piano instuction

No shortcuts in teaching beginning piano students

Watching a colleague teaching a child in Madrid (on video) brought home the complexity of playing just two notes with beauty. What might be construed as an innately “natural” approach to piano playing, must in reality be learned by beginning students with meticulous attention to vocal modeling, touch sensitivity, and an infusion of imagination.

Irina Gorin is a remarkable example of mentoring at its highest level as she guides a young student to attain all the ingredients of a singing tone legato, by pairing two “sighing” notes with an activation of relaxed arms and supple wrist forward movements. But the right “mechanics” of motion are not enough. The student must absorb the “feeling” of weight transfer and fluidity of motion, as she ties it to the imagined/internalized tonal ideal. And tone is tied to the way we phrase notes that have a pervasive musical relationship to each other. (Words and music partnered together are particularly effective in furthering what should be imagined before playing)

https://www.facebook.com/yanira.soria.1/videos/10103342673133385/

(Those who cannot access Facebook posted videos can check Gorin’s comparable videos at her you tube site.) This particular lesson sample below ties in nicely to the one generated from Madrid.

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Irina Mints, another inspiring mentor who’s based in Germany, lays down a thorough foundation for her primary level piano students as revealed in this exemplary lesson. Working with just three notes, she “sings” beside her pupil, “liebes kind” while physically modeling a set of sequences.

https://www.facebook.com/irina.mints.3/videos/1869818886622848/

Another lesson sample in the public domain:

Both Mints and Gorin use props to help students “feel” the keyboard as soft and and pliant as opposed to being a hard turf. Gorin will often use silly putty in which pupils can dip their fingers to experiment with density, while Mints will use a toy with soft consistency to aid in a mental transfer to the piano.

Here, Mints plays a Gliere Prelude with a student, showing a dual collaboration of supple wrist movements to produce lyrical phrases.

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Irina Morozova, an accomplished pianist and teacher, patiently mentors a 6-year old at the Special School/Kaufman Center (NYC) with her focus on relaxed arms, supple wrists, and weight application in order to produce well-voiced, singing tone chords. (Left hand)

During the same lesson she works on legato/staccato groupings for the Right Hand, demonstrating a centered impetus needed to launch a pleasing group of well-shaped notes.

***

My only young piano student (who began studies with me at age 8) has benefitted from a careful embedding of a supple wrist, relaxed “weeping willow” arms approach to the piano–always being ear-attentive, and centered on the singing tone and phrasing. Our “singing” back and forth during lessons reinforces an internalized ideal of mood, tone, and rhythm, while differentiating between vowel sounds and consonants, has a relationship to phrasing. Words and music are a particularly valuable pairing in early mentoring efforts.

In summary, there are no shortcuts in learning to play the piano. A teacher must have a patient commitment to developing sensitivity to tone production and phrasing right at the outset of lessons by working with a student in well-planned baby steps.

piano, piano lessons, piano recital, Uncategorized

A Happy Day for a 9-yr. old piano student playing on her first recital

Maeve, aka “Liz” was welcomed into the universe of music sharing in the beautiful Oakland Hills of California. What better backdrop, cloaked in nature, as breezes wafted through branches, shaking out leaves in graceful patterns. The images, extracted from the East Bay’s gorgeous panorama are in Maeve’s mental repository, as they feed relaxed energy down her arms into supple wrists. Many Russian piano teachers draw on the “weeping willow” tree model, in particular, to inspire fluidity of movement. Graceful approaches to the keyboard that are in synch with phrase contours do not happen by chance. They are nurtured along by mentors with great care.

Maeve has learned in this spirit for a bit over a year’s time, having been exposed to the singing tone and how to physically produce it. From the very start of lessons we have integrated composing, ear-training, theory, structure, with an underlying MUSICAL framing. Sound is imagined before it can be channeled into the keyboard in physical motion. This very sensitivity begins from day 1 continuing in increments through developmental phases.

Maeve’s own journey has been logged in videos from late February 2016 to the present. These can be found on You Tube under “LIZ’s” piano lessons.

***

Today was a Rite of Passage as all first recitals are. Can we remember our own? In my day, there were no cell phones, camcorders, computers, etc.–perhaps just old-fashioned home movies generated by what would be considered antiquated hardware—Nothing like the mega-technology of the 21rst Century. I have no personal recollection of playing in a group recital at my humble music school on Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx. Not even a Brownie camera captured my first Diller-Quaille, two-note “Ding-Dong” piece that required my Russian teacher, Mrs. Vinagradov to accompany me to make the music sound full and resonant. That’s why I hungered constantly for our rich harmonic collaboration, having to wait for too many years before I was allowed to play with TWO hands–ADD in the White NOTE obsession of this era’s teaching, and delayed exposure to the Bass Clef which instilled fears of moving forward.

Thankfully the state of the teaching art is different today, more progressive than regressive, breaking down inhibitions of the past associated with MIDDLE C fixated madness and black note avoidance.

The fortunate beneficiaries of this new learning/teaching consciousness are Maeve and many of her contemporaries.

Today’s recital revealed the fruits of collective labors. Maeve was poised and determined to SHARE the pure beauty of the music she had so thoroughly learned. It was her entry into the world of giving and receiving that will propel her studies along with heartfelt commitment.

A big Thank You to the host of the group recital, Betty Woo, on behalf of the Music Teachers Association of California, MTAC.

***

Flashback: Maeve’s First Piano Lesson (parts 1, 2 and 3)

There are many more sample lessons with Liz on You Tube.

piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, Shirley Kirsten, teaching piano to children

A 9-year old’s “complete” piano lesson integrates theory and ear training

After 9 months of study, “Liz” whom I’ve followed at regular recorded intervals since her first lesson in mid-February, has been exposed to multi-tiered music learning that’s incorporated a Theory and Ear Training dimension. (Note the choice of Frances Clark’s Time to Begin as a 6 month Primer, with my imposed creative modifications that expanded composing opportunities) Tonal explorations were built into my custom-made lesson design as well, offering pentachords, executed with divided hands in Major and minor “parallel” tonalities before I nudged the student into 8 note hands-divided scales. (Again it was my decision to alter the time worn approach where each hand is challenged to autonomously deal with complex thumb shifts before integrating both.)

Nonetheless, through a Circle of Fifths driven scale and arpeggio journey, my student acquired the ability to transpose, based on a solfeggio-framed moveable “DO” orientation which coexisted with alphabetically driven note naming. The latter is derived from traditional scale progressions that flow in “whole” and “half steps according to the alphabet. In this pursuit, Liz has nicely absorbed the structural aspect of scale construction and can easily navigate Major, and relative minor scales in three forms. (Adhering to the division of hands.)

This particular decision that alters traditional Major and relative minor scale fingering by dividing 4 notes between right and left hand in a one-octave span, was an intuitive gesture that I believed put a priority on phrasing and shaping a line, with supple wrist, and bigger, relaxed enlistment of arm energies. The one octave limit of the scale, implemented with an equality between the hands would ultimately provide a “natural” springboard to traditional parallel scale progressions over many octaves. The latter scale expansion would ensue after the pupil’s journey through the cycle of Major and minor keys had obtained completion. (clockwise motion in fifths, acquiring sharps, and counter-clockwise movement in descending fifths, accruing flats)

To travel around the WHOLE CIRCLE of FIFTHS, with an additional window into ENHARMONIC relationships (overlapping scales in sharps and flats) would be a tall order in itself that didn’t need the added complexity of multiple octaves with attendant thumb shifts “un-synched” between the hands except as applied to the pattern scales of B Major, F# Major and C# Major, that had thumbs meeting between the raised black notes in “mirrored” reciprocal fingering modality.

Liz, as it happens, is unusually equipped on a cognitive level to process the analytical (structural) dimension of scale-building where such an intense, layered exploration might be out of reach for many piano students. That’s why I’ve always supported a custom-designed music learning journey for each uniquely individual student–one that is not codified or based on a method book driven set of formulas. (Hence, my unabashed rejection of color sequenced method books through ponderously pretensive levels has been well aired.)

***

At this point in her piano study, Liz has practiced Major and relative minor scales through the keys of A Major and F-sharp minor. (From eighth notes, to 16ths to 32nds–legato to staccato) As pertains to F-Sharp minor, I’ve adjusted fingerings as illustrated in the attached Scale video with a particular change made in the Melodic form.

In the Arpeggio cosmos, I’ve supported hand-over-hand triadic movement that spans 4 octaves to prioritize agile shaping and contouring. (Historically, the student started with two-octave arpeggios and incrementally expanded to 3, followed by 4-octave travels.)

Through hand-over-hand transit, (LH fingers 5-3-1, and RH 1-3-5) Liz has learned to nicely “shape” the triplet flow of broken chords between the hands without the obstacle of bringing the thumb (root) under the “third” and “fifth” (middle notes)

In this arpeggiated endeavor, she incorporates PARALLEL minor practice by lowering the “third,” while scales flow in Major and relative minor relationships. (The AFFECTIVE contrast of Major to minor whether parallel or in relative minor relationship, has been amply explored.)

***

Prior to Circle of Fifths scale study, Liz was deeply embedded in “pentachords,” or five-note progressions, BUT NOT using fingers 1-2-3-4-5 in the Right Hand, and 5-4-3-2-1 in the Left Hand.

Instead, I had her divide the five-note progession between her hands.
(2 notes in the LH using fingers 3 and 2, and 3 notes in the Right hand, using fingers 2, 3, 4. This particular division nicely fleshed out the MAJOR and PARALLEL minor key relationships by having the critical and decisive THIRD note arrive as the first note in the Right Hand (finger no. 2) that altered tonality. In this regard, the student was repeatedly prompted to make an affective or “emotional” shift from Major to minor with “attentive listening” as an important underpinning.

While the pentachords proceeded through the Circle of Fifths, they could not realistically acquire sharps and flats that would attach to 8-note scale progressions. Still the journey, though attenuated, acquired an understanding of the Parallel Major/minor tonalities that integrated a companion EAR TRAINING experience.

Liz’s most recent lesson reveals how far she’s traveled over nine months time.
Following a stint with Time To Begin, I transitioned her to Accent on Gillock, Level 2, that has enticing character pieces with wedded musical and technique-driven goals.

GillockAccent2

In this vein, I’ve recorded two pieces from the collection–the first, “Splashing in the Brook,” is Liz’s newest assigned piece, though she’s simultaneously refining “Little Flower Girl of Paris.” (Following “Splashing in the Brook” we will embark upon the delightfully spun, “Sail Boats” that’s included in my recording)

The additional video below throws a spotlight on the most recent lesson segment that focused on “Little Flower Girl…” where the student has the challenge of fleshing out a cantabile legato melody in the Left Hand against Right Hand after beat harmonic thirds and seconds in staccato. The voices are inverted in the second section, along with a key shift from C Major to G Major. (Liz fully comprehends given her ongoing Theory exposures)

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In the ear-training universe, Liz is learning to build and aurally identify Major, minor, diminished and augmented chords. To this effect, she has been given a chord sheet that tags these triads on every scale degree of C Major and ‘A’ Harmonic minor. (Theory and Ear Training are nicely interwoven)

chords-major-and-minor-on-every-scale-degree-2-2

In the attached recorded segment Liz specifically splits a triad in half, to construct a harmonic third between notes 1 and 3, and the same between notes 3 and 5. She has learned that a Major third plus a minor third equals a “Major” chord, and in reverse, a “Minor” chord. The “Augmented” and “Diminished” chords have also been carefully constructed with an integrated EAR TRAINING awareness. In this connection, I use “Do a Deer” from Sound of Music to track the first three notes of a Major progression from the Root to Third. (whole step/whole step) and then juxtapose the sad “Do a Deer,” (Whole Step/half step) through the first three notes of a MINOR scale. The pupil then splits a particular chord in half–analyzing the first to the third note as Major or Minor, doing the same from the third note to the fifth note. She then combines both to determine the identity of a chord. I’ve also exposed her to the instability of Diminished and Augmented Chords and how they have a pull toward “RESOLUTION.”

In summary, Liz has made enormous strides in cognitive, affective, and kinesthetic realms that span her 9 months of lessons. And even from the start of instruction, the fundamental focus on relaxed, “weeping willow” arms, supple wrists, and whole arm energies to advance a “singing tone” has been the underpinning of all her music-making.

Without doubt Liz has enjoyed a journey that has grown her sensitivity to tone production, dynamics (with weight transfer awareness), phrasing, and the ebb and flow of harmonic rhythm. In the Rhythm cosmos, the student understands the “color” of various rhythms and how BREATHING is intrinsic to well-shaped lines. Above all, ATTENTIVE LISTENING has been a central component of all her music-making that has a pivotal structural and aesthetic dimension.

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BONUS video –JUST FOR FUN
Liz explores a Schoenhut Toy piano which enlisted an easy transfer of her Keyboard skills to a childlike universe.

P.S. Many of Liz’s lessons from Day ONE are available on you tube and these videos have been embedded into a series of blogs. (a few are sampled below)

LINKS

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/an-8-year-old-begins-piano-lessons/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/liz-age-8-has-her-second-piano-lesson-with-my-interspersed-thoughts-about-materials-and-teaching-philosophy/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/a-9-year-old-piano-student-devises-a-plan-to-improve-her-practicing/

piano, piano teaching

Early Stage layered learning with Context

Liz, a 9 year old student, who began piano lessons 8 months ago, has been consistently exposed to layered learning within a contextual framing. This approach, in substance and quality, will apply to pupils of diverse ages and levels.

During our most recent lesson, Liz practiced William Gillock’s “Little Flower Girl of Paris” (Accent on Gillock, Level 2), in the “context” of balancing a Left Hand fleshed out legato melody, with Right Hand rendered harmonic seconds and thirds in staccato. Naturally, in this first week exposure to the piece, the first half was assigned, with a separate hands direction.

The affect of a bass line “sung out” with beautiful, vocal model phrasing was the springboard to the very early practicing of the Left Hand. And the “light” Right Hand seconds and thirds, with a prompt to keep the third beat “lifted,” (with a supple wrist and buoyant arms), kept the “dancing” treble from sounding like pencil point attacks.

“Balance” between hands was a resonating theme of the lesson, and how to preserve the smooth flowing bass line against the LIFTED right hand staccato harmonic intervals. (The third beat was to be, as mentioned, “lighter” than the second in a recurring off-beat set of measures)

Embracing the whole undertaking, was a consciousness of tone production, framing rhythm, with an underlying singing tone legato and staccato.

In the technique portion of the lesson, the student practiced a “C” launched Chromatic scale in contrary motion, again within singing tone context, as well as having an imbued consciousness of “scale shaping” with “destination” to cadence. (The prompt urged a peak turn around as a “sub-destination,” with the final note as a resolution or ultimate destination with “tapering.”)

The student has learned to use supple wrist forward motions to taper phrases, which also applies to her playing B minor scales, divided between the hands in three forms. (Left Hand 4, 3, 2, 1; Right Hand, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Journeying around the Circle of Fifths in Major and Minor Progressions (scales and arpeggios) has added CONTEXT to the pupil’s learning. (Composing has also been a strong dimension of the musical journey adding even more context in the theoretical and creatively expressive realm)

All the child’s musical exposures are multi-layered. We work on the affective, kinesthetic, and cognitive aspects of practicing, with framing rhythm or the singing pulse underlying each effort from back tempo approaches toward incremental increases in tempo.

From Day one, this pupil has been immersed in the singing tone and how to produce it. (relaxed arms, supple wrists)

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A lesson sample at the near 8th month juncture:

A contextual example where the student “analyzes” Gillock’s “Summertime Polka.”

***

The child’s very first lesson in February 2016 is documented within this blog:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/an-8-year-old-begins-piano-lessons/

There are many more blog entries of this student’s progress over 8 months time. (See Liz has her first lesson; Liz Composes, etc)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/a-9-year-old-piano-student-devises-a-plan-to-improve-her-practicing/
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/liz-age-8-composes-a-piece-at-her-third-piano-lesson/

piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano teaching, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

A 9-year-old piano student devises a plan to improve her practicing

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-45-52-am

Into her seventh month of music study, Liz has more clearly defined her approach to practicing various pieces by devising a well-written outline of phrase-loving reminders. And though her vocabulary is an understandable offshoot of her teacher’s, with its emphasis on floating, flowing wrists, side-by-side with “pokey” finger prohibitions, she manages to offer an original spin for preparing her latest piece by William Gillock, “Summertime Polka.” (It’s in the ripening phase)

maeve-maps-out-summertime-polka-1

Not surprisingly, children and adults who embark upon a journey of musical discovery, inevitably face common challenges that Liz well-articulated.

These are fleshed out below:

1) Keeping a framing rhythm in legato and staccato

Subjectively, a pupil might “think” he/she has preserved a singing pulse in transit from smooth/connected playing to short, detached notes, but on playback of a recorded segment, rhythmic irregularities become conspicuous.

Liz tended to rush the staccato section of “Summertime Polka,” not to the extreme, but a trace of anxious rushing can disturb the expressive flow of a composition.

The remedy, is not necessarily metronomic reinforcement, though it can be helpful. I prefer, as teacher, to assume a conductor role, assisting with beat driven gestures, together with singing prompts steeped in vibrant/musical pulsations.

Such SINGING fused with a framing pulse provides a memory reservoir that a student can draw upon in the interval between lessons.

In successful playings, with pertinent prompts, Liz improved the rhythmic stability of her staccato notes.

P.S. The student was similarly made aware of the need for buoyant, “bright,” and crisp staccato releases that she’d enumerated in her practicing plan, but like most pupils, she will benefit from teacher driven reminders that refine the character of detached notes, and contrast them with those that are “tenuto” marked. Ironically, Liz’s own written header attached a tenuto designated note with her self-imposed admonition to “lean” and not “poke.”

2) Preventing the thumb from making fall down, obtrusive accents

This is a universal vulnerability that can be addressed in part, by mentally configuring the shortest finger, as “featherlight,” and by thinking “UP” rather than down.

With my adult students, I talk about “folding” the thumb- played notes into the texture; thinking of it as having a soft cushion, while imagining its levitational dimension.

Liz improved her thumb approaches in consecutive playings of “Summertime Polka” as I sang “soft thumb” at pertinent junctures in the music.

3) Phrasing with horizontal fluidity; not succumbing to “Rosie the Riveter” percussive down strokes

Liz eradicated any semblance of a pencil point, pokey, approach to the keys, though as with all students of diverse ages and levels, I will continue to reinforce the singing tone, and how to produce it. The vital ingredients include the use of supple wrists, full arm relaxed energies and creating musically pertinent “delays” into notes.

Forward wrist motions similarly promote graceful resolutions at cadences in their status as “shock absorbers.”

4) Promoting Attentive listening and awareness of note decay

Early learners and those at more advanced levels always need reminders to fine tune their listening skills. When a teacher exposes students to how music travels in a before/after sequence, notes that were insensitively played at incongruous auditory levels, can begin to flow more sensitively with an imbued consciousness of balance and voicing.

Liz expressed her awareness of “decay” and how she planned to respond to it, as part of our recorded conversation.

5) Making Dynamic variation

Through various degrees of arm/hand/wrist delivered weight transfer, students learn the art of expressive dynamic contrasts, though the imagination must be ignited before the first note is played. All students are timely nudged to energize their mental framings of pieces that include “visualization,” and mood-setting among other strategies.

In summary, piano students of all ages and levels are confronted by a host of common challenges that should drive an enthusiasm for creative adventure, and progressive musical growth.

LINK:

Piano technique segment of Liz’s lesson at the 6th month juncture

Liz’s first piano lesson/February, 2016

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/an-8-year-old-begins-piano-lessons/

composing, piano, piano instruction

A nine-year-old Piano student at the six-month juncture of study

It’s hard to believe how far “Liz” has come in her musical journey.

With a half year’s exposure to the piano, she composes, transposes, and approaches her practicing draped in the singing tone.

In a repertoire-based phase of learning (with a primer method book tossed asunder) the student is embedded in relaxation techniques, with supple wrist, and graceful arms as the centerpiece of her keyboard approach.

Riveted to Accent on Gillock Book 2, and having embarked upon the composer’s “Summertime Polka,” she can play the charmer in back tempo, (after 3 weeks), though nonetheless expressively and with dynamic contrasts. Having a natural hand position, that’s nourished by “weeping willow” prompts, she’s well on her way to growing her skills to a level of pleasing artistry, through it will be an incremental, baby-step progression over the long-term.

Today’s video illustrates the pupil’s passage since she had her very first lesson on February 18th, 2016. (A side interview about the child’s creative Legos universe is a companion treat.)

The PIANO TECHNIQUE PORTION OF A LESSON:

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Included below is a flashback to Liz’s very first encounter with the piano. (Note that numerous blog postings have tracked the child’s studies at periodic intervals)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/an-8-year-old-begins-piano-lessons/

Background:

I started my pupil on the Primer, A Time to Begin (Frances Clark) having spent about 4 and 1/2 months poring through this material.

Concurrent to using this book, I nourished transpositions, and composing opportunities in the Major/Parallel minor spectrum.

Penta-scales divided between the hands were part of the pupil’s progressive technical regimen. (She understands the composite of Whole Step, Whole Step, Half-Step, Whole Step for the Major tonality, with the lowered third creating the MINOR.)

At this point she is dividing complete ONE-OCTAVE scales between her hands and has comprehension of RELATIVE MINORS (three forms), to the extent that she composed a piece, “EGYPT” in ‘A’ Harmonic Minor. (I created a Teacher SECONDO)

M's Piece cropped

Through the pupil’s six months of piano study, she has accrued a nice collection of her own pieces, that at first were rendered as floating notes, but are now properly realized on the Grand Staff.

Liz references and understands the CIRCLE OF FIFTHS, and has added a regimen of divided hands ARPEGGIOS in two octaves with a cross-over LEFT HAND using finger number 2, before the descent.

She has also been given theory assignments that I have devised along the way, but recently these have become formalized with a companion workbook. (Snell/Ashleigh Series)

The student is also directed to write reviews of performances that I tab on You Tube. (Some are my own.)

Her most recent report describes the Gershwin Prelude No. 2.

Title page Gershwin review

p. 1 Gershwin Review

p. 2 Gershwin review

Liz clearly loves her creative journey and I’m thrilled to be a companion mentor/traveler. What can be more gratifying!

LINK:

Liz’s piece, “Egypt” was so beautifully composed that I experimented with creating a set variations on it. Someday, she’ll have the skills to embellish it in octaves, sixths, etc. or however she chooses.

former piano students

My Piano Students of Yesteryear: Where are they now?

Over decades of teaching, and with relocation being the norm for students and mentors, it would have taken a bit of research to track down all my beginner, intermediate, and advanced students dating back to 1968 (NYC); and from 1979 (Fresno CA) to 2011, before my 2012 move to Berkeley, California.

What I discovered in a retro-journey to my very first students in Manhattan post-Oberlin Conservatory graduation, was mind-boggling! To think that my earliest pupils are now in their 50s!!

I’m not ashamed to admit that Naomi and Annie Ehrenpreis were 5 and 7, respectively when I set out as a traveling teacher in Manhattan. (It was by Washington Square Park, in a luxurious high-rise)

As a fledgling mentor, I shunned method books but found sanctuary in Robert Pace’s uniquely creative materials. They became the springboard for composing activities that filled one full hour of lessons, divided in half between the sisters. As little children enrolled in the Ramaz school on the East side, and as the grandkids of a great Talmudic scholar, it was natural for them to be quite attentive; to have a singular motivation to compile a decorated collection of their own pieces that had original rhyme schemes. And with words scanned into iambic pentameter, they appreciated mood shifts from “Major to minor” that kept interest aflame through our time together.

***

Looking back, I often wondered where these first students were today?

Would they remember me and my efforts to enrich their imagination?

I tried contacting them through Facebook but was stunned by their silence. Would their knowing I had named my first child,”Naomi” in honor of the younger sister have altered such indifference?

Without further word, I took it upon myself to check Google and Linked-in to satisfy my curiosity:

“Ann Ehrenpreis Scherzer” is a Judge of the New York City Criminal Court in Bronx County, New York. She was appointed to this position by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013, and her term will expire in 2018.

Sister, Naomi E. Voss graduated Harvard, and subsequently relocated to Israel as a Computer Software Professional.

Did one or both sisters return to the piano as adults, or had their children been music students? I would never know.

***

I fast forwarded to 1985, six years into my relocation to Fresno, California from New York City.

As I perused a self-published 1985 collection that contained student names attached to their individual compositions and companion illustrations, I found these entries:

composing children

Jason H. was 15 in 1985 when he composed “Scottish Highlands,” which would make him 46 years old today! I happily discovered that he’s a pediatrician in Kaysville, Utah, having graduated Brigham Young University and the University of Utah School of Medicine. Bravo J.! Naturally, a large family is woven into his many accomplishments.

Scottish Highlands crop

Michelle S. who was age 6 in 1985 when she composed “Music Box,” is now a Central Valley California-based M.D. Anesthesiologist. Her father, I recall, was a physician specializing in lung diseases.

Paul M. who is not represented in the album, but was one of my first piano students when I arrived in Fresno in 1979, (he was about 7 at the time) stayed with the piano until he entered UC Berkeley. He’s in the Engineering field, but I haven’t specifically tracked him down. His mom was a Nursing Professor and Administrator at Fresno State University when her son studied with me.

Melissa S. age 9, in 1985, and composer/illustrator of “Windsor,” is Executive Administrator of Bain & Co., previously employed at Goldman Sachs.

Windsor Pic best

Windsor music crop

Julia Dahl (real name disclosed as I’m sure she’ll appreciate the exposure) is a novelist with a commanding website.

http://www.juliadahl.com

In 1985, at 7 years old, Julia composed “Clouds.”

***

Becca Wong was a diligent piano student in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s who became a dance accompanist.

When we reunited as Facebook friends, I took the opportunity to interview her about her fascinating career.

Becca

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/a-former-piano-student-carves-a-unique-life-as-a-dance-accompanist-or-is-it-freeway-gypsy/

Amy B., 12, was immersed in Burgmuller pieces, Op. 100, in 1990, as she continued her musical journey with dedicated practicing. Today, she’s an intellectual property attorney working in the Silicon Valley.

Valerie F. studied with me years later, in 2009, and was an entrant in two MTAC piano local branch competitions. Attached is one of her recorded performances of “Golliwog’s Cakewalk,” (8-12 year old competitive division). Though the video is grainy, the audio track is a testimony to her splendid musicianship.

In 2011, older sister, Stacey (also a student of mine) performed the Fugue in C minor, by J.S. Bach BWV 847 at a Baroque Regional Festival.

Valerie and Stacey are currently students at Brigham Young University.

***

David Su was age 6 when he began piano studies. He’s now a software developer in San Francisco, having completed his graduate work at UC Berkeley. His, sister, Stacey, not a student of mine, who won many Local Fresno-based and Statewide piano competitions, is a practicing physician in the Department of Surgical Oncology, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadephia, PA.

Not to overlook, Mark C. an adult student who studied piano with me in Fresno for over 6 years! At the time, he was a Federal Attorney, who managed to sandwich in practicing between jaunts around the country.

Most recently, he sent me an email about his promotion to Judge, an appointment made by Governor Brown! A big Congratulations!

Michael

There are many other pupils whom are not as easy to locate given the passage of years, but it’s apparent that many have carved out successful professional careers, perhaps owing in part to their piano study.

May the love of music embrace them for a lifetime!

Claudia,6,onstaircaseafterrecital
***

LINK:

Shrinking Degrees of Separation in the Music World
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/shrinking-degrees-of-separation-in-the-music-world/