My visit to Faust Harrison Pianos in Manhattan, and White Plains, New York

Steinway A side view crop White Plains

During my recent NYC touchdown for the occasion of my mother’s memorial service, I found a weekend interval to make side trips to Faust Harrison Pianos’ remarkable showrooms and factory. Serendipitously drifting into an inviting space on Piano Row’s West 58th, just a block from Carnegie Hall, I was surrounded by Steinway grands that were impeccably rebuilt and immaculately refinished. It was a piano paradise from start to finish with generous opportunities to extract every musical morsel of pleasure from each instrument.

Irving and Sara Faust, co-founders of this expanding musical establishment that now has FOUR premier showrooms and an awesome state of the art White Plains factory, were my hosts on Sunday June 7th in Westchester, Faust Harrison Spread of pianoswhile Dmitri Shelest, Sales Associate, was a reliable guide and historian at the New York City location.

Inside W. 58 Faust Harrison signature

Faust Harrison specializes in rebuilding vintage Steinway grand pianos that are for sale in their Manhattan, White Plains, Huntington Station, New York; and Fairfield Connecticut locations, while the White Plains factory, accessible by Metro North departing from Times Square is the crowning glory.

Aside from feverishly forward-moving rebuilding operations, Faust Harrison sells brand new Yamaha, Mason & Hamlin, Hoffman, Schimmel, Bechstein and most recently, Fazioli pianos.

Taking up an offer to interview Sara and Irving on their home turf in White Plains that played out after my immersion in pianos at the NYC showroom, (June 6th) I was delighted to film the whole dream- fulfilling journey in pleasurable parcels.

Thank you Sara and Irving for a riveting visit!

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If indulging beautifully crafted pianos was not enough for a weekend East Coast spree, meeting up with a Facebook Friend who shared my passion for teaching via the Piano Pedagogy FB Group, was icing on the cake. (Gail Trattner Isenberg and I both shared NYC and Berkeley translocations)

Ironicially, she had reserved the Faust Harrison recital area of the showroom on Sunday, June 7th, for a beautiful display of her students’ musical gifts, and I was fortunate not only to meet my colleague for the first time IN PERSON, but to enjoy the fruits of her creative labors as I combed the White Plains super space.

Naturally, cameras were snapping at every opportunity, so I joined in, capturing memories of a unique outing that will be savored for years to come!

Gail and I, Faust Harrison

Gail students in recital hall side view crop

Faust Harrison Recital Hall with emblem

LINKS:

Faust Harrison Pianos Website

http://www.faustharrisonpianos.com

https://www.facebook.com/FaustHarrisonPianos

Sara’s statement of concern for elephants as it applies to the ivory trade

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Elephants–Pianos—Art.html?soid=1105585926462&aid=fo7YwxphWAE

Posted in Faust Harrison Pianos, Irving Faust, piano addict, Piano Street, Piano World, rebuilding Steinway grand pianos, rebuilt pianos, Sara Faust, Steinway grand piano | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Piano Lesson from the Big Apple by iPhone!

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It’s one thing to fly from California to New York, taking in awesome views from the plane.Over NYC JFK But would I lay back and lapse into surrendering a week of piano instruction just because I had a NYC based family obligation? No way! As long as I had my iPhone as backup, I would try to teach my North Carolina student from my landing on West 97th.

My best friend, Laura, Oberlin alum and ex-Big Apple roommate had given me her West Side digs that came with a rebuilt Steinway B, so I could play away and teach a lesson or two.

Steinway B at Laura

Using the iPhone with its Face Time application was a first for me! Would the tiny mic properly amplify my voice, demonstrations, and could the internal speaker provide the right volume as the student played? It seemed there were many variables to worry about.

Well, not a problem! Everything worked with a couple of shutdowns since I didn’t have my router or hard wire cable which seemed the best hardware for Online lesson transmission.

Some adjustments, however, seemed to improve the iPhone cyberspace: I reduced my USB extensions and switched to cellular, not relying on the local Wi Fi provider. (Different rooms had varied reception, some better than others)

Overall, I think the undertaking was a success– well documented by my tripod mounted camcorder that captured the whole lesson on video.

Here are a few samples:

Posted in adult piano instruction, iPhone, iPhone transmitted piano lesson, New York City, North Carolina, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons by Face Time, Piano Street, piano teaching, Piano World, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, wordpress, you tube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My NYC High School of Performing Arts Reunion!

PA school pin

Saturday, June 6th Performing Arts High (FAME I’m gonna live forever!) Reunion!

A first for me that was worth a crowded subway ride to the heart of Times Square plus a zesty walk through throngs of tourists.

While I missed class photo shoots, I managed a pose with conductor, Gerard Schwarz before I sauntered over to Buca di Beppo for cuisine and kinship with alums I hadn’t seen for decades! Many were Music Department buddies and orchestra members. Others were well-established actors and dancers.

Luckily, I packed my camcorder to capture a few celebratory frames!

Without a doubt, Shirley Katz, PA Math teacher, and Bella Malinka, Dance Dept. faculty member stole the show with their big, engaging smiles!

It was a joyous evening packed with fond memories!

Fame emblem

LINKS

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/my-new-york-city-high-school-of-performing-arts-fame-yearbook-and-what-i-found/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/a-tribute-to-the-late-robert-degaetano-classmate-nyc-high-school-of-performing-arts/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/musical-memories-of-new-york-city-and-my-impending-journey-back-home/

Posted in high school reunion, NYC High School of Performing Arts, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Musical Memories of New York City and my impending journey back home

Today, I’ll fly back to New York City for my mother’s Memorial, and in a tight 4-day span I’ll visit the edifice of my High School of Performing Arts,

a designated landmark at 46th and 6th Avenue. Ironically, I recently unearthed a graduation photo that shows me holding a Music award in the presence of my late father, and dear friend, Setsuko Nagata, violinist.

Performing Arts Graduation 1

(Over the coming weekend I’ll join in “PA” reunion activities that happened to fall during my stay–a nice coincidence.)

I’ll be sure to hop the IRT subway to W. 103rd, and saunter over to 105th and Riverside Drive where I took piano lessons with the late, Lillian Freundlich, expecting more than a gulp of emotion.

Two musical friends live fairly close by, so I’ll spend time with them, and tickle the ivories.

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The old Sohmer upright, that was my first “real” piano, and formerly housed in mom’s Inwood apartment was spared the dump after her death. A music teacher adopted it, though it’s more like a furniture centerpiece since the radiator in winter and excruciating humidity of summer swelled and contracted its soundboard to a point of no return. Forget the hammers, wippens, and flanges.

Sohmer upright

I recall dispatching a piano restorer long distance, who threw up his hands in futility at the very thought of refurbishing this once beautiful sounding instrument. (It had been owned by concert pianist, Lucy Brown)

My beloved parakeet, Tykie christened the piano leaving little droppings in his wake. He soared to the ceiling as I played Burgmuller’s “Harmony of the Angels,” and danced across the keyboard to “La Chasse.”

The violin I left behind:

A few years ago, my then 97-year old mother informed me that my violin, known as the
“cigar box” that was retrieved from my grandparent’s dusty old closet in very bad shape, was given away to a neighbor. Amazingly, he restored it to playing condition despite the fact that it never played well enough to be considered playable. Who could imagine its rebirth.

The last exposure I had to my cigar box was in the Bronx, performing “Exodus” at a Junior High music festival on the eve of Yom Kippur, a poignantly sad occasion. Dr. Loretan, Board of Ed Music Director, happened to be in the audience, and came back stage to offer his sympathies. He arranged for me to “loan” a violin from the School District in Brooklyn. I thought it was a “Stradivarius” before my violin teacher, Samuel Gardner, took out his magnifying glass and clarified that it was a “copy.” My hopes and dreams were shattered.

Perhaps I’ll find time to visit the very area on W. 68th where I took my violin lessons, before Lincoln Center ate up the greater part of the neighborhood. I remember the rubble, carefully monitoring my footsteps as I walked along the route from the West 66th Street subway station to Lincoln Towers. It was the perfect backdrop for West Side Story which hadn’t yet made its movie debut….

Which reminds me of the evening I attended the Dimitri Metropoulos conducting competition at Avery Fisher Hall on W. 66th after the area was transformed by Lincoln Center’s presence.

Sejii Ozawa, one of the competitors prevailed, along with tied finalist, Claudio Abbado. As I was standing on the subway platform about to board the IRT back to my apartment, I caught a glimpse of Sejii looking like a teenager with his impressive shock of black hair. It was a memory I’ll always treasure.

Not too far from Lincoln Center is Carnegie Hall on W. 57th where I spent many evenings soaking up performances of legendary pianists, cellists, and violinists. Most memorable performers: Emil Gilels, Sviatislov Richter, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Rosalyn Tureck, Nathan Milstein, and Daniel Shafrin. At one of these I met my future piano teacher, Lillian Freundlich and the rest was history.

Carnegie Hall better

Perhaps I’ll walk over to Carnegie and ponder the space its former neighbor, Patelson’s Music House occupied. A hub for serious musicians seeking Urtext editions and rare manuscripts, it sadly closed its doors in 2009. Marsha Popowitz Patelson, an alumna of the High School of Performing Arts during the years I attended, was its owner and champion after husband, Joseph, passed away.

Patelsons music store

Patelson’s had such a homey atmosphere, like Wurlitzer’s where violinists gathered to try out Strads and Amatis that were hanging in rows. I always spotted a famous musician over there as I was looking to purchase a decent set of Italian made strings, and I never failed to solicit an autograph.

How shall I preserve the memory of being taken to Lewisohn Stadium in the Bronx to hear Van Cliburn play the Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto no. 1 in Bb minor following his momentous victory in Moscow?

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Will I have time to travel away from Manhattan? I wonder if this outdoor concert hall still exists? I recall having heard Marian Anderson sing there as well.

I think she narrated Copeland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” which tied into my recollection of Leonard Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts,” one of which I attended in Carnegie that made an indelible impression. Actually it was a rehearsal along with one conducted by Stokowski and the American Symphony. Those were the days.

I’ll be lucky to make three nostalgic visits if weather permits. In Spring New York City is very lovely, but you can feel the winds gusting up now and then. It gets people going. I notice the pace of steps in the Big Apple is brisk. The same quickness of meter is mirrored here in the Bay area. Watch out, or you’ll get mowed down at the Bart station.

Robert Levine, one of my relatives, wrote a book about this very geography of time, and included my quote about “tempo rubato” as part of the volume’s introduction. He traveled the world counting footsteps and came to conclusions about cultural differences in time perceptions. Very fascinating.

I don’t think I’ll have time to mark my own walking rhythm or that of others in the Big Apple. I’ll be lucky if the trains run on time so I can take my journey down memory lane without too much inconvenience. Wish me luck.

Posted in Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, New York City, piano blog, piano blogging, visit to NYC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A London piano student fine tunes her F# Major scales and arpeggios (staccato and legato)

Yu Du 1

Yu has been my Skype student for a few years now and she’s made big gains in producing a singing tone with supple wrists, relaxed arms, and hand/finger weight transfer. Today she assiduously practiced her F# Major Scale and Arpeggio, energizing forearm and wrist staccato. Using “cupped hands” for her power driven forearm staccato on the black keys, she played precise, crisp and accurate notes after absorbing a few of my suggestions. In the universe of wrist staccato, she created a nuanced piano (soft) dynamic. (Yu has noticeably fluid wrist motions that she’s acquired from deliberate, goal focused practice)

At the Skype recital (March 15) beamed to LIVE and ONLINE students from Berkeley, California all over the US and world, Yu played a very lovely Andante movement from Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K. 545. (Here’s just a snatch)

I recently interviewed Yu about her piano, hobbies, activities and recent career shift to life coaching.

LINK

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/an-adult-piano-student-who-builds-pianos-and-restores-planes/

Posted in F Sharp Major scale, online piano instruction, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano learning, piano playing, piano teaching, Shirley Kirsten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Piano Technique: Remediating peak octave scale paralysis (Staccato)

Choking up is probably the best description of what often happens to final scale octaves and their turnaround. Students get anxious at the terminus, and tend to crowd notes as if they’re racing to the finish line, when in fact, they’re only half way through. So psychologically, it’s best if the peak octave is viewed as an expansion or broadening of the scale, with lots of natural, relaxed breathing to support it. (In addition, an extra infusion of energy is needed on the very top scale note to bring it down with a feeling a smoothness and paced note spacing.)

In Staccato, players become even more anxious because they feel a sense of “disconnection” to the notes when they can otherwise apply the same RELAXED framing to the peak as they did in LEGATO.

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How to Practice

There are many ways to remediate the final octave spill and turnaround (in staccato) which I include in two separate videos. One of these contains a Lesson segment with an adult student who inspired my deeper thought about the whole last octave landscape.

Lesson in Progress

Ways to Remediate last octave choking

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Big points:

Relaxed breathing last octave approach.
Spurt of energy on turnaround note; cupped hands for precision forearm staccato–ample arm weight should support the forearm staccato.

Lift arm weight (perhaps HALF weight) for forearm generated soft staccato.

GOOD consistent framing rhythm in all practicing, whether spot practicing last octave or rendering the whole scale.

Posted in piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano technique, Shirley Kirsten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boris Berman: How to connect with the music after over-practicing

I think Maestro Berman said it well, yet from my own experience, over-practicing is less a problem than failing to listen attentively through every phase of learning a composition. If a student does not fine tune each repetition, but considers only right notes in fast speed as the desired end, then phrasing, nuance and aesthetics, are unfortunately lost in the shuffle.

I use an example from my own practice room: a tricky 64th note passage in the Adagio movement of Mozart Sonata K. 332. Certainly one can render a fast chromatic without a second thought, but that is far below the ideal of shaping a line, and drawing the listener to what beauty the composer has created. I believe that experimentation is a big component of practicing that leads the player to new revelations in an unfolding creative process.

Mozart K. 332 Adagio tricky passage

LINKS:

http://music.yale.edu/faculty/berman-boris/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/inspiring-masterclasses-of-boris-berman-russian-pianist-videos/

Posted in adult piano instruction, blogmetrics, blogmetrics.org, Classical music blog, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano learning, piano teaching, piano technique, practicing fast passage at the piano, Shirley Kirsten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment