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“Haddy” Haddorff is given a new home: The back story

My beloved singing nightingale that came into my life in May, 2011, has found a new, permanent nest.

About 4 years ago I stumbled upon “Haddy” while browsing a Fresno, California Craig’s Listing (by owner, used piano sales) It wasn’t that I needed another piano to join a growing family of Steinways but I was curious about an eye-catching console that had the exotic name, Haddorff. And since it resided around the corner, I simply arranged to see/play it just to purge myself of a growing obsession.

My Haddorff 1951 console, gorgeous inside and out

ESP or well-developed intuition bore out. I was led to a beautifully voiced and regulated piano that commanded my undivided attention. Gliding over its keys, blissfully enjoying its enviable resonance, I experienced a piano that begged to join my lovely brood of keyboard instruments. And though I possessed a modest living space, there was yet room for one more addition, especially since it had the look and feel of a piano perfectly crafted for younger students.

$700 dollars down, and this heaven-sent piano was mine.

With a preliminary tuning and inspection at its point of origin, the best laid plans were made for its relocation.

The mover, Ginaddy, who owned a piano store that had sadly gone belly up, accomplished the most incredible solo move I’d ever witnessed…on a dolly, with a breathtaking set of wheelies, he convened a rollicking journey IN THE STREET as cars stopped, and passersby gazed at his awesome escapade.

Once over the last bump before settling in, Haddy spent the next few years with me in Fresno, and the children flocked to her, avoiding the big Steinway grand, and sister upright. They gravitated to “Haddy” only, hardlly budging on the bench while Aiden cat snugly bonded to them through scorching Valley temps.

For me, Haddy was a great springboard for imparting an analysis of Bach Invention 1 in C Major– Its voice rang out at just the right volume and timbre.

With a sterling C.V. and growing reputation, Haddy, was surely destined to become a fixture in my Fresno repository of keyboards, though in time, my eventual relocation to Berkeley, CA, came with a necessary sizing down of pianos. In fact, my new digs in the East Bay could barely accommodate a Steinway upright and grand, let alone a Yamaha digital console. So where was Haddy to be put amidst a crush of pianos?

Unfortunately, Haddy had to find a new home, and I knew it must be with an owner who’d cradle and well-maintain her forever!

Within weeks of painstaking inquiries, I found the perfect partner for Haddy. She was Karen, a piano teacher colleague whom I had known over years through our local MTAC, and because needed a second piano in her Clovis home studio, the arrangement worked.

That said, Haddy enjoyed more than two years in the Central Valley, until an email arrived from its caretaker mentioning a dramatic change in circumstances that foreshadowed Haddy’s imminent orphanhood.

Could I take Haddy back and squeeze her into a corner? My pea-pod size apartment was becoming hazardous to walk through. I had already tripped on a sea of entangled wires and cables, careening into the wall, incurring a golf-size hematoma. And my grand pianos had no easy access, so I found myself crawling under them to get to the kitchen. For sure, Haddy would not have a secure and safe presence in my household.

In the nick of time, I thought of a former El Cerrito-based adult student, (Irma) who had given up piano lessons, but still had a hankering to play at her leisure. And at the time she quit, I had taken back my Baldwin Hamilton grand that I had loaned her.

Perhaps it was now time to fill the void with my singing nightingale piano if she acquiesced. (and she did!)

Over 24 testy hours, I located Hans Oviedo, whom I had known from my years in Fresno, and together we mobilized Haddy’s relocation the East Bay.

Oviedo, who earned himself a sterling reputation building up the local piano store, Valley Music Center, owned a tenacity I could admire, and now having the Steinway dealership in agriculture’s heartland, he had opened a window to the Bay area in the retail and moving services arena.

Quickly, I tapped into his allied moving services wrapping up the saga of Haddy’s wandering fate–securing her desired adoption.

Today Haddy, the singing nightingale, is nesting in her new El Cerrito home after a safe and snug journey.

Thank you Hans, Karen, and Irma for the collective effort!


P.S. Miraculously, my pod is becoming a bit less treacherous under foot, with a few strategic keyboard shuffles. The space Haddy might have inhabited is now freed up for safe and easy access to the kitchen and bedroom.

piano room, spacier

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The El Cerrito Hills are alive with the sound of music

In the old days, I commuted by Amtrak from Central CA to the East Bay, chugging along the scenic route with my digital camera pressed against the train window. A few awesome seascapes managed to squeak through the bumpy ride, and these were memorialized by photographic import to my soundtracks, then posted to YOU TUBE. Others were sent to East Coast friends in pretty frames.

Since moving to Berkeley last September, I continued my 5-year stint in El Cerrito as a piano teacher, and sustained the habit of taking photos on and off public transit.

So every Wednesday, following my Y gym workout on Allston Way, I grab the #7 bus to the El Cerrito Hills, snapping images along the way.



Once settled into an awesome, acoustically brilliant space with cathedral high ceilings, I sneak one or two images of my musical sweetheart, a Baldwin grand that was originally a “blind date.” (From a distance, it joins the greater family of Steinway pianos that are squeezed into my Berkeley apartment)


To top things off in my acoustical palace, I place a small camcorder on a colorful table and film a lesson or two. (Students are sent copies to reinforce goals for follow-up practicing)


Here, an adult pupil works on the second page of Chopin’s C# minor Waltz (in slow tempo)

Without a doubt, the ambiance is heaven sent, and ideal for music-making.

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My Journey to Ifshin’s in El Cerrito, CA where violins, unlike pianos are thriving!

front_entrance_new Ifshins

I headed over to the premier string HAUS in the Bay area today to bring my 1799 vintage German violin back to life. For years it had been laying at the bottom of my closet, layered over with two portable digital pianos and an old computer. This was a violin selected by my teacher, the late Samuel Gardner (at a Paris auction) when I was a halfhearted string student. Playing two instruments at the time, made my wholehearted commitment to practicing impossible. Besides, the piano attained first love status, having come into my life 6 years earlier than the violin

Nonetheless, the “cigar box” that I originally played—a dusty relic of my Russian-Jewish grandparents’ closet, was replaced with a divine-sounding instrument that kept me attentive for the better part of 7 years–earning me the plum concert master chair of the Manhattan Borough-Wide junior high school orchestra.

side view my violin 1799 Hornsteiner  Mittenwald Germany

Ostensibly, the fiddle eventually went into hibernation following my Oberlin graduation, and surfaced when I played sporadic chamber music at the 92nd Street ‘Y.’ Thereafter, it was headed for early retirement.


So why, decades later, did I pluck it from obscurity? The answer is revealed in the you tube interview attached that originated in the Bay area’s most famous string hub.


Ifshin’s, a world unto itself is a sanctuary for string instrument lovers. Jay Ifshin, owner and founder, is an impassioned ground-breaker who moved the string palace from Berkeley to a lovely cove in El Cerrito. It’s a stone’s throw from the El Cerrito Plaza, but not engulfed in traffic. Nicely sequestered on a tree-lined street, it has a charming and colorful path to its entrance.

violin poster Ifshin entrance (1)

Though there are glowing “yellows” in the welcoming poster, Jay makes it clear that “Yellow” became verboten, propelling his dramatic career shift. (He left me stymied guessing at what his “being tired of yellow” meant)

Think “bulldozer” he said, as he placed a miniature beside my violin.

yellow bulldozer

A bulldozer engine re-builder in a former life, Jay turned to the violin for pure relief, starting lessons in his 20s (in Florida) Quickly consumed with the joy of playing–savoring the rich literature of great composers, he moved into the universe of crafting violins. At the Violin Making School of Salt Lake City, Utah he studied under Paul Hart and Peter Prier.

Following his stint in Utah, Ifshin arrived in Bozeman Montana, continuing his craft, before he eventually moved to Berkeley, California, where he set up a business. After 20 plus years at one location, Jay ignited an expansion of space and resources at the El Cerrito relocation which brought a faithful following of string lovers far and wide.


Ifshin Violins is an all encompassing cosmos of restoration, repair, rental, and sales–easily the biggest draw in California if not the country. (Add international to the mix)

And today’s interview with “Richard” one of the Ifshin principles was both educational and enlightening.

A big Thank You to all for your warm welcome!

main floor Ifshins (1)

best making violins and repair Ifshins (1)

Ifshin Violins Website




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Piano Lessons: Creativity, composing, and diversifying

fritz nice hand position

Fritz, one of my young piano students, had been saddled with a long lesson due to his sister’s absence so he thought the “extra” time would be spent spot practicing the knotty measures of his Bach Minuet. Or he anticipated the same with his Boogie piece that had become a rich dessert following the main course.

To his surprise, I had an idea to use his Boogie as a compositional springboard. Perhaps, he could borrow the ostinato (repeated bass line) he had rehearsed but transpose it to another key. (from C Major to F) That seemed easy enough, but the next step would be the greater challenge, allowing his creative juices to flow through an improvised melodic line.

Naturally, the composing process involves trial and error experimentation, and with a 9-year old fledgling who might not be adept at notating his explorations, the teacher can reproduce his efforts on paper, or nudge him to name the notes within a temporal spectrum. (Fritz has had 3 years of piano, and considerable exposure to 5-finger positions in Major and parallel minor alongside one-octave scale study in parallel and contrary motion–Circle of Fifths cycle) Therefore, he’d been oriented to KEY relationships and Solfeggio, (the movable “do”)

Now the melodic undertaking would tap into his originality while providing a unique learning experience.

So Fritz experimented with various five-finger positions over the F Major Boogie bass, and finally settled upon an Eb Major tonal rendering with some chromatic movement. It was a discovery that had Bi-tonal implications. (He had sprung upon a key, other than F Major that “worked” and fit the jazzy genre)

What we jotted down together, is reproduced below along with a rendering of his early draft. The piece is not nearly done, but it’s a work in progress that will accrue updates.

Fritz Boogie draft 75

Fritz added to his Boogie, and is busy practicing it.

Fritz Boogie

Fritz composing at age 7 (Major and parallel minor explorations)

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Piano Instruction: Mozart Minuet in F, K. 2

Play Through

Such delightful music sprang from an inspired little Mozart who at age 6, composed this Minuet in F. His father, Leopold, “notated his son’s pieces in a notebook recording the exact date of almost every composition.” (K. 2 was born in 1762)

A musical gem that’s intrinsically vocal, requires the player to phrase lyrically, enlist dynamic contrasts and be aware of harmonic rhythm. (A poignant “deceptive” cadence, for example, in the last line provides a heart-warming moment of surprise that needs fleshing out)

At these junctures and others, the flexible wrist helps to nurture the unexpected–to taper, shape, and sculpt lines. Being a “shock absorber,” it has a natural ability to promote a singing tone.

(In the tone production venue, pay particular attention to REPEATED NOTES in Minuet K. 2 and how the wrist can create a subtle contrast, by its supple dipping and forward motions)

My instruction follows:

Mozart Minuet in F K 2

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Steinway and Sons is sold, and the digitals are probably having a party


It was no surprise to read about Steinway selling out to Kohlberg and Company .. Why? because, 1) who has the money to buy a pricey grand 2) Digitals are turning acoustics into dinosaurs.

If I were purist and dismissed all my students who had electronics, I’d be catapulted into bankruptcy.

In all candor, I use my Yamaha Arius 141 as my back-up to two closely-spaced Steinway pianos that eat up most of my living area.

2 Steinway pianos

Add in the kitchen-placed digital, and I have nowhere to sleep and eat.

Yamaha Arius 141 in kitchen

In the past few years I’ve down-sized from 3,000 square feet, to 1300 to about 700. Do the math.

Still, I would rather sleep under the piano, than have it replaced with a fancy, free-standing digital console, even a pricey, glitzy one that’s advertised as a real piano equivalent plus! (Don’t believe it)

But I’m practical. Living cozily beside neighbors who aren’t thrilled with middle of the night, or predawn practicing, I use my Arius to maximum advantage.. like this morning.

I was up at 4 a.m. and itching to practice my Schumann Kinderszenen–especially the newest one–“Knight of the Rocking Horse.”

Decked in earphones, I was ready to tackle the latest finger-tripper.

Incidentally, by the time, I took out my camcorder to capture the event, the sun had risen, so I unleashed Ari.(at half-volume)

Here’s the day’s awakening in prep for my transition to Steinway M–

And the acoustic transfer:

Knight of the Rocking Horse by Schumann

To wit, the popularity of digitals is revealed in the following You Tube I posted about two years ago comparing Roland to Yamaha.

Would the same audience amass to watch me sampling a Steinway beside a Baldwin?

If so, there’s a shred of hope about the future of acoustic pianos, notwithstanding news of the Steinway and Sons sale.

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Sister and brother piano lessons in the Hills

second pic east bay

I enjoy my weekly journey to a home way up in the Hills of El Cerrito (neighbor to Berkeley) There, I teach Lucy and Fritz who play a lovely, resonant Baldwin Acrosonic that I advised mom to purchase (over at DC Pianos) Acros happen to be among my favorites in the spinet/console category.

Lucy at the pianofritz at piano
The Back Story

Lucy was a transfer student, coming to study with me at about 7, and at the time she’d brought the Bastien primer, and various binder-inserted patriotic songs with chord symbols, etc. (Throw in “Happy Birthday!”)

She played by finger numbers, since most method books are short-cut based, riveting students relentlessly to five-finger positions.

Going back five years in time, I recall finding Lucy beautiful music, leading within 12 months to the James Hook Minuet, that I sourced from the Toronto Conservatory series, making sure she began her one octave scales (FJH Classical Scale Book) in all keys framed by the Circle of Fifths.

Arpeggios were partnered, woven as broken chords, rolling through sound space.

Phrasing with a supple wrist, singing lines, shaping them, practicing with separate hands became our steady learning model and over months melting into years, I watched a little girl grow into a very expressively musical pre-teen. (Her scales rippled across the keyboard beside a splash arpeggios)

Lucy is now 12, and has more recently learned Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” (NO transcription), Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous, Ballade by Burgmuller, and now “Inquietude” by the same composer. This past week, she embarked upon Mozart Sonata 545 in C (first movement-Allegro) The latter will apply her dedicated scale work.

Both Lucy, and her younger brother Fritz, (who began lessons with me at 6) have done well, knowing that patient, baby-step practicing will reap long-term rewards.

Here are two sibling lesson samples from 6/7/2013.

Lucy is practicing “Inquietude” with an ear toward “harmonic rhythm” (staccato bass chord progressions) and an awareness of curvy groups of three notes, figured in the treble. (her flexible wrist nourishes a nicely shaped set of notes)

My Playing in Tempo: (Lucy will gradually inch up to Allegro agitato as the piece ripens) There is NO rush to the finish line. The process is what matters.

Background, Friedrich Burgmuller

Burgmuller (b. 1806, d. 1874) was a colorful Romantic composer who enticed students to learn his program-inspired music. The Op. 100, Twenty-Five Progressive Pieces that includes “Inquietude,” is a treasure trove of appealing miniatures framed by imaginative titles. (“Sincerity,” “The Clear Stream,” “Sorrow,” “Angels’ Voices,” among others)


Fritz, 9, is practicing William Gillock’s “Flamenco,” an engaging, rhythmically-driven piece with an ethnic Spanish flavor. (very popular among young piano students and adults alike)

In this pertinent video instruction Fritz demonstrates his parceled out learning coupled with a physical awareness of a supple, spring forward wrist for the opening section, and a rolling motion, for the contrasting middle section.

brige E Bay from Hills

William Gillock:

Born: July 1, 1917 – LaRussell, Missouri, USA
Died: September 7, 1993 – Desoto, Dallas, Texas, USA

“The noted American music educator and composer of piano music, William Gillock, learned to play the piano at an early age. He attended Central Missouri Methodist College, in Fayette, Missouri, where he studied both piano and composition with N. Louise Wright, who recognized his remarkable talent and encouraged him to make music his career.

“Even the earliest of his compositions show a rare inventiveness and originality of harmony and texture, as well as the Gillock trademark, melodic beauty. Called “the Schubert of children’s composers” in tribute to his melodic gift, Gillock composed numerous solos for students of all levels and ensemble music for students and their teachers to play together. He summed up his guiding compositional principle by saying that “melody and rhythmic vitality are essential to compositions that students want to learn.” This and others of his thoughts were transmitted to thousands of teachers and students through the hundreds of workshops he conducted over the years throughout the USA.”