Music Notes

Getting Motivated in the New Year 

Happy New Year! 

I had a wonderful Christmas break with my family, filled with too many sweets, lots of late nights and sleeping in, movies, and games. It was so nice to take a break from our normal routines of school, homework, after-school activities, and…well, responsibilities! But 2020 is here and though my calendar is not looking like a “fresh slate” by any means, a new year always holds promise for new opportunities. 

To get myself motivated (I’ve felt awfully lazy lately, especially with these dark…

Read more

Time-savers for Choral Accompanists 

It’s the beginning of the season and you are handed a packet of music to learn by next week’s rehearsal. It’s like the first day of school. You feel all the emotions – excitement at new “school supplies,” anticipation of seeing choral friends after a long summer break, and readiness for new challenges. But with an hour’s worth (or more) of new music, where do you start? 

1. Prep the music. You likely were given a mix of piano-vocal scores, perhaps some zeroxed music (hopefully…

Read more

Yes, Chef 

Words matter. To one with an artistic temperament, words matter intensely. In the last year, two phrases were directed toward my playing that shook me: “…not up to our standard” and “I didn’t even think of you.” After a good cry in both cases, I tried not to dwell on what had been said and instead tried to evaluate it in light of what was true; to not hold resentment; to redirect my focus on bettering my playing. As a Christian I am to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” and to dwell…

Read more

What is an Introvert like Me Doing, Performing on Stage? 

Here is an example of how God uses the foolish and weak things. My happy place is when I am alone, the space is quiet, and I am buried in a book or studying music without interruption. I can go many hours like this, content to be isolated from people. This works well for a classical pianist whose art demands a great deal of focus and reflection, not to mention the repetitive nature of practice. It does not bode as well for the performer. And here is the irony. That to be a performer of classical music, one…

Read more

Becoming an Artist, Part 8: Tools for Success 

It’s really wonderful how a good teacher can give you just the right tools to enable you to play better. Recently I was fortunate to be able to work once again with Pawel Checinski , who was visiting from Chicago. I played for him a little and then we got to work. He primarily focused on helping me come up with a decisive interpretation, achieve a singing tone, and use arm weight to produce a lovely sound. 

I had been struggling with the memory of the Bach Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911, often getting lost in…

Read more

Becoming an Artist, Part 7: Working with Pawel Again 

It’s funny how you can hear that something is off as a pianist and not know exactly what is wrong with it or how to fix it until a teacher explains it. When I sit at the keyboard I often don’t ask the same kinds of questions of myself that I would if I were a teacher. It doesn’t come as naturally to me, perhaps because the work on notes and rhythms and memory and the physicality of what’s going on is consuming enough that to think beyond that is not automatic. However, as a teacher, you are physically…

Read more

Memorizing Bach...Again 

Today I finished re-memorizing Bach’s Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911. I say re-memorizing, because I memorized it 6 years ago for a house concert. And then I moved on to learn and memorize other music and I forgot the piece. Well, I didn’t forget it entirely. My fingers remembered what to do when I pulled out the score, and it came more easily to me physically than it had when I first learned it. But remembering the piece away from the score took a grand amount of effort. And I asked myself, “Why am I putting…

Read more

Back to Bach 

I am reworking a Bach Toccata I learned a few years back in preparation for my concert with Molly Tomlinson for the October 11th Ladies Musical Club concert. "Toccata" literally means "touched" and refers to the virtuosic nature of the music's fingerwork. Originally conceived for early keyboard instruments such as clavichord, harpsichord, and organ, the toccata is not necessarily a "piano" piece. However, I believe that if Bach were to live in our time, he would use the piano to its fullest extent, most…

Read more


I am still in search of that elusive “it” that sets the professional pianist apart from the amateur. This is something I’ve been mulling over for the better part of the last year. I am more and more convinced that it has much to do with intention. 

The amateur performer relies to some degree on chance. She knows that preparation is important and spends many hours practicing, but there is always an element of unknowing – Will my hands make that leap accurately? Will I express at the keyboard exactly what is…

Read more

Balancing Music and Motherhood 

This is the first year my children are all in school full-time and the year I have felt the most need to justify my not working outside the home. The question often comes up, “What do you do with your time?” The question is well-meaning, as it is an American norm to meet someone for the first time and ask, “So what do you do for a living?” The assumption that a mother has nothing to do when her children go off to school in the morning is laughable to me, but understandable in our culture where we often…

Read more