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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…

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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…

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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…

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Intention 

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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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. 

FEELS LIKE COMING HOME 

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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Does it Matter Who Plays the Music? 

Here is wonderful article about a pianist's interpretation:  The Way is Not the Only Way

I remember being asked in college to identify a pianist simply by listening to a recording and thinking, how in the world can I identify a specific pianist? Doesn't all classical piano sound the same? Little did I know that each person brings a piece of themselves into each performance, regardless of how "common" his choice of repertoire. 

When a listener takes the time to listen to the same piece of music played by…

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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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