Music Related

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Today is the first day of school. I’m sure many of you had to write the usual essay on what you did on your summer vacation.

For me, summer is a time of renewal. I always try to learn something new on my summer break when I am free from my rigid teaching schedule.

This summer I taught rudiments and music history in a compressed format to prepare some students for the August exam session. It made for a heavy homework load for the students and me! But it was enjoyable to be immersed in the subjects.

There are many parallels between elite music performance and elite sports performance. We musicians benefit from what the sports psychologists know. I read a great book called Power Performance for Singers. While definitely geared towards vocalists, it contained many concepts that will be useful for piano students.

I was behind on some of my own piano repertoire, so I practiced and had a checkup lesson mid-summer. In between I squeezed in some voice lessons. I regularly accompany vocalists, and my students and I often sing at piano lessons for ear training and melody shaping. I have a new perspective on the instrument of the human voice.

Teaching starts again next week, and I’m almost ready to go! I’m still reaping the benefits from last summer’s project, and I’m already thinking of what I’d like to work on next summer… Oh, and I did take some time off from all things music and visited my family in B.C.


That was easy

I’m sure you’re familiar with Staples’ “that was easy” button. I just got one, and it sits on top of the piano.

My students just played beautifully at a recital on the weekend, and now they are all ready for some wonderful new pieces. As we look over the new music, I point out the most difficult sections, and I ask, “How can you make this easy?”

While we discuss the best strategy to deal with the problem, I remind them that the practice section needs to be small enough and slow enough to be easy. The results have been amazing. Perfect note reading after one or two attempts. Perfect hands together after one attempt. Perfect fingering after two or three attempts. Confidence. Enthusiasm. Anticipation.


That was easy.

Let’s Rumble!

Turf wars in New York City between rival gangs Jets and Sharks.

A retelling of the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet.

West Side Story is a timeless masterpiece of American musical theatre. It was originally composed in 1957 by Leonard Bernstein (and was Stephen Sondheim’s first job as lyricist). The original production played 732 performances on Broadway.

A new Broadway production began previews at the Palace Theatre on Broadway Monday, February 23, 2009, and opened to critical acclaim. The production broke box office records running March 19, 2009 to January 2, 2011. The musical played 27 previews and 748 regular performances, making it the longest-running production of the groundbreaking musical in Broadway history.

The show is coming to NAC Southam Hall March 13-18, 2012. Get tickets here.


This is my life

I recently saw the play 2 PIanos, 4 Hands with Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt at the NAC.

The two-act play follows the arc from beginning student to serious student to career musician. Various caricatures appear of students, teachers, parents, and some of the other people we pianists meet along the path of music. I’ve been the student, the teacher, the parent, and the performer.

I laughed until I cried. And resonated with the bittersweet conclusion that a life in music doesn’t always go according to plan.