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Stephen Powers first thought of his grand piano as an impressive piece of furniture.

But he enjoyed listening to music so much when friends played at parties at his home in North Wilmington that he began taking lessons.

“I enjoy having a couple of songs under my belt,” says Powers, a 52-year-old banker. “I play Happy Birthday. I play Getting to Know You for my mom.”

Powers is part of a boomlet of adults who are studying piano. Many took lessons briefly as children and regret giving it up. Some simply enjoy music. Others gravitated toward the keyboard because studies suggest piano improves mental acuity while reducing the odds of dementia.

A Swedish study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that when a twin played a musical instrument later in life, he or she was 64 percent less likely to develop dementia than the twin who did not play.

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2013 evaluated the impact of piano lessons on cognitive function, mood and quality of life in adults age 60 to 84.

The group that studied piano showed significant improvement in tests that measure executive function, controlling inhibitions and divided attention, as well as enhanced visual scanning and motor ability. Piano students also reported a better quality of life.

Some grownups simply relish a challenge.

In the United Kingdom, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, took to the keyboard at age 56. He chronicled the year he spent learning Chopin’s demanding No. Ballade 1 in G Minor in the book Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible.

Richard Swarmer, 57, of Lewes, played the trumpet from grade school through college. He has sung in several choirs. This year, he began piano lessons.

Learning the piano isn’t easy even for someone with a musical background. Still, Swarmer appreciates that the creative thought process is different from the focus required by his job for a medical benefits company.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed taking piano lessons as an adult,” he says. “It provides a welcome respite from the demands of my job.”

Ethel Thirtel of North Wilmington is 71 and a student at the Music School of Delaware. She is also taking French lessons to help keep her intellect sharp.

“Both pursuits involve active studying and practice to master new skills,” she says.

To meet rising demand, the Music School of Delaware offers adults-only evening group classes to accommodate working people, says Matthew Smith, student and alumni relations officer. The school also provides instruction for adults 50 and older through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at University of Delaware.

“In addition to professionals, we are getting a lot more inquiries from older adults who are retired and have time on their hands,” he says.

Geri Smith, a Julliard-trained singer, musician and composer, has taught piano to children in public schools as well as private arts centers. Her adult students include a 59-year-old writer who took up piano after the death of her husband, a gifted musician.

“Teaching children is a different experience than teaching adults,” says Smith, of Unionville. “Kids pretty much do what you ask them to do but adults ask lots of questions. They want to know why things have to be done a certain way.”

An important part of learning piano is creating new pathways in the brain. A Harvard Medical School study examined the impact of practicing the piano on synapses, the connections between neurons that encode memories and learning.

Volunteers practiced two hours a day for five days, playing a five-finger exercise to the beat of a metronome. To learn how that impacted the neurons scientists used transcranial-magnetic-stimulation (TMS), in which a wire coil sends magnetic impulses to the brain.

They discovered that after a week of practice, the stretch of motor cortex devoted to the finger exercises had expanded like crabgrass.

“Playing the piano creates new synapses,” Smith says. “Think of it as creating a conduit so your right hand can talk to your left hand.”

Meldene Gruber of Rehoboth Beach, who has taught piano for more than 40 years, has seen a surge in adult students in the past two years. Now, half her students are adults.

“A number of my adults say they think playing the piano will help with mental acuity,” she says. “Playing the piano forces you to use both sides of the brain, which is great for neuron firing.”

Most adults have specific goals in mind, such as learning to play Christmas carols or a few favorite pieces.

“You don’t get adults who are focused on becoming concert pianists,” Gruber says. “They come for the joy of playing, not because their mothers made them.”

via Chopstick therapy: how piano lessons could help us age better — NewsWorks.

August 3: On This Day in Music

today

Monday Music Quiz

 

 

 

 

• 1778 ~ La Scala, one of the world’s great opera houses, opened on this day. They premiered William Tell by Gioachino Rossini

• 1823 ~ Francisco Asenjo Babieri, Spanish composer

• 1884 ~ Louis Gruenberg, Polish-born American composer

• 1902 ~ Ray Bloch, Conductor and orchestra leader

• 1917 ~ Charlie Shavers, Trumpeter with the John Kirby Sextet and composer of Undecided

• 1918 ~ Les Elgart, Lead trumpet, bandleader for Les and (brother) Larry Elgart

• 1921 ~ Richard Adler, Broadway Composer, lyricist

• 1926 ~ Tony Bennett (Benedetto), Grammy Award-winning American singer of popular music

• 1941 ~ Beverly Lee, Singer with The Shirelles

• 1949 ~ B.B. (Morris) Dickerson, Bass and singer with War

• 1951 ~ Johnny Graham, Guitarist with Earth, Wind and Fire

• 1963 ~ The Beatles made their final appearance at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, England. The group was about to leave its hometown behind for unprecedented worldwide fame and fortune.

• 1963 ~ The Beach Boys’ Surfer Girl, was released on Capitol Records. It became one of their biggest hits. Surfer Girl made it to number seven on the hit music charts  on September 14, 1963

• 1963 ~ Comedian Allan Sherman’s summer camp parody, Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp) was released on Warner Brothers Records. The melody was based on the Dance of the Hours from Ponchielli’s opera La Giaconda. This dance was also performed in the original Disney movie Fantasia.

• 1971 ~ Paul McCartney formed a new band called Wings. Joining McCartney in the group were Denny Laine, formerly of The Moody Blues, Denny Seilwell and McCartney’s wife, Linda.

• 1998 ~ Alfred Schnittke, one of the most original and influential composers to emerge from the Soviet Union, died. He was 63.

• 2001 ~ Jeanne Loriod, the leading performer of an electronic instrument used in film scores and symphonic works to produce mysterious glassy tones, died in southern France. She was 73. Loriod, who played the ondes martenot – invented by the French musician Maurice Martenot – died of a stroke in Juan-les-Pins, Le Monde newspaper reported.

She was the younger sister of pianist Yvonne Loriod, who was married to composer Olivier Messiaen. The three musicians often collaborated.

The ondes martenot – which translates as “Martenot waves” – produces electronic waves from a system of transistors, a keyboard and a ribbon attached to a ring on the performer’s forefinger.

Loriod’s career took her all over the world. She performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic, among others.

Composers such as Tristan Murail, Jacques Charpentier and Michael Levinas wrote works for her, according to Le Monde. Loriod had also been planning to collaborate with the pop group Radiohead, the paper wrote.

• 2008 ~ Louis Teicher died at 83.  He was half of the piano duo Ferrante & Teicher, which toured for four decades and released 150 albums, some as suitable for elevators as for concert halls.

• 2016 ~ Ricci Martin, an entertainer/musician son of Dean Martin, died at the age of 62.

August 2: On This Day in Music

today

• 1891 ~ Sir Arthur Bliss, British composer
Read quotes by and about Bliss

• 1900 ~ Helen Morgan (Riggins), Pop Singer

• 1905 ~ Karl Amadeus Hartmann, German composer

• 1924 ~ Joe Harnell, Conductor and arranger

• 1925 ~ John Dexter, Opera director, Mid-America Chorale

• 1921 ~ Enrico Caruso, Italian operatic tenor, died in Naples.

• 1926 ~ The first demonstration of the Vitaphone system, that combined picture and sound for movies, was held at the Warner Theatre in New York City. John Barrymore and Mary Astor starred in the demonstration film for the new moving picture projector.

• 1935 ~ Hank Cochran, Pop Singer and songwriter

• 1937 ~ Garth Hudson, Musician, keyboard with The Band

• 1937 ~ Benny Goodman and his quartet recorded Smiles for Victor Records. Playing with Goodman’s clarinet on the famous song were Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa.

• 1939 ~ Edwin Patten, Singer with Gladys Knight & The Pips

• 1941 ~ Doris Kenner-Jackson (Coley), Singer with The Shirelles

• 1943 ~ Kathy Lennon, Singer with The Lennon Sisters

• 1951 ~ Andrew Gold, Singer, son of composer Ernest Gold

• 1991 ~ Jeri Southern passed away

• 1997 – Nigeria’s musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who popularized the Afro-music beat globally, died of AIDS aged 58.

• 2000 ~ Helen Quinn, who for more than 30 years presided over the Metropolitan Opera patrons who lined up to buy standing-room tickets, died at the age of 76. Often called the Queen of Standees by those who allowed her to take charge of the ticket queue, Quinn was herself a veteran of standing-room lines at the Met, and attended five or six performances a week, almost always as a standee. In 1966, on her own initiative, she imposed a system on the standee process that the throng of regulars was apparently happy to abide by, and to which the Met gave tacit approval.

• 2001 ~ Ron Townson, the portly centerpiece singer for the Grammy-winning pop group  The 5th Dimension, died of renal failure after a four-year battle with kidney disease. He was 68.  Other members of the reconstituted group – known for such 1960s hits as Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In, Wedding Bell Blues and Stoned Soul Picnic – performed at the Capitol Fourth music and fireworks show on July 4 in Washington, D.C.   Declining health had forced Townson to retire from The 5th Dimension in 1997, bringing to an end a career that saw him tour with such music legends as Nat King’ Cole and Dorothy Dandridge, appear in operas and direct choirs. He helped front The 5th Dimension when the group’s smooth mixture of pop, jazz, gospel, and rhythm and blues won it four Grammys in 1968 for the Jimmy Webb song Up Up and Away. Other hits included One Less Bell to Answer and Sweet Blindness. As various members left The 5th Dimension in the 1970s to pursue solo projects, Townson formed the group Ron Townson and Wild Honey. Later, he reunited with McLemore and LaRue in a new version of The 5th Dimension that included Phyllis Battle and Greg Walker. He also appeared on television and in films, including the 1992 movie The Mambo Kings.

• 2002 ~ Freidann Parker, co-founder of the Colorado Ballet, died at the age of 77.  Colorado Ballet co-founder Lillian Covillo met Parker in the late 1940s in a dance class taught by Martha Wilcox. The two began the Covillo-Parker School of Dance, and then a fledgling ballet company. After an ambitious double bill in 1961, they created Colorado Concert Ballet, which presented Denver’s first Nutcracker the following season. Every performance sold out. By 1978, the board of directors more than doubled its budget to $100,000, and Colorado Ballet was born. Today its budget has grown to $7 million with a roster of 40 dancers. Parker’s first dance lessons were with Iris Potter. She later trained with modern-dance pioneer Hanya Holm.

 

• 2020 ~ Leon Fleisher, American pianist and conductor, died at the age of 92. He was one of the most renowned pianists and pedagogues in the world. Music correspondent Elijah Ho has called him “one of the most refined and transcendent musicians the United States has ever produced”.

In 1964, Fleisher lost the use of his right hand, due to a condition that was eventually diagnosed as focal dystonia. Fleisher commenced performing and recording the left-handed repertoire while searching for a cure for his condition. In addition, he undertook conducting during this time, serving at one time as Music Director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Maryland. In the 1990s, Fleisher was able to ameliorate his focal dystonia symptoms after experimental botox injections to the point where he could play with both hands again.

 

August 1: On This Day in Music

 

 

Be sure your student reads and listens to Today’s Daily Listening Assignment
 

 

• 1779 ~ Francis Scott Key, born
More information about Key
Listen to Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner
Read about the Star Spangled Banner

• 1877 ~ Angela Diller, American pianist and educator

• 1919 ~ Oscar Hammerstein I passed away

• 1930 ~ Lionel Bart, Broadway Composer

• 1930 ~ Geoffrey Holder, Dancer

• 1939 – American bandleader Glenn Miller recorded In the Mood which later became his theme tune.

• 1942 ~ Jerry Garcia, American rock guitarist, banjo, lyricist and singer with The Grateful Dead

• 1942 ~ Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra recorded Charleston Alley, on Decca Records.

• 1942 ~ The American Federation of Musicians went on strike. Union president James C. Petrillo told musicians that phonograph records were “a threat to members’ jobs.” As a result, musicians refused to perform in recording sessions over the next several months. Live, musical radio broadcasts continued, however.

• 1947 ~ Rick Anderson, Musician, bass with The Tubes

• 1947 ~ Rick Coonce, Singer, drummer with The Grassroots

• 1953 ~ Robert Cray, Guitar

• 1960 ~ Chubby Checker’s The Twist was released. The song inspired the dance craze of the 1960s.

• 1971 ~ The Concert for Bangladesh was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Ravi Shankar and Billy Preston performed. A multi-record set commemorating the event was a super sales success. Together, the concert and the album raised over $11 million to help the starving minions of Bangladesh.

• 1981 ~ MTV (Music Television) made its debut at 12:01 a.m.

• 1984 ~ Singer Jermaine Jackson made a guest appearance on the TV soap opera, As the World Turns.

• 1997 ~ Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter died of a heart attack in a Moscow hospital. He was 82.

• 2007 ~ Tommy Makem, Irish folk singer died

• 2017 ~ Goldy McJohn, Canadian musician (Steppenwolf), died at the age of 72

 

Daily Listening Assignments ~ August 1, 2020

 

Today’s piece is from a TV show my son used to love to watch: Inspector Gadget. The show followed the adventures of a powerful but dimwitted cyborg police inspector named Gadget as he investigates the criminal schemes of Dr. Claw and his organization, MAD, as they fruitlessly attempt to stop him. However, neither side was aware that it is Gadget’s niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain, who are truly responsible for thwarting MAD.

 

Now, for just the theme

One of my favorite piano duet (I have the sheet music!)

For guitar

 

Did you know… Inspector Gadget was inspired by Edvard Grieg’s piece “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, July 18th Daily Listening Assignment.

Can you spot the differences?

 

 

 

 

July 31: On This Day in Music

today

 

Be sure your student reads and listens to Today’s Daily Listening Assignment

 

 

• 1828 ~ François Auguste Gevaert, Belgian composer, musicologist, conductor and organist

• 1845 ~ The French Army introduced the saxophone to its military band. The musical instrument was the invention of Adolphe Sax of Belgium.

• 1847 ~ Ignacio Cervantes, Pianist

• 1886 ~ Franz Liszt, Hungarian composer and pianist died. Originator of the symphonic poem, he was a prolific teacher and a huge influence on Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.
More information about Liszt

 

• 1911 ~ George Liberace, Violinist, conductor; administrator of Liberace Museum; brother of pianist/entertainer Liberace

• 1918 ~ Jan La Rue, American musicologist

• 1918 ~ Hank Jones, Pianist. He accompanied Billy Eckstine and Ella Fitzgerald. He led the Hank Jones Trio

• 1919 ~ Mornam Del Mar, British conductor

• 1923 ~ Ahmet Ertegun, Recording Executive

• 1939 ~ John West, Musician, guitarist with Gary Lewis and the Playboys

• 1942 ~ Harry James and his band recorded the classic I’ve Heard that Song Before, for Columbia Records. Helen Forrest sang on the million-seller.

• 1943 ~ Lobo, Singer

• 1946 ~ Gary Lewis (Levitch), Singer with Gary Lewis and the Playboys, entertainer Jerry Lewis’ son

• 1946 ~ Bob Welch, Guitarist and singer with Fleetwood Mac

• 1947 ~ Karl Green, Musician, guitar and harmonica with Herman’s Hermits

• 1964 ~ Jim Reeves, popular U.S. country music singer, died in an air crash near Nashville.

• 1985 ~ Prince was big at the box office with the autobiographical story of the Minneapolis rock star, Purple Rain. The flick grossed $7.7 million in its first three days of release on 917 movie screens. The album of the same name was the top LP in the U.S., as well.

• 2019 ~ Hal (Harold Smith) Prince died at the age of 91, He was an American theatrical producer and director associated with many of the best-known Broadway musical productions of the 20th century.

Over the span of his career, he garnered 21 Tony Awards, more than any other individual, including eight for directing, eight for producing the year’s Best Musical, two as Best Producer of a Musical, and three special awards.

Daily Listening Assignments ~ July 31, 2020

 

 

 

And, we’re back with Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy. Clair de Lune is French for “light of the moon”, or “moonlight”. Debussy liked to create tonal “impressions” rather than conventional melodies. Clair de Lune” is a famous example of this as it creates the feeling of rippling water.

Follow the score:

 

Smalan

A deleted scene from Fantasia

Borge

Liberace

For Orchestra

Guitar

July 30: On This Day in Music

today

 

Be sure your student reads and listens to Today’s Daily Listening Assignment

 

 

 

• 1751 ~ Maria Anna Mozart, Austrian pianist and Wolfgang’s sister, born in Salzburg, Austria

 

• 1899 ~ Gerald Moore, British pianist and accompanist

• 1909 ~ Adolph Baller, Pianist

• 1926 ~ Martin Bookspan, American music critic, administrator and broadcaster

• 1929 ~ Christine McGuire, Singer with The McGuire Sisters

• 1936 ~ Buddy (George) Guy, Blues guitar, singer, on BBC TV

• 1941 ~ Buddy Guy, Blues Musician

• 1941 ~ Paul Anka, Canadian singer and songwriter of popular music. He composed Johnny’s Theme (Tonight Show Theme) and had 33 hits over 3 decades, including “Diana” and “Puppy Love”.

• 1942 ~ Frank Sinatra recorded the last of 90 recordings with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on Victor Records. His last side was There are Such Things, which became number one in January of 1943. Sinatra moved on as a solo singing sensation.

• 1942 ~ Stagedoor Canteen was first heard on CBS radio. The show was broadcast live from New York City and 500 servicemen were entertained each week by celebrities who freely donated their time for the war (WWII) effort.

• 1945 ~ David Sanborn, Grammy Award-winning musician, saxophone, flute, composer of the TV movie score to Finnegan Begin Again

• 1947 ~ Marc Bolan (Feld), Singer with T. Rex

• 1956 ~ Singer Brenda Lee recorded her first hit for Decca Records. Jambalaya and Bigelow 6-500 started a new career for the petite 11-year-old from Lithonia, GA (near Atlanta). Brenda Mae Tarpley (Brenda Lee) had been singing professionally since age six. She recorded 29 hit songs in the 1960s and became a successful country singer in 1971. Brenda Lee had a pair of number one tunes with I’m Sorry and I Want to be Wanted. She recorded a dozen hits that made it to the top 10.

• 1958 ~ Kate Bush, Singer

• 2002 ~ Leonard Litman, who ran two top Pittsburgh entertainment venues in the 1940s and ’50s that attracted stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Bill Haley’s Comets, died of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 88. Litman owned Lenny Litman’s Copa, a nightclub that flourished in the city’s downtown from 1948 to 1959. Earlier, he ran the influential Mercur’s Music Bar. After the Copa closed in 1959, Litman continued to promote concerts and made a brief foray into sports in the 1960s when he and his brothers invested in an American Basketball League team. Litman worked as the Pittsburgh correspondent for Billboard Magazine from 1948 to 1960 and as a correspondent for Variety for decades.

• 2003 ~ Sam Phillips, American record producer and founder of Sun Records and Sun Studios, died at the age of 80

 

• 2016 ~ Gloria DeHaven, American musical actress (Step Lively), died at the age of 91