs. Elston, the eccentric Director of the magical music haven that sat atop a hill.

What a small world!!!

LINK: Marble Hill Reunion Site


http://s411089181.initial-website.com/

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The Joy of Teaching Piano to Young Children (Videos)

Starting a very young child on a musical journey is joyful, exciting and challenging. The first baby steps taken at the piano will be memorable for both teacher and student, so careful thought and preparation are needed.

At the very outset, I believe in nurturing an awareness of the singing tone and how it is created. In the most fortunate circumstance a child has a real acoustic piano to practice on at home in order to experiment with various tonal shades, timbres, “colors” that we explore at our lesson. This consciousness of what the instrument can elicit as we tap into the imagination and inhabit a universe of sound exploration, requires attentive and sensitive listening. This is where the teacher can be the magical guide. At this crucial point of engagement, lessons can take off in positive directions and bond the student to the whole creative musical process.

Singing is an activity universal to childhood and a teacher who taps into this celebration of musical expression, will go a long way toward imbuing what the singing tone is about as it applies to the piano. The goal will be to teach a child to “sing” through his fingers and shape a phrase as he or she would vocalize it.

Learning hand position formation is important at the beginning of study, and it is not rigid but gently round, with curved, not curled fingers. The teacher can gently nudge the student in a relaxed physical direction by suggesting the light embrace of a ripe plum in his palm. The consequences of squeezing it too tightly will be amusing to the child, but well taken.

While materials such as Faber Piano Adventures provide great launching pads for formal piano study, it is the teacher who has to translate all the notes and symbols in these primer method books into a language comprehensible to a child and his universe of play. The playground as music teacher is certainly a concept that applies to the piano lesson and its content for very young children.

Staccato notes suggest lighthearted images: students often imagine that they are bouncing on a trampoline, or listening to popcorn pop. They will spontaneously share an activity that is suggestive of crisp, detached, staccato notes. Run with it and enjoy!

When teaching the legato, (smooth and connected) singing tone, images of gliding on ice, floating clouds, rolling waves, inspire children to play expressively and not hammer out notes in a mechanical way. The flexible, “spongy” wrist is the great shock absorber, and it should be demonstrated as well as modeled.

To imbue a sense of a steady beat, the teacher can guide the student along with a very buoyant motion of her hands and arms, and NOT refer to a clock, or metronome. After all, the beat is a frame for the music which can bend with the breeze as phrases taper to their conclusion. It is never static and stultifying. Animated clapping exercises shared back and forth between teacher and student are always helpful.

There is a joy to teaching very young children, because imaginations can happily run wild and create a very exciting, inspiring space that both teacher and student can inhabit.

Kirsten Productions: Aviva Kirsten, video editor

http://www.teachstreet.com/teacher/shirley-kirsten

Cat related:
Aiden makes another appearance in this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5MLPxKFl2c

Other Related:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/piano-instruction-five-finger-warm-ups-in-major-and-minor-video/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/piano-instruction-favorite-childrens-pieces-video/

For Toddlers and pre-schoolers before piano study is undertaken:

http://www.musictogether.com

American Orff-Schulwerk Association - Music and Movement Education
Music and movement teachers find in the Orff Schulwerk a total approach to fostering creativity and conveying musical knowledge and skills.

http://www.aosa.org/

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Housing my Dream Pianos

I grew up in the Marble Hill projects of the Bronx and lived on the ninth floor. The walls of our housing development were so paper thin that when I practiced on my Sohmer 1922 studio upright, my first dream piano, it would elicit nerve-racking thumps from the neighbor down below. To my embarrassment, I would meet up with him from time to time in the elevator, and he would leer at me and shout “shad-up,” in a harsh tone of voice. His thick German accent made me cower.

Years later, when I was a single woman living on the corner of Amsterdam and 74th street in Manhattan and practicing on my rebuilt, 1917 Steinway M grand, a dream piano that replaced my first, I no longer harbored a worry about music-hating neighbors because most of the residents in our building were musicians. Nineteen year old Danny lived at the end of the hall and was the youngest member of the NY Philharmonic’s cello section. The apartment dweller to his right, David, was a flautist and Rutgers law student who would occasionally bring me accompaniments to his Mozart concerti. From my sixth story window that overlooked Needle Park, I could hear the unabashed outpourings of professional opera singers who were preparing auditions, and if I walked over to the Ansonia, a more imposing edifice located on the other side of Broadway at 73rd, I would experience a muted chorus of voices intermingled with strings and piano. It sounded like the cacophony of symphony orchestra members warming up before a concert.

On the occasion of my moving to Fresno, California in 1979, a city with never-ending strip malls and fast food outlets, I inhabited my first private home that afforded my practicing day and night without intrusion. I had even added a fancy, oak paneled glass-enclosed, sound insulated room in order to teach and play without waking my stair step children.

By the time they were approaching school age, they would whiz down the hall on skateboards causing a ruckus that drowned out my pp’s (pianissimos) and those of my students.

When I sold my house a few years ago, the new occupants gutted the piano room and replaced it with a caged sanctuary for stray animals awaiting adoption. It was, unfortunately, a somber transformation of an area designated for a musical treasure of a dream variety.

I came full circle when I left the privacy of this two-story home to inhabit a very small room attached to a large condo. (I slept on a futon stored under the piano)

In exchange for services rendered to a wheel chair bound senior, I paid no rent. But with this relocation came restrictions on my practice time and a gross scale down of space. The studio was so small that my students would trip over themselves to get to the piano that was smack up against a book shelf making the area right behind the bench too narrow for anyone’s comfort. In one of my unguarded moments, I did an inadvertent back flip with my feet landing up in the air. If this was not enough of a personal embarrassment, a new student and her prim and proper mother entered my sanctuary just at that moment, and caught me in an uncompromising position. Needless to say, I had a lot of explaining to do.

This rent free housing opportunity, plagued by space problems was short-lived. Continuous infringements on my teaching and practice time forced another move.

My final relocation was to a townhouse nestled among mature pine trees in a quaint neighborhood known as Old Fig Garden. My newest spacious living room area amply accommodated not one but two Steinways (the latter being a studio upright) and an antique Aeolian “table style piano with three leaves.” It provided an envious acoustic because of its high, vaulted ceilings.

The only down side of living in this new abode was that the neighbor to my right had quickly informed me that the sounds of my nocturnal playing reached into his infant son’s nursery, with unpleasant consequences. So rather than uproot myself once again in the face of complaints about my unorthodox practice times, I had devised a plan that would satisfy everyone within earshot of my piano. At exactly 9 p.m. each night I would don a pair of earphones and pound away on my Casio digital keyboard until the crack of dawn. At 9 a.m. I would shut down my keyboard and re-awaken my Steinway.