The 2014 Austin Piano Festival

2014posterpreview copyHi Piano Blog readers. I want to sell you on visiting and supporting

If you know me at all, you already know about this organization - Austin Piano Festival - that brings pianists from all over the country to Austin every year. This year we've got an awesome lineup from May 23-June 1. It's been a lot of work and I'm really excited about it. And not only does APF bring in great artists, we create important opportunities for students, such … Continue Reading ››

Don’t Miss Out: Free Tickets to see Katia and Marielle Labèque

Labeque SistersThose of us over at Austin Piano Festival are busy working on a really exciting lineup for this season's piano concerts in late May. (You can read all about it here.)

To celebrate, we're offering a pair of free tickets to hear Katia and Marielle Labèque on April 4, 2014 at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin, TX. To enter the free drawing, just visit and click on the right-hand side link.

You don't want … Continue Reading ››

The Best Learners

Music LearningOne fascinating thing that comes to the fore after lots of teaching-especially concerning adult students- is that some people possess a personality that is optimally suited for learning.

This isn't a matter of intelligence, which is overrated anyway, but rather a collection of personality attributes and habits. In fact, barring unusual circumstances, these aspects of a student seem to be far better indicators of long-term enjoyment and success in piano lessons than native talent or IQ.

So what are these key traits and habits? Here are several that I've noticed over-and-over throughout the … Continue Reading ››

The Metronome

This is not a metronome.
The most obvious benefit of metronome work is, of course, that it emphasizes accurate counting and a regular beat. And more, there is truly something unique about that consistent, even aggravating, click that lends itself so well to woodshedding - it is our musical bread and butter.

But another aspect of metronome work often goes unrecognized:  it helps establish an objective baseline in practice and tracking outside of lessons. It is here that the metronome really shines when it is used correctly.

Learning any piece is a … Continue Reading ››

The Austin Piano Festival

2014posterpreview copyHello Pianoblog readers. If you're wondering where I've been these last several weeks I apologize. The truth is that I've been hard at work on something REALLY exciting in the Austin area. It's called The Austin Piano Festival and its going to be a blast!

The festival brings several of the best pianists in the world together in Austin for a series of concerts and masterclasses from May 17th through May 26th.

Solo recitals include world-renowned artists Kris Pineda, Christopher Guzman, and Spencer Myer -- all of … Continue Reading ››

Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn.One of my earliest, and still very vivid, musical memories was a commercial for set of Van Cliburn cassette tapes. I didn't know I was hearing the opening chords of Tchaikovsky 1 at the time, or who Van Cliburn was, but I was bowled over by the emotion of the music and danced around the house hoping I could hear more.

A few years later I got to hear Van live in person playing this concerto. I was too young to understand that he was past his prime. What I took away … Continue Reading ››

The Person Playing the Piano

Playing the PianoIn every task, the subconscious and conscious mind have specific roles to play, and a confusion of these roles can lead to less-than-optimal results.

In ideal piano playing--where there is effortless flow-- the simplest way I can state it is this: the subconscious mind sends information up, the conscious mind "OK's" it. In other words, the conscious mind simply monitors, but does not judge or ask questions. (Is this a drastic simplification? Yes. But it does the trick.)

One of the distinctive mental features of performing under stress is that the conscious mind … Continue Reading ››

Persistence, Repetition, and Simplicity

Repetition PracticeA teacher once told me that the reason we repeat ourselves so much is the hope that someday our students will listen. Perhaps this isn't the most creative teaching technique, but anyone who has been teaching for a long time can identify with the sentiment.

Why do we teachers feel this way? One reason is that the most important concepts--the ones that really stick--are often the the most general. Even today, I found myself speaking for an extended length of time, only to realize that what I was saying boiled down to: … Continue Reading ››

Parents and Practice

Piano PracticeI know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: all other things the same, daily participation in your child's practice is the number one predictor of music lesson success.

What does it mean to practice with a child? The words "go practice" are simply not enough - especially with younger children. Before the age of 8 or 9, these words hold no meaning for a child, because the act of practicing--controlled repetition for a desired result--is impossible for a child to do well alone. Young children are not self-aware enough to control … Continue Reading ››

Competitions in Theory and Practice

CompetitionsCompetition, as we are all told, is as old as music itself; found even in the myths of antiquity like that of the competition between Apollo and the satyr Marsyas. Like Pan, Marsyas lost this ancient duel, and was punished in a most brutal way.

Luckily, the stakes are not quite so high in modern competition, but the pressure to perform has never been higher. Only fifty or so years ago, there were only a handful of major piano competitions, and placing in one nearly guaranteed a fruitful career. Today by contrast, a … Continue Reading ››

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