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.

Do pianos have bellybuttons?

At yesterday’s group class my students were watching Note By Note: The Making of Steinway L1037. It’s a video documenting the one-year journey of the making of a nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano.

A craftsman was being interviewed, and his title appeared onscreen as “Bellyman.” We tried to guess where the belly of a piano is, and then started to giggle when someone said, “Do pianos have bellybuttons?” The bellyman installs the soundboard in a piano. He also carves the notches in the bridge, where the pins and strings will eventually go.

If you’re interested in what a bellyman, a chipper, and a tone regulator do, both the DVD Note by Note and the book Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand are available from the Ottawa Public Library.

A Spoonful of Sugar

When I was a piano student I hated theory homework. [True fact: I usually did my homework in the car on the way to my lesson. The results were quite messy and incomplete.] Now that I’m a teacher, my favourite subject to teach is theory.

Humour is a great teaching tool. This year’s rudiments class has been working really hard. We’ve made it through a tough unit on time signatures and rests, and we’ve just completed a unit on major and minor triads. In today’s class we had a vigorous game of Musical Spoons. Four students, three spoons, and a deck of music cards. The students had to collect (or discard) cards to make a major or minor triad. And then grab a spoon – before anyone else did. And once the grabbing started… Best review class ever with lots of laughs as the students tried to make triads under pressure.

And for those in the know, remember that the dominant triad in a minor key always has an accidental because it contains the raised 7th.


Should You Be Practicing Right Now?

This pretty much sums up my views on when and for how long. Thanks Joshua Wells at Oddquartet.com


Tunes to study by

From September 8 to September 15, the Ottawa Citizen has been offering free downloads of music, TV episodes, apps, or books on iTunes. Today’s download is a 20-song playlist of the greatest works from classical music. If you are just building your classical music playlist, this is a great start. Play it while you study. You’ll recognize some works that regularly appear on movie soundtracks – surprise! Available only until midnight September 13, 2011.

Studio On The Go

Last night I had the pleasure of playing at the Stittsville Sobey’s again. This time I brought along a few students from my studio. E.H., A.K., A.W., M.W., and R.S. did us all proud. Well done!

And thank you to Sobey’s for having us.