The Big Piano Move!!!

two pianos

Here she is on DISPLAY playing Chopin

and Beethoven:


Thank You once again to McCrea’s AA Piano Moving


arioso7, Baldwin grand piano, Berkeley California, piano addict

A Piano Teacher’s Hodgepodge Life with its ups and downs!

Today I was greeted by a rare Piano Ped. Forum Facebook post that celebrated a positive private teaching day. Teacher C. reported that all students had arrived on time for lessons, paid their fees pronto, and actually practiced. Bravo!

Reams of peers LIKED the morsel of good tidings, except for one who JOKINGLY remarked, “Thanks for making me feel like cr-p.”

My Thumbs Up came with a personal supplement: “My Monday was equally gratifying until I was informed by e-mail that a prized adult student with whom I’ve interacted on a lofty musical level through her trials and tribulations of NOT practicing, (about 5 years) had decided STAND-UP comedy trumped piano. It’s no joke.”

But such is the life of a piano teacher with shifting winds, tides and unexpected surprises. Nothing in life is permanent or always predictable.

To compensate for my stinging loss, I admitted to having had a few credits in the up-swing column yesterday.

A new adult student, who embarked upon a musical journey with me turned out to be a perfect fit at the piano, with his bristling enthusiasm defying the clock as it ticked like an efficient metronome. (It was more welcoming than my Tuesday SKYPE student’s OLD GRANDFATHER CLOCK that marks off 8 laborious hours and ends the lesson with a dissonant encore of 9!)

Oops there goes the cat into her lap. Five minutes of more wasted time.

Marie has cat in lap

Back to reality–

Teachers know the excitement of meeting a new student that ushers in a tabula rasa moment. How will he play? Is he a complete beginner? Where do we go from here?

Not being a method book apostle, I was hoping the moment of creation would be the framing mosaic for the very first lesson yesterday…

And it was..

The young man who came with a thick self-made album of masterworks was already well-grounded in the basics with a searing hunger to learn.

All he needed was a bit of phrase sharing, singing tone awareness, and a basic technique to serve the music swimming in his head at mega intensity. I was up to the collaboration.

Here’s a snatch, with me sitting ultra-magnified at my Yamaha Arius as he was perched at the Steinway grand. A penta-scale launched a singing tone tribute as 8ths progressed through 16ths and 32nd notes in LEGATO. Short, crisp sounds followed as contrast.

His defined perky staccato was served back to me in a lovely articulation via the real piano. (No need for the blow-up screen of my digital as an assist. This new player to the roster was in the ball game to stay) And I’m NOT kidding!!

Other Hodgepodge NEWS updates: My second grand (acoustic) is en route to its home since the JOCULAR ex-piano student going Seinfeld, has no need for it. (was on loan to her) Shortly, a 1929 antique, chiseled Baldwin will be betrothed to my 1917 Steinway. Mazel Tov!!

Baldwin Grand

So it’s All’s well that Ends Well for upcoming duo piano playing possibilities.

But will I have a place to sleep, under the groom-to-be Baldwin, perhaps? At the moment, I’m running out of space.


Overall, my Monday was a BIG PLUS, minus the DEAR S letter of withdrawal and career shuffling.

To be sure, Stained glass M., whose art I celebrated in music videos Julie art played up a storm through the middle section of the Schubert Impromptu in Eb, and her framing “A” section in legato triplets was gorgeously fluid in its tempo advance.

E., a piano student perched at her resonant Yamaha in beautiful Rockridge, immersed herself in Mozart’s G Major sonata, K. 283 earning a supplementary video. (Fluffy pooch, Nina, snuggled into a comfy chair, enjoying pleasurable vibrations)

Rockridge piano


And finally, Sam, on Skype from the UK wove undulating broken chords through J.C. Bach’s divine A minor Prelude.

To wrap it up, great leaps of musical progress abounded on a sunny day in Berkeley which I celebrated with a floral video tribute.


The Neighborhood Piano Teacher

Barbara Hamilton-Holway minister, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Unitarian Universalist Church in Kensington CA, Universalist Unitarian Church in Kensington CA, UUCB in Kensington, wordpress,

A Church where high-level music-making and PIANOS are in abundance


A sanctuary in the East Bay Hills with a Kensington framing, greeted me Sunday. Word leaked out that UUCB, a Unitarian Universalist Church in paradise with a sky-lit atrium and full-blossoming indoor trees, was a divinely inspired music-making repository. And in the words of Shakespeare, “Music” was “the Food of Love,” and it “played on.”


blue water in atrium

The service at 11:00 a.m. proceeded with the music of Brahms, Lehar, interspersed by contemporary popular servings. (The total space houses three pianos, a Yamaha, Chickering and Baldwin grand, not to mention, a double-manual harpsichord)

better Chickering 1890s piano


An awesome Aeolian Skinner Pipe organ resonates to the heavens in a divine acoustical setting. Its planned re-leathering has launched a full-scale fund-raising campaign–no doubt a tribute to the church’s fine instrumental maintenance. (A rare occurrence these days)



Not to upstage the uplifting opening service draped in the poetry of Minister Barbara Hamilton-Holway, but “LOVE Songs and Chocolate,” was for me, the afternoon tour de force!

love songs and chocolate

Bryan Baker, music/artistic director led an extremely gifted troupe through several choral works and solos. A fine pianist and conductor, he sculpted phrases, baton-less with a poetic sweep of his hands and arms.

best choir Love songs and Chocolate

It evoked my sojourn to the Dimitri Metropoulos Conducting Competition in New York City, where I’d observed a very young, graceful Sejii Ozawa sway on the podium to the swells of Brahms Symphony no. 4. The deft Japanese talent prevailed!

Fast forward to the rustic East Bay hills–

landscape outside Kensington Church

“Love Songs” bridged decades–a “delectable Valentine’s Feast” served for well over an hour that offered something for everyone: straight Classical, Broadway theater, opera, instrumental ensembles, duos, trios, etc. and full-blown choral splendor.

Program Excerpts:

“My White Knight” from The Music Man; “A Heart Full of Love” from Les Miserables, “Per me Giunto”– Don Carlo (Guiseppe Verdi) “Believe a Man” from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte; Brahms “Liebeslieder” Waltzes 8, 9, 14, 15 and 3.

I watched Brian rehearse two players at one piano for the Romantic era performance. The pianistic collaborators were at opposite ends of the age spectrum producing a duo ensemble of priceless, balanced music-making.

Throw into the mix, a nykelharpa and violin duet; drama-infused musical renditions from Guys and Dolls, Neptune’s Daughter (Frank Loesser) and the cabaret-like atmosphere was complete.


Intermission brought a buffet interlude of tasty chocolate goodies before the program resumed.

chocolate table at Intermission

A gamelan ensemble inspired an innovative orchestration, while soloists and duo voice collaborators followed. Selections by Kurt Weill, Frank Loesser, Richard Rogers, and Bellini resonated to the rafters, as a culminating choral arrangement of “Glocca Morra” from Finian’s Rainbow and “Seasons of Love” from Rent brought an earth-shaking finale!



My inclination was to jump up and shout “BRAVO” in a chorus of approval, but the UUCB church audience best expressed its appreciation in a sit-down round of enthusiastic applause!


(Preceding service etiquette in the sanctuary had included a hand tremolo in lieu of clapping)

In summary, The Universalist Unitarian Church of Berkeley, NOT to be confused with Fellowship of Berkeley Unitarian Universalists, FBUU is a notch up in the spiritual music arena.

With its glowing ambiance and musical wealth, congregants are drawn back week after week for a potpourri of incomparable artistic expression.