Jeannette Haien, Murray Perahia

Murray Perahia’s earliest piano teacher and her influence on him

Jeannette Haien is rarely recognized for her role in Murray Perahia’s musical development, though it’s clear through her own words, (rekindled posthumously) that she must have had a profound effect on him. (She was Perahia’s mentor from age 4 to 18.)



I knew Murray as a classmate at the NYC High School of Performing Arts where his musical presence was poignant and pervasive. Many piano majors would follow him to after-school rehearsals in dilapidated rooms with old grand pianos where he would rehearse piano trios such as the one of Mendelssohn in D minor. His chamber partners were Diana Halperin, violin, and Marsha Heller, cello. A circle formed around these three in awe of their divinely inspired music-making. I was bowled over, feeling the expressive pulse of every note, phrase, nuance, and the overall context of what was being communicated.

At one of the Winter Concerto concerts held at the high school each year, Perahia played the piano part in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with a keen awareness of structure, period style, and tonal variation/projection. His “sound” at the piano was unmistakable: a signature singing tone that’s fleshed out more generally in his teacher’s comments during the Moyer interview. (Her discussion omitted Murray and other pupils by name.) I readily conjectured that she had no interest in claiming credit for their individual or collective accomplishments. She appeared Ego-less and fully keyed to music-making in its purist dimension as she addressed form, structure, architecture, and tone. (In this particular conversation, she was exploring her writing with infused musical references and metaphors.)


Murray, her student for the better part of his childhood and adolescent years, was a remarkable chamber musician and soloist. In his role as collaborator he was acutely aware of form, architecture, structure, balance, dynamics, interpretation, and emotional meaning. (A conscious and committed fusion of intellect and affect.)

In all his musical quests he never attempted to outshine his musical partners or flesh out his technical prowess for its own sake. Furthermore, his ability to quickly sub-in for an absent Concerto concert soloist during a pre-program rehearsal was astounding. I was there sitting in the Orchestra (Principal Second Violin), listening to his “reading” of the Chopin E minor Piano Concerto No. 1, as if I heard it for the first time with only the expectation of resonating beauty. All of us present, were moved, some to tears.

Given the virtues of Murray Perahia’s uniquely individual artistry so manifest at a young age, I was motivated to perform an Online search to learn more about Ms. Haien and her relationship to the piano/music that would have trickled down to Murray. My efforts were rewarded when I stumbled upon a riveting interview conducted by Bill Moyers. It had a complete transcript attached that exceeded video bounds.

Jeannette Haien, who became an author later in life, was a student of Arthur Schnabel, and for most of her early to mid-life years was known as a “concert pianist,” and “piano teacher.” Based in New York City, she would have met up with Murray’s father after he sought a mentor once his toddler started singing arias, after sitting on papa’s lap in weekly jaunts to the Metropolitan Opera.

What a responsibility for a young teacher to assume, clearly registered in the body of the Haien’s commentary. (Without, again, her having tagged Murray or any particular student by name.)

BILL MOYERS: What do you look for in a potential pupil?

Stamina. And interior tension.


JEANNETTE HAIEN: Tension. Desire. Wanting it. That we talked about very early on. And it’s a form of tension. It’s like first love. That terrific tension between two people terribly, newly, innocently in love. Innocently is important, because the young talented mind in its first stages is innocent, and the responsible teacher never, never intrudes upon that innocence.

Selective transcript excerpts continue: Bill Moyers with Jeannette Haien

(What Haien communicated in this interview has conspicuously permeated Perahia’s musical intellect and further reflects his holistic approach to piano study/performance.)

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Structure, which as it sounds-it’s a marvelous word, but it is usually thought to be more architectural in the form. In its peculiar way, structure is a kind of architecture in sound, in a book or anything. The great thing about structure-no, I’ll say it a different way. The biblical phrase, …in whose service is perfect freedom, if you start with structure, then you can move walls. That is, you can move walls in relation to each other.

You have the freedom to work in the freest way imaginable. The best art, the best thinking, is highly structured. It has within it all the windows onto the outside, and light coming in. It’s a well-structured affair. Music is a language, an oral language. And I always begin learning a new score away from the instrument. I never take it to the instrument. I always-….

JEANNETTE HAIEN: A musical score, to a musician, is a narrative, and you take it to bed at night and you read it, and you can-you return to it as you would reread a Conrad novel and find some new marvelous thing in it that you’d never noticed before….

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -yes. That’s where I learned to write. I mean

BILL MOYERS: From music?

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -yes. Because, let’s say Mozart, let’s say a Mozart concerto. Here’s this extraordinary thing, with immediately a theme. It’s called-musicologists call it a theme. There’s a statement of an idea, which is oral, but it-you enter, you begin to enter a body of material through it. It has a key, it is a minor key, or it is a major key. It is a vivace, or it is an adagio. So that right away, some mood takes place, and right away, in the hands of a genius, musical ideation, as with the written word, right away is a landscape that is-well, think of Opus 13, the sonata, the so-called Pathetique sonata-

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -{hums] that opening adagio, first moment. I mean, what is going to follow? There is that stark, extraordinary opening, with two sort of interspersions of surprises. And then you come down in C minor, and you come down to a G, and there’s a fermata, [snaps fingers] and then, you light into the extraordinary exercise of thing.

So that a novel sometimes begins with a dire description of a landscape, or a village or a place, or a character sitting alone and thinking, and then the action takes place. It comes to a point, a denouement, the act is done and there is a consequence. If you fiddle with that consequence and that consequence is out of focus, with the oldest series of consequences since the beginning of time, it runs all through Homer, all through the Iliad and the Odyssey, if you try and give it a cute and clever ending, it may be very titillating to an audience for now, but it won’t last….

(Me: Can one imagine the expansive literary context and framing that Ms. Haien had imparted to Murray in the course of his 15 year-long relationship with her?)

Her words continue to resonate through Perahia’s music-making.

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Well, because Mozart wrote a story- just talk for a moment about the opening of a work, and let’s say that you know three things. You know the key, you know the tempo marking, whether it’s going to be a fast or a slow movement and you have a dynamic marking, let’s say forte or piano, loud or soft dynamic marking. But-and that’s what Mozart, let’s say, says right away, but it is nigh.

There is no such thing as piano or forte, except as I cause it to happen. It is my vision of that, forte or piano, so that when one walks out onto the stage of Carnegie Hall and sits at the instrument, and you are left with a piano marking, that is, a soft-this piece is going to open softly, this work, I have to enter the realm of the attitude of the softness, which must project to the person who bought the ticket in the last seat, way up there, at the same time as the spirit of that piano -because there can be a piano passage of the most terrific animation, there can be a piano, by piano I keep meaning soft

BILL MOYERS: Soft, pianissimo.

JEANNETTE HAIEN: -pianissimo, that’s better. A pianissimo passage in the animated, vivace movement or a pianissimo passage in an adagio, that is so passionate. So it isn’t a matter of dynamic. The dynamic is a kind of freedom for your perceptions about the score.

BILL MOYERS: Is form, is symmetry the truth to which you say the artist is ultimately accountable? Is it to the true nature of symmetry, the way the world is, or is truth something else?

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Well, it’s a-truth is that thing [chuckles} which is undefinable. I mean, form is a form of truth. Form frames consciousness, it gives a frame to our real consciousness of everything. And our consciousness of things influences our conscience, our respect for that which we are conscious of. And there is a truth larger than the capriciousness of individual conduct. Some people call it God, religion, but I think that it is apparent in the way the universe functions….

BILL MOYERS: What you’re doing is bringing out what is there, is it not?

JEANNETTE HAIEN: Well, it’s where you come together over a score and you ponder it and you say, Don’t you think that that-that in relation to that pianissimo you just come from that that fortissimo is going to be out of scale in relation to the larger architectural scope of the work? Which means that there’s really got to be a fortissimo above the one you’ve just created so the architecture, the form, is again realized. It’s a very different experience from exposing a gifted young musical mind to the first ideas such as what is your sound going to be? Why is your hand formed so that when that finger makes contact with a key it’s going to have a sound that every musician will recognize as being yours and no one else’s.


As the crowning glory summation of Haien’s words as they penetrate Perahia’s artistry, I’ve attached one of the pianist’s trailers that’s meant to promote his recording of J.S. Bach’s French Suites. Yet very quickly the viewer forgets that this is some kind of commercial advancement of a disk set. Perahia rises above the din of self-promotion, just like his teacher would have, and for this shared gift of unfettered musical worship, we should be grateful.


Following Murray’s 2015 Recital at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall:


The Moyers Interview:

Jeannette Haien NY Times Obituary

BALLARD–Jeannette Haien , died on September 23, 2008 after a precipitous decline in health following a heart attack on July 29. Born in the early 1920s to a small Dutch American family, Jeannette was the youngest of four children. Demonstrating precocious talents in both writing and music, Jeannette was home-schooled with her brothers before attending the University of Michigan; in 1943, 1944 and 1945, she won four University of Michigan English Department Hopwood Prizes for ”minor’ and ”summer” poetry and for her extended narrative poem, ”Rip Van Winkles Dream.” In addition, Jeannette per formed extensively as a pianist throughout the mid-West before and immediately after her 1948 marriage to Ernest Ballard, then a law student at the University of Michigan.

In 1950, the Ballards moved to New York City, from then on their permanent home. Pursuing her professional career under her maiden name, Jeannette Haien taught piano privately and, subsequently, as a member of the piano faculty of Mannes College of Music (1969-1991); she toured biennially with the cultural outreach programs of the United States Information Agency in Europe, Asia and Central America throughout the 1960s and 1970s. During the early 1980’s, Haien turned her energies increasingly to writing and, in 1986, published ”The All of It,” for which she garnered strong critical praise and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1987.

Haien’s second novel, ”Matters of Chance” was published in 1997. Jeannette’s husband of 60 years died on September 14 of this year. Jeannette Haien Ballard is survived by a daughter, Jean Ballard Terepka, and a grandson, Henry Ballard Terepka, both of New York City, in addition to two nieces and one nephew. Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date. Donations in memory of Jeannette Haien Ballard may be made to the American Academy of Arts and Letters at 633 West 155 Street, New York City, NY, 10032-1799.

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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


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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.


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?


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.

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A tribute to the late, Robert DeGaetano, classmate, NYC High School of Performing Arts

Bob DeGaetano screen shot

“Bobby” as I remember him at “P.A.” (nickname for the FAME school that hadn’t yet acquired Broadway, TV, or movie status) was a shining light among stage-struck students, some of whom swished down the hallway in first position, ballet style, while others in the drama department audibly cajoled each other, wise-cracking their way through academics. One of them would sneak drop a thumbtack on a sub teacher’s chair, inciting a chorus of laughter, while the elderly mentor was in obvious pain.

The music kids seemed more sedate, less involved with displays of attention-getting antics, and more likely to be found practicing in musty rooms with less than perfectly maintained pianos. A few stayed after school for extra coaching. Among them, “Bobby” was one of many gifted P.A. pianists who was constantly honing and refining his skills. He had a sunny personality and an engaging disposition. I remember Joanne Salamone and Carol Lian tagging along with him, part of an inseparable trio.

One afternoon as I was packing up after 6th period, prepping to take the IRT North bound subway home, I was distracted by the strains of Schubert’s Eb Impromptu emanating from one of the practice rooms. It was Bob DeGaetano playing in the presence of Murray Perahia, (PA ’63) who was coaching him to finite detail–a peak level music-mentoring experience worth a memory treasure.

That same year Bob had won an audition to play Beethoven’s Bb Piano Concerto at the School’s Winter Concert and soon after, he made a Town Hall appearance, broadcast on WQXR F.M., which was a feather in his cap. (PA sent its finest to this event, after grueling auditions with Nadia Reisenberg, Abram Chasins and other music notables) Leonard Bernstein was on PA’s Board of Directors and may have snuck in a back door visit here and there.

After graduation everyone dispersed, marrying, having kids, teaching, some performing, yet somehow we managed to keep up with each other through e-mailed newsletters and reunion announcements.

I blogged about P.A. recalling my personal journey with added alum updates.

Note Bob’s photo in the H.S. Grad Yearbook:

Robert DeGaetano PA grad yearbook pic

What I should have included, (a glaring omission) was Robert DeGaetano’s moving tribute to the Challenger astronauts that captured the hearts of a nation in mourning. In this memorable interview DeGaetano spoke about his composition and played an excerpt from the score. (a section devoted to Christa McAuliffe)

Bobby’s own creations and his many performances of masterworks will always be cherished.

“May his music continue to nourish the world and live on forever.”

R.I.P. Maestro DeGaetano….

Robert De Gaetano

“DeGaetano was born in New York City. He graduated from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Adele Marcus and Rosina Lhevinne. He received a Rotary International scholarship, which enabled him to live in Paris and continue his studies with Alexis Weissenberg. Recommended by David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter, DeGaetano became a concert pianist under the auspices of Sol Hurok.

“In the mid 1970’s DeGaetano made his performing debut in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In 1975 DeGaetano met Samuel Barber as DeGaetano was preparing to perform Barber’s piano sonata at Carnegie Hall and they became close friends for the five years that he lived. He has credited Barber for inspiring him to compose, when he visited him in his Santa Cristina chateau in the Dolomites.

“DeGaetano made his New York recital debut at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Alice Tully Hall. His orchestra debut was with the San Antonio Symphony. He toured all fifty states and the major music capitals of Europe. DeGaetano was a frequent guest soloist with US orchestras, including those of Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Diego and the Boston Pops. In 1986, DeGaetano premiered his first Piano Sonata in New York City, followed by a domestic and international tour. He then was commissioned by Michigan’s Jackson Symphony Orchestra to compose his first Piano Concerto, which he premiered in March 1989.

“In November, 1987 The Challenger, a suite for solo piano which Alice Tully had commissioned DeGaetano to create in tribute to the astronauts killed in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, premiered in the presence of the astronauts’ families at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The performance was filmed live for television, featured on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kurault, broadcast over WQXR in New York City and radio stations nationwide. It played on concert tours across three continents.

“In 1999 DeGaetano made his Carnegie Hall recital debut. The same year on Memorial Day he played Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s ‘L’Union’ and ‘The Banjo’ at the Green-Wood Cemetery gravesite of the composer with the Goldman Memorial Band.

“DeGaetano created nine albums, playing Chopin, Beethoven, Gottschalk, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, 20th century composers and his own compositions on the Crystonyx label. His latest album was the premiere recording of his Piano Concerto No.1 and the Chopin Piano Concerto #1 in E Minor with the Moravian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra on Navona distributed by Naxos Records.”

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After the Revolution is my cousin, Amy Herzog’s tour de force play. (An Aurora Theatre Berkeley production)


Amy Herzog is regaled as one of the most gifted young playwrights of her generation. Not only has she been a recipient of the well-regarded Lillian Hellman prize, but she’s amassed a slew of New York Times rave reviews.

Charles Isherwood, Arts editor, lauded After the Revolution in a generous media spread that wove in OUR family’s fervently political fabric (The cast of characters, includes Amy’s late grandmother, and my aunt “Leepee,” (aka “VERA JOSEPH”) pictured in the header; her second husband, Joe Josephs, who’s the play’s driving force, and various kin that weave in and out of the drama.

Though deceased, Josephs has left a trail of speculation about his controversial espionage involvement during World War II.

The disclosure comes in a media release which opens a Pandora’s box of doubt and deception, shaking the very foundation of respect and unconditional love for a parent.

As the plot unfolds, a conflict-driven drama embeds a three-generation split.

Isherwood elaborates

The Back Story (from a child’s perspective—MINE)

I knew and loved Joe Joseph. He replaced my beloved uncle Arthur Herzog, (Leepee’s first husband) who collaborated with Billie Holiday to produce the song, “God Bless the Child.” Arthur and Leepee, parents of Gregory Herzog, (my first cousin) divorced in the 1950s, well before Leepee met and married J.J. Joseph in a Unitarian ceremony presided over by the Reverend Donald Harrington. (I was present at the Greenwich Village apartment)

Joe played the violin, (not deftly) but managed to convene a Baroque chamber trio, inviting me in as pianist alongside step-son, Gregory who played the oboe. I rendered the Continuo part on a Baldwin grand, while Joe scratched along.

Though our collective music-making precluded a mix of MUSIC and Politics, Joe would nourish audibly loud dinner table conversation, permeated by non-stop Dialectical babbling. (the “-ism suffixes attached to Stalin-, Lenin-, Bolshev- were DIZZYING!)

Joe Joseph front view

Years before these chamber music convergences, Greg had become my pianistic inspiration as he belted out Beethoven’s “Rage of a Lost Penny,” and then shifted mood, rendering a gorgeous Chopin e minor Prelude.

better Gregory Herzog playing the piano, my inspiration

Greg’s Prelude playing, especially, seeded my love for music that eventually grew and developed over decades.


More about Greg’s mom, Aunt Leepee

An expressive Villager piece about my auntie enlarges the the meaning of After the Revolution by enriching the landscape in political, ideological and human terms.

Dissidence and Drama have filled her life

This poetically woven writing fleshes out my aunt as more than a rabble-rousing militant. At her memorial service in NYC she was characterized as “a work of art.” I experienced her as nurturant and loving.


The RED DIAPER BABY BACKDROP as applied to me

On a personal note, I’ve never been a Marxist, but was unreasonably indoctrinated as a child, having no ability to question what I was spoon-fed. Though my diapers lacked a hammer and sickle, I was still a Soviet propaganda puppet.

Amy, to the contrary was of a younger generation, and remained a keen observer of her grandparents’ idealism.

In a televised interview about Revolution, Herzog discussed their Marxist devotion in the context of an embrace of “religion.” Perhaps she meant to HUMANIZE families and not pin psycho-pathologies on them.

Finally, no matter how my family or any other will be perceived before Amy Herzog’s script comes to LIFE on stage, a jaunt to Aurora is worth an afternoon or evening’s escape from the blaring TV. Perhaps it’s better to watch families resolve their conflicts with a dose of compassion and forgiveness than blame them for political differences.

(As a footnote to this writing, I wanted to meet director, Joy Carlin, but her industrious devotion to directing precluded a face-to-face conversation. Maybe the PR people in the box office can snatch her from the set for a short coffee break)

Aurora Theatre Box Office information
After the Revolution starts its run on Aug. 30, 2013
TEL: 510-843-4822

LINK: My family’s Genealogy


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How to win Friends and influence People on LinkedIn


After a major workout at the gym this afternoon, I sat down at my computer, flooded by waves of LinkedIn “endorsements.” A new gush of approbations encompassed bird-watching, percussion, band conducting, coin-collecting, baby-sitting and chess-playing. Was I in the midst of a mega makeover not of my choosing?

I felt guilty about being showered with praise for my non-existent skills and hobbies, so I fired back “endorsements” to senders, blindly tapping any and every reciprocal sphere of activity in sight whether it applied or not to my so-called “connections.”

For my former Amtrak train buddy, “Tim,” who’d spent the better part of 3 hours troubleshooting web problems at, I tapped in a “pet-loving” endorsement (after all, he’d raised three cats, two, eaten by coyotes) Another prompt whizzed onto the screen testing my eye hand/coordination skills. Why not mouse click, “knows about jet engine repair.” I’d vaguely remembered Tim having delivered a mega-complex analysis of what happened to the Airbus A320 that crash-landed safely on the Hudson River and how the Canadian geese got stuck in the engine. Oops the “bird-watching” endorsement just evaded me, slipping quickly into the “diaper-changing” universe. Why not go for it, since my traveling companion had often boasted about his new grandson. Surely, he’d aced the skills necessary to keep the infant dry and comfortable.

NO sooner than I’d clicked this warm and fuzzy endorsement, another popped up, pertaining to a complete stranger. How did an “Australian Alligator trainer” land in my Network? (Friend? acquaintance? business associate? High School classmate? friend of a friend, employer?) In a mega memory recall effort, I mind-snatched the “connection” to an Aussie Online piano student who had an Engineering degree.

Quickly I tapped “knows Calculus” before my computer flashed “media/communications,” and “shrimp farming”–what the heck, it was the thought that counted not whether these latest skills on the rifle range of choices were a perfect fit for the latest in-or-out-of network newcomer.

In either case, my “connections” were spiraling out of control while my SQUARE of endorsements was bulging at the seams.

Suddenly, a new round of endorsements catapulted onto the screen. A Hindu Elephant vet and a New York City Bank President endorsed me for “fashion design,” and “face-painting” while I snapped back “knows Farsi,” and “rips people off.” Oops, wrong endorsement! How could I delete the last one, before I’d earn an instant “dis-connect.”

My PROFILE PAGE rhombus of skills was surely headed for a fatal blow with a falling dominoes effect!

OMG! My NYC High School of Performing Arts Math Teacher, “Shirley Katz,” had just become the latest “connection,” endorsing me for “horseback riding” and “pizza-pie-making.” True, I’d aced the Intermediate Algebra Regents, which nourished my skills to carefully measure out cups and half-cups of flour; teaspoons and tablespoons of olive oil, but I hadn’t saddled up on a horse since I was 6 (at the Van Cortlandt Park Bronx trail) And I nearly got kicked in the face by a Palomino when I wasn’t looking.

Without a second thought, I shot back three consecutive endorsements for KATZ: “knows diplomacy,” “has more passes than flunks,” and “shows up at all Performing Arts High reunions.”

Finally, these endorsements gelled with the right person and I was thankfully off the hook. To cut my losses and preserve my gains, I shut down the darn computer and headed for the piano where I felt really CONNECTED!


Bezerkeley, California, cultural differences between New York City and Berkeley, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, making friends in Berkeley California, New York City, New York City versus Berkeley, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, the Big Apple, The East Bay California, word press, word, wordpress,

East Coast/West Coast (East Bay) culture shock

Bigger appleBezerkeley

Recently, I made a trip back East to New York City to attend my aunt’s Memorial Service, and the experience hit “home!”

Being a child of the Bronx and Manhattan, my emigration to California over three decades ago, definitely came with culture shock, but my most recent relocation to the East Bay (Berkeley aka “Bezerkeley”) fleshed out stark bi-coastal differences in social environment/interpersonal communications that are worth screaming about!

For example,

NYC–You make friends on the elevator. I stayed at my ex-roommate’s apartment on Central Park West and ended up stuffing 27 crinkled post-its into my pockets with names, addresses and phone numbers. Three days, 9 rides, 12 floors.

East Bay–No phone number unless you OCCUPY the bank, post office, street corner, or even Trader Joe when it refuses to take Fiji Water off the shelf.

NYC– The subways are a miraculous social network–Getting lost is the best thing to happen. People will scramble, if not trample each other to assist. Goes with the territory. You’ll find your pockets bulging with more names, addresses and phones.

At my aunt’s Memorial, I had a reunion with my Performing Arts High math teacher, and she brought along a friend. No sooner than I offered my arm to the 85-year old, I found an empty pocket to stuff with her name, address and phone. (Not three days back in California, I received a no-strings-attached invitation to stay at her East Side digs.. food, lodging and a guaranteed schmaltzy hug)

By contrast,

The East Bay: No bed, no breakfast– but one small space for a homeless person in Downtown Berkeley, or an endless ride on the friendless BART.

: The ‘Y’ gym on West 63rd is another great hangout! Free bi-coastal passes–no hitch in snaring a clean towel or directions to the women’s lockers. Getting lost in the maze of work-out rooms is another opportunity to make new friends.

The East Bay ‘Y’— An instant death sentence. Once inside the Women’s gym, it’s solitary confinement. No eye contact! Talk under your breath and risk a 5150 to the Alta Bates psych ward.

And Heed these posted WARNINGS!

1) NO CELL PHONE USE in this AREA 2) NO FREE PASSES to Albany, Oakland, or any ‘Y’ gyms in the area. Pay up or go back to where you came from! (Good Idea!)


NYC: Getting together with a friend is as easy as pie, i.e. “Meet me at the coffee shop on Amsterdam in twenty minutes.” (a done deal)

East Bay: It’s three years of strategy planning with NO clause to reconnect in a lifetime. Anything sooner is considered a “boundary” violation.

My first house guest, (after 18 months of back and forth text-ing) confessed that her appearance was “ephemeral.”

“Don’t think I’m coming back. That way you won’t be disappointed.”

Your friends will wine and dine you with unswerving generosity– home-cooked delights and an unconditional welcome mat are your birthright.

East Bay:
A Berkeley eating companion, who turns up 9 months after the planning stage, brings a calculator to evenly divide the tab.

(She forgot that you treated her the last ancient time at the Ethiopian Hut on Durant)

Every other spoonful, she mega-Networks and collates foot massage flyers for you to post around the neighborhood.

“Hey, how about us bartering a big toe rub-down for life-time piano lessons?”

“NO thanks! I’m pre-OCCUPIED!” (Need to practice!)

NYC: Performing opportunities may be sparse in the Big Apple, but no one will ask you to play Chopin into a drone of meaningless, high-decibel banter!

East Bay: Expect to be drowned out!


From Sanity to Insanity

The Last Lap My return to California

NYC: Going to the airport for my departure comes with good wishes. Elevator friends, the doorman, street cleaner–even the garbage men and fruit cart pushers give a warm thumbs up! Peace, Goodwill, and God Speed.

East Bay: At SFO arrival. Where’s the baggage area? Super shuttle, anyone?

Icy stares from a skeleton crew of janitors and OCCUPIERS, everywhere!

Rent controllers scream, “I hate landlords!” Landlords rage against the Rent Board. An avalanche of hate! A round of gunfire! Revolution now! Che Guevara!

Geezus! I’m way safer in NYC under Bloomberg.
When’s the next Apple-bound jet? I’ll call the lady who offered me her place on the East Side and firm up my reservation a.s.a.p.