Music for the first day of spring – Schubert’s Frühlingsglaube, sung by a young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Gerald Moore at the piano.

For those in the southern hemisphere, where today is the first day of autumn – Mahler’s Der Einsame in Herbst from Das Lied von der Erde, sung by Christa Ludwig and the Israel Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

May the seasons turn meaningfully and pleasantly for you in 2018.

from The Collaborative Piano Blog


Music-sharing Par Duo in an “age-less” environment

It was no accident of fate that I spotted a 90 plus, sprightly woman on you tube who registered a wish to find a partner to play “4-hand piano.” (It’s a musical collaboration with two players at one instrument.)

The posting, exciting my interest, had been hyper-linked from the Ashby Village (AV) website that details a nonprofit program flourishing in the California Bay area. Its framing goal is “to help older adults to independently age well in their own homes” through a repository of “connections, volunteer services, and referrals.” Add in the Village’s plethora of “activities” that include nature walks, documentary film watching, handwork group knitting, nonfiction book club, Shakespeare reading group, hearing-impaired support, Mah Jongg, Stretch, Strength and Dance, Hearts’n Hands-Pulling up the Weeds, and much more.

Invited speakers include AV “volunteers,” “members,” book authors, et al, who give presentations on exercise and aging; relationships between grown children and their aging parents, Music/Cognition etc. And while topics can be varied, they’re always of interest to the Ashby Village community.


The Back Story

When I discovered Ashby Village Member “Anita” on You Tube, she was sitting beside a “volunteer,” noting the valuable assistance she’d received in the gardening and computer technology universe. Suddenly, unprompted, her thoughts veered toward the piano as she voiced an interest in locating a duet partner. (Either a “member” or “volunteer.”) Note that AV volunteers can also be members.

At 40 seconds:

Such a pivotal moment in the video sent me scurrying to post a Comment as if I were a wish-fulfilling music fairy waving a magic wand.

“You need to look no further,” I typed, with alacrity.

But how would I magically transform myself from a You Tube viewer to a real-time musical participant at Anita’s piano bench?

Surfing through Ashby Village’s website, I realized that my journey had to be taken in carefully measured steps. These encompassed filling out a Volunteer application; providing the names and phones of three references; setting up an interview with principles in the organization; signing papers for a background check and attending a 5-hour Orientation.

Such requirements for Volunteers are part of a rigorous “vetting” process that ensures the safety and well-being of seniors being served in their own homes.

Fast forward to the Present

Anita and I enjoy playing music of the Masters framed by an eye-catching view of the Bay. Paired with a blissfully resonant, well-maintained Mason Hamlin grand (circa 1969) we’re in Heaven, sealed off from a world in chaos.

As we “sight-read” through the works of Bach (in transcription, including the Well-Tempered Clavier and Orchestra Suites), and those of Mozart, Schubert, and Faure, we draw on Anita’s vast collection of 4-hand albums that are voluminous and well-stacked.

Some are older collector’s editions that have been published in France, Germany, Poland, etc. requiring delicate page turns–a task normally assigned to the SECONDO (or bass part player). That’s my assigned role, as I’m perched to the Left of Anita, who plays PRIMO. (She covers the treble portion of the keyboard) At times our hands cross over, particularly when we “read” through Schubert works.

Every two weeks, we “collaborate” for about two hours, taking a tea and cookie break, (or whatever delectable treat Anita rolls out on her glass coffee table.) The icing on the “cake” is our warm and scintillating conversation that provides a well-spring of energy to feed our second playing segment.


An ardent student of the piano with a passion nurtured from a young age, Anita credits her immersion in Scales and Arpeggios around the Circle of Fifths as the key to her remarkable “sight-reading” skills. (She emphasizes that “fingering,” in particular, has been well-developed by this exposure)

Without doubt, Anita has remarkable keyboard facility, dexterity, artful phrasing and focused concentration even as her life’s chosen career had not been tied to Music. Nevertheless, the piano, she insists, has always been front and center in her life.

So Bravo to Anita, and to Ashby Village for making our meaningful, two-way musical “connection” possible!

Long may it live!


LINK: Another Ashby Village member makes news


from Arioso7’s Blog (Shirley Kirsten)

3 Ways to Memorize Music When Nothing Else Works

Lydia wrote an interesting comment on my 2007 article about memorizing music:

I notice that many of your tips for memorization include the word memorize in them. “Run the piece from memory, mistakes and all, keeping track of all the slips.” In other words, memorize where you messed up. “Memorize, the articulation, memorize the dynamics, memorize the work away from the piano.” These are all suggestions I’ve heard from my teachers for years, but my question is always HOW? HOW do i memorize the dynamics, HOW do i memorize the form, HOW do you expect me to remember where I messed up after playing a piece? These are not suggestions for people who have difficulty memorizing. These are variety exercises for people who are already decent at memorizing. Do you have tips for people whose brains simply refuse to remember these things?

What an awesome comment! Lydia asks some completely valid questions here. There are indeed times when absolutely nothing works. In the 11 years since originally writing that article, I’ve found this to be the case with myself, especially as I age and tend to think a little differently.

The situations that Lydia describes are places where thinking laterally can work. Rather than a full frontal memory practice assault, consider working in different ways. Here are some ideas:

1. “How do I memorize the dynamics?” Dynamics aren’t just a volume dial, but a way into playing with different tonal colors, textures, shades, and moods. All of these colors can be accessed through varieties of touch, and you can commit them to memory by remembering what the touch feels like. Practice with the music, not just reading and listening for the dynamics, but feeling the speed of attack and quality of touch. This is something that the body can remember. And if the body remembers it, the senses and emotions are never far behind. How does a piano feel? What about pianissimo? Fortissimo? Dolce? Mezzo forte? What about crescendo and diminuendo? Being aware of the slight changes in touch and pressure with these dynamics in practice can unlock a way to perform with them as well.

2. “How do I memorize the form?” Get out a blank piece of paper and draw the form. Take what you know about the basics of the form that you’re playing, whether it be binary, ternary, Sonata, Rondo, or whatever. Draw the main divisions. Write the bar numbers, phrase lengths, cadential points, and key centres on the page. Then try to play from the piece of paper. Still confused? Write in as much information as you need. Your written-out form can serve as a cheat sheet.

3. ”How do you expect me to remember where I messed up after playing a piece?” Record yourself. It has been said that there is no more effective, blunt, or honest teacher than observing yourself play on video. If you’ve got the guts to watch yourself having memory bloopers in a run-through of whatever work you’re preparing, you can go a step further and figure out exactly when, where, how, and why the mistakes happened. Then figure out how to fix them. Then record/watch again and look for progress.

But to be completely honest, sometimes memory is simply not happening. Unless you’re in a situation where playing from memory is absolutely compulsory, consider using the music. There’s no pride lost in using the score in order to bring a work to life and feel confident in performance.

from The Collaborative Piano Blog

Carnegie Mellon’s Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival Runs June 24-29 in Pittsburgh

For those interested in instrumental collaboration, Carnegie Mellon will be offering an Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival at its School of Music in the last week of June. From the festival’s About page:

The Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival (ICPF), a unique and essential festival, is the first festival with the instrumental collaborative pianist in mind. 

Designed to give both established and new collaborative pianists the opportunity to work with renowned faculty and musicians, the ICPF will present masterclasses, lessons, lectures and workshops exclusively for the exciting world of instrumental collaborative piano. 

The Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival will explore the numerous settings in which collaborative pianists are needed, as well as provide a variety of tools to succeed in the professional setting. 

Boasting an international faculty of outstanding caliber, the ICPF is dedicated to promoting the study of Instrumental Collaborative Piano and refining the skills of the established collaborative pianist through masterclasses, lectures, workshops and private lessons. 

Applicants can choose between a masterclass performance track or a lesson track and will have the opportunity to compete in the Festival Competition, in which one winner will have the opportunity to perform on the faculty recital.

Faculty include Luz Manriquez, Vincent de Vries, Alison Gagnon, Kyoko Hashimoto, Sung-Im Kim, Pilar Leyva, Rodrigo Ojeda, and Peter Stumpf. You can apply online or contact an administrator if you’re interested.

(Thanks Luz!)

from The Collaborative Piano Blog

The Collaborative Piano Institute Is Accepting Applications for its Second Season

The Collaborative Piano Institute at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota is off to its second year, after a highly successful inaugural season. Led by Artistic Director Ana Maria Otamendi, the institute has an exciting lineup for 2018 with a residency by none other than Martin Katz(!) as well as a partnership with the Bravo Summer Music Academy in the second and third weeks of the festival.

The Collaborative Piano Summer Institute runs from June 3rd to 23rd, and you can apply online. The application deadline is March 15, after which there will be a late application fee. Those interested in a scholarship should definitely apply before the March 15 deadline. If you would like more information, feel free to contact the festival at any time.

from The Collaborative Piano Blog