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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…

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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…

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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…

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Flawless Recording 

It takes courage to record. 

Recording is a completely different animal from live performing. It is under far greater scrutiny than a live performance. An audience tends to give grace in a live performance for small mistakes, missed jumps, a blurred pedal…perhaps because they get wrapped up in the shared emotional experience; listeners seem to share a sort of sympathy with the artist. In a recording, that grace is considerably lessened: the listening audience expects perfect execution down to the slightest…

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How I Recorded a Solo Classical Piano CD in My Living Room 

I recently released my debut classical piano CD, Commonplace Beauty, which was recorded in my living room! It all started about 13 years ago with the seed of an idea from a friend of mine who suggested doing a trilogy. 

At the time we recorded a Christmas CD (O Come, O Come Emmanuel), and the plan was to follow it up with a worship CD and a classical CD. I had participated on recordings before, but had never done a full-length solo album, so I was excited to be a part of this project. We recorded O Come, O…

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About Commonplace Beauty: My Debut Classical CD 

My debut classical CD, Commonplace Beauty, is now available for purchase through my website! It has been a work of love for the better part of this year, and I want to give you a glimpse of the thinking behind the album. 


In many ways this album is about coming home. I chose the name, Commonplace Beauty, from something that Charles Ives, an American composer, wrote about his Concord Sonata, and the Alcotts movement in particular. The sonata is a four-movement piece, where each…

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Your Story, Guest Post for Piano Dao 

My parents never let me quit taking piano lessons. That, really, is the crux of my story. I did not grow up under a Tiger Mom, but from the very beginning, I grew up being surrounded by classical music. My dad and his three siblings all played piano, and my mom was my first piano teacher (That lasted about a year, until she decided I was better off being taught by her friend, and her friends’ kids were better off being taught by my Mom.) I would go to bed down the hall, hearing my dad practicing Chopin and…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 6: Memorizing Hard Stuff 

Memory has always been the hardest part of piano playing for me. I can sight read much of the repertoire comfortably (I'm not speaking about Faure or Ravel, haha!) but memorizing has always been a challenge. Case in point, I have been working on Ginastera's Suite de Danzas Criollas for about a year now and had memorized it in its entirety for a performance last spring...except for the third movement, for which I shamelessly used the score. But since I am including this suite of dances on my new CD project…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 5: Channeling Yuja 

I am continually amazed at Yuja Wang and her flawless live performances. How she can perform piece after piece on different pianos, without having a lapse in concentration, a memory slip, a slight miss on a jump, is incomprehensible to me. 

I have been working on Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G-sharp Minor for months now. It has been fully memorized for quite a while, and I have worked out technical challenges, dealt with memory slips in different places, and grown in expressing my interpretation and style. I…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 4: Working with Pawel Checinski 

I had the most amazing piano lesson this month with Pawel Checinski, the teacher of one of my pianist friends. We met formally for an hour, and as often happens with a master teacher, I was given enough material to work on for the next few months! 

I had not had a piano lesson since my years as an undergrad, so I was a little hesitant going in. My inner critic is enough of a challenge as it is, and a lesson felt quite intimidating at first. However, I was met with the most encouraging and constructive…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 3: Developing True Artistry 

Listening to myself play on a recording is quite eye-opening. Stepping back from behind the keys and hearing myself play gives me a new perspective, unclouded by what I “think” I sound like! From this position I am far more attuned to nuance and shape and color, or the lack thereof. I listen to recordings by amazing (famous) pianists like Arthur Rubenstein, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, Murray Perahia, Yuja Wang, and hear incredible sensitivity and attention to detail, beautiful tone colors and…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 2: Creating a Life in Music 

In my life, I have been fortunate to ride on the backs of mentors who had incredible vision and admirable work ethic. Because of them, rarely have I felt the need to create my own musical path or seek opportunities to perform. Where I’ve lacked vision and direction at times, opportunities have come knocking…to music-direct my first mainstage theater production in the 90s; to take part in several world premieres; to perform in the world-class Benaroya Hall… 

I met my husband in 2004 playing volleyball with…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 1: Pursuing a Life of Music 

During my time as an undergrad my days were full of music-making: accompanying operas and musical theater productions and choirs and voice students, working on my piano performance degree, preparing for recitals, and imagining life after graduation filled to the brim with music, specifically in the field of opera accompanying. 

After graduation my career path twisted and turned through years of piano teaching, choral accompanying, musical theater directing, administrative work at a church, public school…

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A Little Improv... 

One of the pieces I'm currently working on is Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C-sharp Minor. I have been mulling over the title "Impromptu" and trying to wrap my mind around his reasoning behind it. What makes this piece an impromptu, an improvisation? Did Chopin sit down with a C-sharp minor chord in mind and start playing this fantastic elaboration?

Did it sound like this at first?

Chopin was experimenting with a relatively new “form” in 1834 with this impromptu. Although not technically a musical…

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Recording Trials 

I’ve been sitting down at the piano quite a bit lately trying to find good mic configurations for recording my piano in my living room (actually, we call it "The Piano Room.” I have a Zoom H4n recorder that I have used successfully to record our live house concerts. It is a wonderful device that I can listen to in “real time” with headphones, adjusting the recording volume as I play. It is a whole different ballgame, however, trying to use it for a studio piano recording. To round out the sound, I am…

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Trying to make good on my goal to have three (or more) pieces "at hand," I have been working on Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G-sharp minor (Op. 32, No. 12) this week. I played a little of it for a friend who came over Friday evening and asked me, "What can you play?" (He'd been reading my blog!)

Alongside practicing, I have started a Page on Facebook as well as a YouTube channel so you can follow along with my progress. Below is a peek at part of today's practice session:




What Can I Play? 

I just read a great article about having pieces "at the ready" to play. It spells out my experience as a classical pianist so well - the tendency to consider time at the piano as work; constantly working to get music up to performance level before performing it and moving on in favor something new. When I am continually learning new pieces, it is easy to feel as if I have nothing to play. Mastery happens just before performance and then gives way to the challenge of learning new music. Yet Andrew Eales…

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New Year, New Project 

There is a longing in me, deep down, to write. I want to share ideas, encourage, inspire, console, comfort, love...through my words. I aim to do this with my piano playing, too, and I think that at times the music is far more effective than any word I might speak with my mouth.

I want to do better at both this year - playing and speaking my words. So once again, after a long respite, I return to this blog, hoping something I write might "speak" to you.

Since it is a New Year, full of promise and possibility…Read more