Giving Thanks, Day 1: October 18, 2017

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This is from a series which is being posted at http://www.maryo.co/category/thankfulness/

Today, since it’s a “teaching day”, I’m thankful for my piano studio, my students, and my piano 🙂

When I was growing up, my dad was a minister, meaning we lived in whatever parsonage the church chose to let us live in.  The one we had in Pawcatuck, CT had an upright piano that someone had put out in the sunroom.  Not the best place for a piano, but I digress.

Since we had the piano already, someone – probably my mom – decided that I would take lessons.  We had the organist from the Baptist church just across the river in Westerly, RI

Apparently, Clara Pashley was fondly remembered at the church (now Central Baptist Church) since she was mentioned in an article from 2010.

 

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25-centsMiss Pashley walked to our house each week and taught me (and my mom who was always listening in) piano for the grand sum of 25 cents.

I started with Ada Richter’s classic Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which has now been morphed into the John Thompson library.

From there, it was the Michael Aaron series, and some sheet music.

There was no music store in our town, so I have no idea where any of this music came from – but I still have it all.

My parents did very well for their quarter a week investment, especially since my mom paid good attention and was able to beef up lessons she’d had as a child.  Later on, she played well enough that she was church organist for a local Roman Catholic Church.

But I digress…

In those days, kids couldn’t do a whole lot of activities, so in 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a Girl Scout.  Bye, bye Clara.

Girl Scouts didn’t last long but I did play piano in a talent show.  I remember, I carefully cut Burgmüller’s Ballade out of my Michael Aaron book and made a nice construction paper cover.  (I still have this, too)

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I doubt that I played this well but here’s what it was supposed to sound like:

 

A few years intervened and we moved to Springfield, MA.  The parsonage piano there was in terrible shape and in the dark, never-used basement.  But I decided to make it mine and cleared up the area around it and started “practicing”.

My Junior or Senior year of High School I decided I wanted to major in music in college.  I decided to learn, on my own, a piano arrangement of Aragonnaise by Jules Massenet.  I have no idea why or where that sheet music came from but I started working furiously on this piece.

aragonnaise

Hopefully, at some point, it should have sounded like this:

 

 

I started pedaling (no pun intended!) my music to the Universities of Connecticut and Massachusetts and ended up at UMass Amherst since we were state residents.

Early morning gym classes (usually swimming), then wet hair traipsing across campus to music theory in winter 5 days a week.  AARRGGH!

But I stuck it out.

My wonderful piano teacher, Howard Lebow, was killed in a car accident my sophomore year and I was devastated.  There will be more about him in a post on January 26, 2018 here on https://oconnormusicstudio.com

I took yet another break from piano lessons – but I kept playing.

After DH graduated, we moved to Milwaukee, WI for his graduate school.  Besides working 2 jobs, I found time to commandeer the practice rooms at the University of Wisconsin.  I also found a teacher at the Schaum School of Music.  She was amazed that I had no piano at home to practice on.

When we later moved to Alexandria, VA my DH gave me a choice of new car or piano. So, I found a used piano.  The owner had acquired it in a divorce and wanted it gone.  Yesterday.  She even paid to move it out of her apartment.

The new-to-me piano took up half our living room.  When my parents came to visit, their feet were under my piano as they slept on cots.

I found yet another new piano teacher and she is still my best friend to this day.

That piano moved to several locations before I bought a brand new Yamaha grand piano.  The movers accidentally brought in the wrong one and I made them return it.  The people who lived in an apartment were probably unhappy when they had to return my piano and take their own new baby grand back.

I started teaching as a traveling piano teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland.  I continued that in Wilmington, DE.

When we got to Fairfax, VA I decided no more traveling.  Students would come to me.  And so they have since 1973.

What is supposed to be our living room is filled with music books, electric keyboards, the grand piano, 2 organs, 2 violins, 2 clarinets, a hand-made (by me!) dulcimer and other musical “stuff”.

Piano playing has gotten me through the worst times of my life.  Teaching has been a lifeline for me, as well.

I am so thankful for the students who have stayed with me over the years.

 

Register for Piano Lessons

Thank you for your interest in the O’Connor Music Studio!

Available times are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the day and after school for all ages and levels.  There may be other times available if requested.

After you register, you will get a confirmation email with the information you need to access the Student Portal. After logging in you may choose from the available lesson times or request something different.

Your $20.00 interview deposit will be credited towards the second month of lessons.

If you are a transfer student, please bring your most recent method book(s) and notebook to the interview.

Prospective students must have a piano, organ or electric keyboard to use for daily practice. 

Roadtrip! students (ages 4-5) are scheduled for half-hour lessons with their parents present.

Beginning children (ages 6 to 9) are scheduled for half-hour lessons.

Youth (ages 10 and up) may be scheduled for half-hour lessons or forty-five minute lessons.

Adults are highly encouraged to take hour-long lessons, but are always welcome to schedule half-hour lessons at first.

I look forward to meeting you!

 

 

Super Mario Bros for Piano

super-mario

Pianist and composer Sonya Belousova celebrated 30 years of Super Mario Bros. with an epic piano medley on the world’s coolest piano.

YouTube channel Player Piano had Belousova play the tribute to the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata on a piano styled after a classic Nintendo Entertainment System. While the medley is good, it’s the amazingly detailed piano that stands out.

The bench looks like a Nintendo controller, while the piano itself is modeled after the console. It comes complete with power and reset buttons as well as connection cords. The flip top door can cover the keys, which Belousova appropriately takes the time to blow on at the end!

From http://www.dailydot.com/geek/nintendo-super-mario-bros-player-piano/

Piano Puzzlers!

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The Piano Puzzlers book is available in the O’Connor Music Studio library if you’d like to give any a try.  Piano Puzzlers as heard on American Public Media’s “Performance Today.” Includes 32 tunes with songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Arlen, Porter, Rodgers, Fats Waller, Lennon & McCartney, and others disguised in the styles of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Janacek, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Copland.

Includes an introduction by Fred Child, host of “Performance Today” as well as background info by Bruce Adolphe. “Bruce Adolphe has taken a common musician’s party game and elevated it to high art and truly funny musical slapsticks. The Piano Puzzlers are a unique combination of extraordinary insight into the styles of many composers subtle, expert workmanship and great, great fun!”

From http://jasonmorris.blogsome.com/2008/08/08/piano-puzzlers/

If you’re a music geek (like me), I have a program for you. Now, let me be clear, to fully qualify as a music geek…you must have a fond appreciation for classical music (no, Poison, Quiet Riot, and Zepplin do not count as classical music). So, if you’re a “music geek” without an appreciation for classical music…well, I hate to burst your bubble…but, you’re not truly a music geek. Instead, you’re a music appreciator, but not a geek. So, if you just listen to indie music and scowl at anything on a label larger than Matador…don’t bother following the link I’ll provide…the fun will be lost on you…And, you probably won’t have a chance.

Every Wednesday night, on my way home from WNL, I turn on my local NPR station to listen to Piano Puzzlers on Performance Today. It’s absolutely incredible. A pianist/composer (Bruce Adolphe) takes a familiar folk or pop tune and sets it inside a classical masterpiece (or in the style of a particular composer). Sometimes it’s easy…sometimes it’s ridiculously difficult. There are days when I say, “got it” on the first pass. Then there are days when I say, “what the heck?” And, more often than not, I’m able to get either the popular/folk tune or the composer.

This is sad to admit, but there are nights when I’ll slow down on the drive home or sit in the car in the driveway to finish an episode. In fact, I get a little worked up if someone stops me after WNL…as I might miss the beginning of Piano Puzzlers (it usually hits around 8:20pm on our local station).

Take a listen to some of the archives and see if you can figure it out! It’s really cool…but probably only appreciated by music geeks (the kind of people that listen to NPR for their musical programs and not just the snipets of cool indie rock between segments on All Things Considered…which is a great show too).

Play Piano Puzzlers HERE!

101 Piano Practice Tips: How to get your Kids to the Keyboard!

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Let’s face it. Most kids don’t want to practice the piano. And if they do find the time to practice, it’s usually because their parent kept nagging them. How frustrating!

Piano teachers are frustrated too. It’s nearly impossible to teach students new concepts when they don’t understand the old ones–all because of a lack of practice.

If you’re a parent in this situation, I have just the solution you’re looking for.

In this upbeat book, I share all the tips I’ve discovered in my 14 years of teaching piano. You’ll learn fun, practical ways to get your kids to the keyboard.

But this easy-to-read guide goes one step further. I’ll show you simple ways to encourage better quality practice. Even if you’ve never had a music lesson in your life!

I wrote this book for kids of all ages. There are creative ideas for elementary students and also a section for teens.

There’s even a section for what to do if your child wants to stop taking piano lessons. That’s right, there is hope and my book will show you exactly how to get them interested in piano again.

Don’t be the kind of parent who sits on the sidelines waiting until their child wants to practice. Piano lessons are too expensive for you to let another “no-practice” day go by.

This book is your answer to get your child to the keyboard, have good quality practice and develop a life-long love of music.

Get it on Amazon

80 fingers on 10 Pianos

Louise Schwartzkoff

From October 5, 2010

There will be $1.6 million worth of piano on stage at the City Recital Hall on Friday night. With their legs and lids removed for transport, eight Steinway grand pianos will be trucked to the venue.

There they will be reassembled on stage and tuned, ready for eight of Australia’s finest classical pianists.

In The Steinway Spectacular 16 hands and 80 fingers will play some of classical music’s greatest hits.

Conducted by Guy Noble, the pianists will work as an ensemble to perform works by composers such as Ravel, Saint-Saens and George Gershwin. ”It’s a very large affair,” says Noble. ”Logistically, it’s a nightmare.” The piano technician Ara Vartoukian will spend hours tuning the instruments.

For past concerts in Melbourne the process sometimes took all night. ”The pianos all, in essence, sound the same, so they have to be absolutely in tune with each other.”

Even after the most careful tuning, things can go awry.

The pianists – Anthony Halliday, Roger Heagney, Clemens Leske, Tamara Smolyar, Mikhail Solovei, Evgeny Ukhanov, Gerard Willems and Alexey Yemtsov – usually perform as soloists. Every now and again, Noble says, one of them ”goes rogue”.

”One will suddenly break out and play their own thing,” he says. ”I have to herd them back into the pride, glaring at them with eyes of death. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to conduct. It’s like herding cats.”

There is no repertoire for an ensemble of pianists, so Noble has created new arrangements.

His favourite is a rendition of the children’s staple Chopsticks. ”That just goes wild,” he says.

The segment titled So You Think You Can Play Scales is also a crowd pleaser. ”It’s like Piano Idol. People get voted off if they go off the rails.”

Other pieces will feature the organist Calvin Bowman and the soprano Shu-Cheen Yu. Bowman, who usually plays above the stage in a loft, will join the other performers on stage on an electronic organ.

”It’s a relief for him to be down on stage because he suffers terribly from vertigo,” Noble says. ”He’s been terrified in organ lofts all over Australia.”

More boisterous extravaganza than a recital for purists, the performance will appeal to an eclectic crowd.

”We get classical music lovers, as well as people who are just curious. It’s pure fun and enjoyment.”

The Steinway Spectacular is at the City Recital Hall on Friday.

From http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/a-piano-spectacular-for-80-fingers-20101004-164ac.html

How do they make Steinway Pianos? Take a factory tour to find out!

 

Steinway Place, Queens, New York, 11105. steinway.com or 718-721-2600.

It all begins with bare wood, rough and fragrant.

Skilled craftsmen then use muscle, fine motor skills and magic to transform simple planks into magnificent instruments. In the bridge-notching process, the “bellymen” use tools they’ve constructed themselves, the better to execute this highly skilled operation.

Alaskan Sitka Spruce becomes a soundboard, with ribs of Sugar Pine.

Eighty-eight keys, 88 hammers, more than 230 strings — all are carefully created, installed and tested in every piano.

All in all, it takes about 11 months to make a Steinway grand piano.

Steinway & Sons has been located in the same spot in the Astoria section of Queens since the early 1870s. Founded in 1853 in a loft on Varick Street in Manhattan, the company’s reputation grew quickly, and the company needed space to expand their operations.

Factory tours are offered from September through the end of June. (Factory tours are not available in July and August.) Tours are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, for a maximum of 15 people.

Needless to say, tours fill up quickly and must be booked in advance. Steinway currently has no openings for the rest of 2017 and is not yet taking reservations for 2018. Plan way ahead, and check for updates by emailing tours@steinway.com or by calling 718-721-2600.

Adapted from http://www.app.com/story/entertainment/events/2017/08/18/factory-tours-made-usa/530543001/

Mary and Michael playing in the original Steinway Hall