Daniel Mori, Irina Morozova, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano blog, piano blogging, piano teacher, The Special Music School of Kaufman Center

Manhattan’s Special Music School/Kaufman Center has a wealth of gifted students and teachers

The Special Music School-Kaufman Center

The original vision of Vladimir Feltsman, the Special Music School, with its serious commitment to musical development, is a K-8 public school with a private endowment. Located in the hub of Lincoln Center on W. 67th, its easy access to the great concert halls of the world, and the Juilliard School make it a draw for students in all five boroughs. For 15 openings, there may be 500 applications.

front desk The Special Music School

More About the School

“Special Music School, P. S. 859, is the first and only public elementary school in the United States that combines a full academic program with performance-oriented music training within the regular school day starting in Kindergarten. The music program includes private instrumental lessons and classes in music theory, history and chorus. The academic program emphasizes an integrated learning approach that develops problem-solving skills through hands-on cooperative learning experiences. The dedicated staff and faculty are committed to helping each child realize his/her full potential musically, academically, and socially.

“The Special Music School is a public/private partnership between the New York City Department of Education and Kaufman Music Center. As a public school, Special Music School is tuition-free. The Department of Education, through tax levy funds, provides the academic program and materials, while Kaufman Music Center, through its annual fund-raising efforts, provides each student with a full, merit-based music scholarship. The School is located in Kaufman Music Center’s facility at 129 West 67th Street, west of Broadway.”

In 2013, a “new” high school was added in a separate building in the Martin Luther King Educational Complex a few blocks from Kaufman. “… Dedicated to providing talented young musicians the opportunity to pursue serious, pre-professional along with a rigorous curriculum,” this secondary educational tier promotes “the development of the student as a musician for the 21st century.”

Performanc Class The Special Music School

I was fortunate to observe three piano students in the elementary grades taught by Irina Morozova, a towering pianist and teacher in the great Russian tradition.

The first of her brood, Daniel Mori, began his lessons in Kindergarten and has musically flourished under his able teacher’s wings into sixth grade. With awards and competition-related honors amassing, the youngster approaches the piano as a singing instrument with an embedded technical fluency grown assiduously by Maestra Morozova.

In these recorded lessons-in-progress, Daniel works on the Clementi Sonata in F# minor, Op. 25, No. 5, and Liszt’s Leggierezza.

The Special Music School Website:


Links to blogs about Daniel and his progress:


During the interview below, Irina Morozova discussed her approach to teaching Daniel from the very beginning of his studies. (included is a 2012 sample of her student’s artistry)


Irina Morozova BIO:

Piano; B.M. with Honors, Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music; M.M., Manhattan School of Music; piano studies with Vladimir Shakin, Galina Orlovskaya, Arkady Aronov; performances include Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, New American Chamber orchestra; participated in Film America’s “Music in the 20th Century” series; awards include Frinna Awerbuch, San Antonio International Piano Competitions; teaches, performs at International Keyboard Institute and Festival in NY; faculty, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan school of Music, Special Music School.

“Irina Morozova made her New York debut with a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in 1996 after winning Artists International Auditions. Critics raved, “Morozova possesses an astonishing beauty of sound and power of ideas…she is the sort of pianist who can turn a simple phrase into magic….”

“Born to a musical family, Irina Morozova began her musical studies at the Leningrad Special Music School for Gifted Children and graduated with honors from the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music where her major teacher was Galina Orlovskaya. Studying with Vladimir Shakin at the Saint-Petersburg Conservatory, she performed in the concert halls of Saint-Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, and many other cities in the former Soviet Union. She also toured former East Germany and appeared with the Berlin Radio Symphony in the famed Schauspielhaus.

(A list of performance credits is too long to tabulate, though they encompass a variety of international venues.)

“Ms. Morozova received her Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Dr. Arkady Aronov. Since 1997 she has been on the faculties of Mannes College of Music and the Special Music School at Kaufman Center.”

Elaine Comparone, J.S. Bach, Ornaments in the Baroque, piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, youtube.com

Baroque Ornaments, execution, style, context and taste: A Conversation with Elaine Comparone


On a rainy Saturday morning in New York City, I packed my tripod, camcorder, battery chargers, and Henle Urtext edition of J.S. Bach's French Suite No. 5 in G, and headed for Elaine Comparone's gorgeous harpsichord and piano sanctuary on Manhattan's West side.IMG_2354-2 We'd planned to discuss ornaments in the Baroque using the springboard Sarabande, though wide-eyed and inspired Elaine wove in the Loure with a bedazzling reading framed by a Harvard Dictionary introduction.

A two-part exchange, in an impromptu spirit captured the essence of "improvisation" in the Baroque period, and found expression in harpsichord and piano renderings.

A big Thank You goes to Elaine Comparone for her illuminating words and profoundly beautiful music-making!

Loure rendered on the Piano

Updated rendering by Elaine Comparone on the harpsichord:


Elaine Comparone teaches harpsichord and piano on Manhattan’s West side with a Baroque period emphasis.









Bach with Pluck on Amazon:


NYC, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Kisten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, Sohmer upright, Sohmer upright piano, word press.com, wordpresss.com, youtube, youtube.com

Scenes from Manhattan

First day in the Big Apple:

These are popular picture postcard themes yet worth memorializing.

I took this photo set as I trekked from 34th Street and Penn station to the West Side ‘Y’ gym at 63rd off Central Park.

Bogged down with luggage, I approached Columbus Circle at W. 59th Street (off Central Park)



Columbus Circle



The Y Gym where I have a six-day guest pass


Day two:

My visit with Elaine Comparone, harpsichordist (and pianist)


Elaine discussed Baroque ornaments while displaying her impeccable artistry at the harpsichord and piano. Her riveting interview will be posted after my return to California.


Today, Sunday (Day 3)

I’m going to my mother’s 100th Birthday celebration at her apartment on 218th Street in Manhattan.

Mom’s  place overlooks the Hudson River at the picturesque northern tip of Manhattan.

I’ll take the ‘A’ train to 207th and then climb a steep hill to Park Terrace Gardens.

Once arrived, I ‘ll be sure to capture the old Sohmer upright, my first REAL piano after I endured treacherous years practicing on an abysmal sounding Wieser (aka WHEEZER)

Sadly,  the Sohmer has deteriorated  from extreme temperature and humidity shifts over decades, so it’s now a living room centerpiece and photo gallery.

More to come….

classisssima.com, Isaac Raboy shule, Josh Rifkin, word press, you tube

You Tube and rekindled memories

You tube never fails to deliver when precious memories seem to fade with time.

Today as I was checking Facebook notifications, I noticed a you tube link to a Bach Cantata directed by Josh Rifkin. His face had been buried in the very darkness of the basement shule we both attended in the Bronx. (Isaac Raboy was on Giles place in one of the old Amalgamated buildings known as the Sholom Aleichem Cooperative.) It was where Bess Myerson, an early Miss America of the late 40s, resided. authentic giles placehttp://www.bronxcourtyard.com/Building_History.html

The sub-level space relegated for the shule was dreary and dim-lit, but the saving grace was its out-of-tune old upright that brought the place to life when the right hands glided over its chipped keys.

Josh, the anointed music Messiah, had to be about 8 or so at the time, (in the 50s) and he couldn’t have gone unnoticed even then. A powerful improviser of Yiddish songs that were the mainstay of our education, he rendered these modal themes to orchestral proportion! “Hava Nagilah,” “Zog Nit Keynmol,” (The Freedom Song of the Warsaw Ghetto) among many others were at his gifted command. By ear, he created florid arrangements that were so awe-inspiring that it awakened children who’d dozed off to dull repetitions of the Yiddish alphabet. (They were exhausted after a long day at public school)

Like my overtired peers, I could have gone into indefinite hibernation for three treacherous years at Raboy were it not for Josh’s life-affirming musical infusions.

Decades later, as I plan my departure to New York City in celebration of my mother’s 100th birthday, I’ll be sure to make a side journey to the Northeast Bronx to honor a treasured memory.

In the meantime, here’s Josh on musical display with an impressive attached bio. (Rifkin’s The Baroque Beatles album is noted, Baroque Beatles as well as his emblematic recordings of Scott Joplin’s ragtime treasures)Scott Joplin Now J.S. Bach’s towering works are his artistic centerpiece.





Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano addict

The latest about Seymour Bernstein, the Hawk(e), and two colorful Birds

Today began on a high note. Ethan Hawke’s documentary about Seymour received a rave review in the New York Times. It was the latest in a series superlatives that synchronized perfectly with the film’s debut in New York City at the Lincoln Center Festival amidst whispers about a probable Oscar nomination.

To many film mavens, it’s been a pleasant surprise that an artistically framed portrait has racked up reams of star-studded notices on its journey from Festival to Festival. (Telluride and Toronto, being the most recent)

Of particular importance in the annals of documentary-making, is the break piano teachers around the world have been longing for. The film’s front and center validation of their often abstract and intangible contributions to humanity may spawn a long-delayed cultural shift. Thanks to High Holy Seymour and his Ethan Apostle, both have inspired a Gospel-like fervor for the Muse that’s only paralleled by a sidebar contribution Seymour added to his creative composing treasury.

No less a coda to his well-published avian collection, BIRDS, Bernstein honored producer, Ethan with a Hawk(e)-dedicated piece of inexorable beauty.

Against a whole tone opener in the Impressionist genre, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention a relevant tie-in to my unpredictably colorful stop-off this afternoon at a well-known supermarket.

As I sauntered over to the deli counter in a bustling area, a woman in my shadow pushed a shopping cart with two mascots perched opposite each other in nature-perfect splendor.


“Alex,” son of the matriarch eagerly spread his wings for the camera with a slight prodding from its owner. And momma bird beamed with pride as junior’s wings were eloquently spread.


What a well-timed set of events, so harmonious with Seymour’s love for music, birds, and other wildlife.

What could have been more precious and pleasing as my day unfolded.


LINKS to Blogs about Seymour







squeaky piano pedal repair

A Conversation about machine and ear tuning (and more) with Israel Stein, Registered Piano Technician

I couldn’t resist an opportunity to immerse myself in an engaging dialog with Israel Stein, RPT, as he was tuning my piano.


Regaled far and wide by a community of pianists and teachers as he amasses awards bestowed by his peers at the National Piano Technician’s Guild, Stein remains thoroughly dedicated to what seems like an ART form. If there’s a Zen-like approach to his work, it embodies a complete immersion in the wellness universe of pianos of all ages, shapes and sizes.

At my Berkeley, California flat yesterday, Israel perched himself at my Steinway M grand as he carefully staked out a two-fold approach to tuning it. First he took out his Reyburn CyberTuner for a complete ballpark assessment and pitch review of my 88’s before he meticulously advanced to the aural phase. (By ear)

Naturally with all the banter and controversy surrounding Machine vs. Ear tuning I was eager to pick this Master tuner/technician’s brains about how he effortlessly inhabits two universes without skipping a BEAT.

A four-part exchange followed with side bars exploring the world of modern-day piano antecedents; digitals and their culture, “paradigm,” etc; tuning/technician standards/exams and much more.




LINKS to Israel Stein blogs and an OVERVIEW OF HIS HONORS and AWARDS






PTG Hall of Fame
Piano Technicians Guild
July 2014

In recognition of continued service to the organizations in the areas of examinations, education and bylaws. Specifically: development and implementation of a training and certification process for technical examiners, development and implementation of more precise and objective scoring methods on technical exams, revisions of technical exam manuals and written exams, introduction of innovative hands-on instruction methods at PTG conventions and…more
Sidney O. Stone Service Award
Piano Technicians Guild – Western Region

March 2012

In recognition of service to the PTG organization in general and specifically within its Western region
Putt-Crowl Member of Note Award
Piano technicians Guild

June 2010

In recognition of recent outstanding service and dedication to the Piano Technicians Guild
Presidential Citation
Piano Technicians Guild

June 2008
In recognition of service on the Examinations and test Standards Committee and as counsel to the President
Examiner of the year Award
Piano Technicians Guild

June 2004

In recognition of outstanding service as Chair of the Technical Examinations Subcommittee and in exam administration.

arioso 7, Piano Street, youtube.com

Experimentation and refinement are the ingredients of music teaching and learning

One of the joys of teaching piano is to experience awakenings with our students as we experiment with phrasing, and refine original perceptions.

And while a piano teacher is considered a mentor to a student, he/she clearly realizes that roles are easily reversed when a pupil inspires further experimentation and clarification.

In exploring the Romantic genre, for instance, there are infinite ways to spin or sculpt phrases. After various trials among partners in piano study, an aesthetic decision is reached based upon considerations of harmonic motion (and its emotional ramifications); period performance practice and style including Rubato; connections sewn to the motif or germ cell of the composition; sequential awareness; and what is UNEXPECTED in the music, that needs a spotlight. (This last point is underscored in the opener of an embedded lesson-in-progress video where a progression to the Major Key in a Chopin selection is an affectively poignant surprise: see measure 89, Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55)

Chopin F minor Nocturne m. 85 to end 1

A good theoretical foundation is naturally helpful in the experimental phase of learning, but it’s only one of many ingredients that must harmoniously blend in a creative learning process.

As an example, a particularly vibrant interchange transpires over a cadenza-like passage in Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor. (69-70)

Chopin measure 69 and 70

Seeing a series of 16th notes in a solo outpouring for the right hand, the player must decide how to avoid a mechanical rendering.

Following a resounding Dominant 7th Chord, a scale-like descent ensues with some deviations from step-wise motion. These suggest waves or LOOPS that a supple wrist can realize, while Rotation assists with appoggiatura-like figures (skip up, step down).

The unraveling of these measures after thoughtful, exploratory renderings, leads to the Nocturne’s final section that comes with a cello-like solo in the bass and an eventual spin-off to accelerando.

It’s an enlightening journey worth taking with a student.