In this issue:

– Upcoming concerts
– Golandsky Institute Teacher Training Workshop in NYC
– Masterclass on the Taubman Approach at Ottawa Steinway Gallery

Dear Students, Parents, and Special Guests,

I hope this finds you all well! Here’s an Autumn haiku by the Zen poet Basho (1644–94) to kick things off:

First white snow of fall
just enough to bend
the leaves
Of faded daffodils

I love haiku because of their ability to evoke thoughts, feelings, and emotions, with just a few words. Classic haiku follow very strict forms, which one would think might limit their ability to touch us, but in the hands of a master such as Basho, just the opposite is true. They’re like tiny miracles.

Music has the ability to touch us in similar, deeply personal ways. How we react to specific musical gestures, harmonies, combinations of sounds, etc., is why we listen to music – we relate to it in some way that resonates with us, sometimes intellectually, sometimes emotionally, and at other times in ways which simply defy description. I could try to describe how the Schubert lied “Gute Nacht” makes me feel, and I might be able to communicate something of the heartbreak, but ultimately words will fail me, because they simply don’t exist in my inner world. And that’s more than appropriate, because it’s part of what makes music so mysterious and magical.

If any of you have known me for more than five minutes, you know that my favorite composer is Claude Debussy (1862–1918), and it’s because more than any other composer he touches that inner world. Debussy himself said it best: “Music is intended to express the inexpressible”. Next year is the centenary of Debussy’s death, and to pay homage to this great composer, I am playing much of his piano music in several recitals in Canada and the United States. Some dates have yet to be determined, but the first recital will on be on March 17, 2018, at a performance space in New York City called Spectrum. I’m excited to be the headliner for an entire week of Debussy’s music to be performed there. Toward the end of the year I will be playing in Ottawa and Halifax. Other cities will include Edmonton, Vancouver, Kitchener, Boulder CO, Portland OR, Wilmington DE, and Middlebury VT. Stay tuned for more information as dates become available.

Last week I attended the Golandsky Institute’s Teacher Training workshop given at Yamaha Studios in New York City. The Institute, of which I’m a member, gives several workshops throughout the year in New York, Berkeley CA, Portland OR, and Montreal, in addition to the Summer Symposium in Princeton NJ. The teacher training workshops focus on the pedagogy of the Taubman Approach: how best to teach the concepts to one’s students. This fall’s topics included — I hope you’re sitting down — the C major scale, and chord playing. Riveting stuff! for me at any rate. I honestly love this kind of note-to-note detail, because I understand that a sound, reliable, healthy technique is built brick by brick, with all the elements in place, taught in a logical, progressive manner. My teacher, John Bloomfield, gave the lecture on the C major scale. I took the opportunity to have a two-hour lesson with John the following day. Sometimes my students are surprised to hear that I still take lessons from John as often as possible. Dorothy Taubman was once asked by an interviewer, “What makes you a good teacher?” to which she famously replied, “I never stopped being a student”. Words to live by.

Lastly, on Saturday, November 18 at 630pm, I will be giving a free masterclass based on the Taubman Approach at the Steinway Piano Gallery, 1481 Innes Road in Ottawa. I will give a brief talk on the Approach, then listen to and coach pianists on things they can do immediately to help create a tension-free experience at the keyboard. It should be a fun and interesting evening, and I hope you can join us! You can register for the event here.

Enjoy the brisk fall weather!

If you would like to have this monthly newsletter sent to you by email, please write to me at robert@robertdvorkin.com