Robert Dvorkin

All entries in the Newsletter category

March – April 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to the March/April 2018 Newsletter! In this issue:

Schedule
News
Studio Recital Reminder
The Practice Room: How much does practicing hands separately really help?
The Concert Hall: A rare bootleg video of Ivo Pogorelich

SCHEDULE

Please note that the Studio will be closed on the following days in April:

• Saturday, April 7 (recital in Waterloo, ON)
• Saturday, April 14 through Sunday, April 22 (vacation)

I will be giving makeup lessons for those times the last week of April and the first week of May. Please contact me to schedule.

NEWS

On Friday, April 6, I will be giving a lecture-demonstration of the Taubman Approach to the graduate Piano Pedagogy class of Professor Gilles Comeau at the University of Ottawa.

On Saturday, April 7, I will be performing the complete Debussy Préludes at The Music Room in Waterloo, ON. For more information please go to http://www.k-wcms.com/KWCMS/Concerts/Entries/2018/4/7_Entry_1.html

On Friday, April 27, I will be giving a masterclass at the Ottawa Steinway Gallery. Local area teachers, please feel free to send your students that would like to perform!

I’m very happy to announce that I will be giving a concert in Vancouver, BC, in July for Music Friends (www.mymusicfriends.com), a wonderful organization that arranges house concerts in the Vancouver area. Program to be determined, but it will be all-Debussy, continuing my personal homage to my favorite composer on the centenary of his death.

There is still space available for this year’s Golandsky Institute Summer Symposium, to be held July 29 through August 4 at Lewis and Clark University in Portland, Oregon. For more information please go to https://golandskyinstitute.org/symposium/. Please don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any questions about this!

STUDIO RECITAL REMINDER

A reminder to all students that the Studio Recital will be held Saturday May 12 at the Ottawa Steinway Gallery from 6:30 – 8:30pm. Please make sure you have something prepared to play. It does not have to be “performance ready”, and it does not have to be an entire piece, but please come prepared to make an offering to the class. (Not a sacrificial offering, however.)

THE PRACTICE ROOM: HANDS SEPARATELY VS. HANDS TOGETHER

When students begin a new piece, or are reworking an older piece, there is often a great temptation to spend a certain amount of time practicing hands separately at the outset, and this makes sense intuitively. But what should practicing hands separately accomplish, and at what point do those returns start to diminish?

(Quick disclaimer: For those going through retraining in the Taubman Approach, this will not immediately apply, since a lot of time is devoted initially to learning the motions in each hand separately.)

Let’s begin by taking this out of the practice room and into another favorite arena of mine, the kitchen! Imagine in one pot you’re boiling pasta, and in a saucepan you’re sautéeing sliced eggplant. Now imagine stirring the pasta while simultaneously turning the eggplant. A very sophisticated version of patting your head and rubbing your tummy. Not so easy, right? But if that’s what you wanted to do, how much would practicing each individually allow you to do them simultaneously with ease?

The answer is, not much. If you’ve never stirred pasta in boiling water or sautéed eggplant, you would have to try them each once or twice and you would get the hang of it. But doing them simultaneously requires the construction of a different neural pathway than doing them separately, and because of this, practicing hands separately has limited efficacy when it comes to learning a piece.

Why is this? The answer lies in the two hemispheres of the brain. Two things need to be considered: one is that when you do something with one hand only, the brain suppresses motion to the other hand. The other is that only when you do things hands together are you engaging the corpus callosum, or the fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It is this connection that facilitates the simultaneous action of the two hands making disparate motions.

When beginning a new piece, or working out a passage, by all means, practice hands separately, so that you can determine what the best fingering is, how to apply rotation, in-and-out, shaping, etc. But once the logistics, so to say, of a given passage are worked out, continuing to practice hands separately will not help when you start practicing hands together; that’s going to be an entirely different experience. The sooner you begin to work out the complexities created by playing hands together, the more quickly you will learn the passage/piece.

Let’s look at another analogy that I think might be helpful when it comes to what you should experience when playing hands together: driving. Driving is an incredibly complex operation that involves myriad tasks: putting the car into gear, applying the gas or brake, steering, watching the road (other vehicles, lights, signs, pedestrians), continually checking one of three rear-view mirrors … the list goes on. But no one learns to drive by sitting in a parked car and practicing turning the steering wheel, then moving to pressing the gas, then the brake, and the remaining tasks in a serial way. It’s complicated, for sure, but learning to drive means doing these things simultaneously, out of necessity. At first it feels impossibly convoluted, but eventually the individual motions fold into a larger series of activities, and it feels like you’re doing one thing: driving.

When learning a piece, it’s the same thing. Unless both hands are making the exact same motions — e.g., if you’re playing a piece that consists only of a C-major contrary motion scale, which seems unlikely — you have to train in making the two hands do disparate motions simultaneously, until it feels like one thing. At that moment you have developed the neural pathway necessary to make it work, and it no longer feels like two separate activities. You’re no longer patting your head, and rubbing your tummy, you’re PattingYourHeadAndRubbingYourTummy. One thing.

The truth is, you do this hundreds if not thousands of times in the course of your day, it just doesn’t dawn on you that you’re doing two different things. Driving a car or riding a bike are good examples. Using a knife and fork. Drying your hair with a hair dryer while brushing it. Tying a shoe. Swimming. Walking and texting. (I highly unrecommend that last one, by the way, though I know we all do it.) All of these neuroligically complex things we take for granted, but none of them were completely learned one hand (or foot) at a time. (Incidentally, please don’t ask me to explain what happens neurologically with pipe-organists, who have to play multiple manual keyboards, pedalboards, manipulate hundreds of stops, etc. That’s a superhuman task that defies explanation.)

Dorothy Taubman, as usual, said it best: “If you’re practicing with the left hand alone, then the right hand alone, then hands together, you’re learning three pieces”. Who’s got time for that?

THE CONCERT HALL: IVO POGORELICH PLAYS BALAKIREV’S “ISLAMEY”

If you want to see a great example of someone who knows how to move at the keyboard — and how not to move at the keyboard — take a look at this remarkable bootleg video of the Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich from a 1992 performance at Carnegie Hall. Evidently this video was known about for years but has only recently surfaced and is, for the time being at least, available on YouTube. My friend and colleague, the pianist Zsolt Bognár, describes it thusly: “The fabled performance has finally surfaced: collectors in the 90s used to beg, borrow, or steal this video of Pogorelich playing Balakirev in Carnegie Hall in 1992, where he created a legendary furore. My teacher Sergei Babayan was present, and said the whole performance felt like a gigantic limitless crescendo. Those present reported feeling pressed into their seats.”

Islamey is a notoriously difficult work written by the Russian composer Mily Balakirev (1837 – 1910). Very few pianists have mastered it, and Pogorelich shows us how it’s done. The movements are fluid but ruthlessly efficient, while his torso remains grounded and centered. The control is miraculous. But beyond the astonishing technical feats he accomplishes, Pogorelich also brings to this piece an inexorable rhythmic drive that never flags nor rushes, a kaleidoscope of colours, soaring phrasing, and a sweep that will carry you away. The slow(er) middle section in particular has moments that are heartbreakingly beautiful, in my opinion.

Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/cP4dtUvLAeQ

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments on the Newsletter. Thanks for reading, and happy practicing!

Copyright © 2018 Robert Dvorkin Music Studios

February 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to the February 2018 Newsletter! In this issue:

Schedule
Studio Recital
Upcoming performances
Taubman workshop in Montréal
Golandsky Institute Summer Symposium in Portland, Oregon
Why memorize?
Recommended concerts

Inline images 1

Schedule
The Studio will be closed this month on the following days: Thursday and Friday, 8 and 9 February; and Saturday, 17 February. Students are encouraged, though not obligated, to schedule makeup lessons for the days I will be away.

Studio Recital
There will be a Studio Recital given at the Ottawa Steinway Gallery, 1481 Innes Road, on Saturday,12 May 2018, from 6:30pm –– 8:30pm. Students are encouraged to prepare a piece or part of one for the recital. It does not have to be a finished product, or even a complete piece, but unless you’re in the throes of retraining, you are strongly encouraged to play something. Even if you are not playing, please come support your fellow students. Refreshments will be served afterward.

Upcoming performances
On Thursday this week I will be performing Debussy’s suite Pour le piano in a group concert at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. The concert is part of a series called The Lives of the Piano and is curated by Associate Dean Lisa Yui. I played in this series last year and I’m honored to have been asked to return.

I’m very pleased to announce that I have been asked to perform at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society on Saturday, 7 April. I’ll be playing the complete Préludes of Claude Debussy.

There are more performances coming up but as the dates have not been set at this writing, I’ll let you know about them in future Newsletters.

Taubman workshop in Montréal
There will be a one-day workshop on the Taubman Approach given at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal. Hosted by my friend, colleague, and Conservatoire Professor Mariko Sato, it will feature talks and masterclasses by Golandsky Institute co-founder Mary Moran, and Certified Instructors Mariko and Audrey Marshall. Students interested in attending may go to https://www.golandskyinstitute.org/workshops/montreal-workshop-2018 for details on how to register. Also, I have space available in my car! and I’ll be returning to Ottawa immediately after the workshop to attend Maestro David Jalbert’s performance of Brahms’ D Minor Piano Concerto that evening (see “Recommended Concerts”).

Golandsky Institute Summer Symposium in Portland, Oregon
I’m happy to announce that this year’s Golandsky Institute Summer Symposium is proceeding as scheduled, but at a new venue: Lewis and Clark University in Portland, Oregon. The dates are 29 July – 4 August. I will be going, and it would be great to see you there too! Register at https://form.jotform.com/80105776505960.

Why memorize?
Although I don’t insist that students memorize music, it’s something I always encourage them to do. I don’t have any moral objections whatsoever to artists who choose to play from the music. It’s something that is happening with increasing frequency in concert halls these days. Certainly a lot of contemporary music can be extremely complicated and I bow to those who endeavor to play it, much less memorize it:

 

Inline images 1

(Yes, this is a real piece!)

For the rest of us mere mortals, however, memorization should not be looked upon as a burden, but rather as a liberation from the stimulus and response required to navigate between the music desk and the keyboard. Of course it requires more time and effort to memorize, but there are additional payoffs. Music that is memorized is also internalized, and gives one a further sense of ownership and control over the piece. It allows for greater aural-tactile response (the ability to listen to what’s being produced and respond to it physically) because one can better focus on line, sound production, colour, etc., without the interruption of having to glance back and forth, turning pages (whether one does it oneself (never advisable) or uses a page-turner), worrying about losing one’s place on the score, and the like. Yes, it’s a bit like walking the high-wire without a net, but I have some strategies that will help you feel more comfortable playing from memory in front of an audience:

Analyze the piece you’re playing. Even if you aren’t skilled in theory, harmony, form and counterpoint, you can look at a piece and figure out what it’s doing and where it’s going. You can do this with the music away from the keyboard. What are the themes? When do they appear? How does the piece begin and end? Dividing it up into obvious sections can help you “structuralize” a piece so that it feels like one thing that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You have the sense that you are moving through a familiar space. Of course, having theory, harmony, form and counterpoint skills can be very helpful when learning music, because they give you external reference points that can be used mnemonically as you traverse through the piece.

Memorize small sections. This is an extension of an oft-harangued theme of my teaching: small is better. Look at your piece and imagine how much of it you could play without looking at the music. One measure? Half a measure? Two notes? It doesn’t matter. Whatever the group is, look at it on the page, then watch your hands play it. If it’s too much, make it a smaller group. Try to play that group seven times in a row without a mistake. When that can be done, go on to the next group and do the same thing. Then try to play those two groups together without looking at the music. While it’s not necessary to only apply this method when learning a piece, it’s great to have it in the mix.

Visualize yourself playing the piece. This can be challenging at first, but it’s very effective. I’m not talking about having a dreamy, gauzy impression of yourself playing beautifully (though you no doubt can), I’m talking about imagining each note and seeing yourself playing it in detail. With the correct fingering. Not so easy. But enormously effective for memorization.

In the process of memorizing a piece, if you get stuck, don’t immediately refer back to the music. Rather, spend a couple of minutes trying to recall the notes. Can you remember some part of it? What the left hand does? What the right hand does? Can you hear it in your mind’s ear? Could you try to recreate that on the keyboard? Stretching yourself cognitively in this manner can really help.

Play for people. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your friends and family. Ask if you can play the piece you’re trying to memorize for them. The added adrenaline is great for highlighting any parts that aren’t yet thoroughly learned. If you have to stop, that’s okay. Try to remember where that spot was, then devote extra attention to it in your next practice session.

Let me know if you have your own particular memorizing strategy, I would love to know about it!

Recommended concerts
Is there anything Roland Graham cannot do? This Wednesday at noon, the conductor/music director/pianist/organist/curator trains his talent toward the harpsichord in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in the series he curates, Doors Open for Music at Southminster. Also on the program is Handel’s Gloria, featuring soprano Isabelle Lacroix. Doors Open for Music at Southminster is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.

University of Ottawa Professor David Jalbert will be playing Brahms’ PIano Concerto in D Minor with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra on Saturday, 17 February 2018, 8:00pm, at Centrepoint Theatres. Tickets can be purchased here. If you have not yet heard Maestro Jalbert, you owe it to yourself to go to this concert. He is an incredible pianist and we are very fortunate indeed to have him in our midst. Incidentally, the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra is celebrating its 25th anniversary! They deserve your support.

Inline images 1

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments on the Newsletter. Thanks for reading and happy practicing!

Copyright © 2018 Robert Dvorkin Music Studios

January 2018 Newsletter

Dear Students, Parents, and Special Guests,

Happy New Year, first of all. I hope you and yours had a great holiday season. May 2018 bring you everything you need to be fulfilled, happy, and productive, for yourself, for your families, and for your communities.

Inline image 1

In this issue:

● Schedule
● New Students
● 2018 Resolutions
● Deliberate Practice
● 
Now Taking in Laundry

Schedule
There are no further scheduled closings for the month of January 2018.

New Students
The Studio has acquired five new students recently! Please join me in welcoming Keegan, Riccardo, Brandon, Emil, and Steve.

2018 Resolutions
For 2018 I’m going to try a little experiment in semantics, to see if it makes a difference. Traditionally I’ve always made resolutions, which seems a little heavy-handed (and you know we don’t like those here). I don’t keep count, but I’m guessing my track record of staying with those resolutions in the past has probably been typical, which is to say, dismal. So this year I’m calling them “aspirations”. It has a nicer, lighter sound to it, don’t you think? I’ll spare you my personal ones (they’re not particularly exotic — eat less, exercise more, up the meditation ante, the usual) but I will share with you what I aspire to as a teacher this year. Students, consider yourselves forewarned:

      • Setting Goals: Why should I be the only one? I would like to know what you are aspiring to, and how I can help you get there.
      • How to Practice: Expect to hear more about this, having a mindset of Deliberate Practice, what strategies to use, how to apply the principles, when to ramp it up, when to throttle it back, etc.
      • Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios: I know this one sounds dull as dirt, but I’m committing to keeping this one on a daily basis, and I’m going to recommend that you do, too. Scales in particular are so fundamental to how we traverse the keyboard. They’re complicated and require a lot of attention, but the payoff is tremendous.
      • Never resting: The great cellist Janos Starker (1924 – 2013) was once asked in an interview if he could sum up his life’s work as a cellist, to which he responded: “It’s the continual discovery of smaller and smaller points of tension to release”. Starker said this in his twilight years, and it’s so inspiring to me. Learning never stops, growing never stops, improvement never stops. So I will try to impart this to my students as a teacher, by example, one hopes, but also encouraging all of you to continually strive to be better, for yourself, for your audience, for the music itself.


Deliberate Practice
When speaking about how to practice, it’s impossible (for me, anyway) to discuss this without talking about the principles of Deliberate Practice. It’s a great term, but it’s much easier to say than to do. What’s involved here? Deliberate Practice simply means not doing things by rote, with endless, mindless repetition, but rather: establishing a goal (no matter how small; often the more atomic the better), coming up with a strategy to achieve that goal, putting that into action, assessing if the action is bringing you closer to the goal or not (feedback), making any necessary changes to the strategy, putting that into action, feedback, rinse and repeat (and repeat (and repeat)). Here’s a rather crude graphic representation as a flowchart:

 

Inline image 2

Note that one definition of insanity (often misattributed to Einstein, apparently) is “repeating the same thing but expecting different results”. Deliberate Practice is the antidote. If you are playing something badly, repeating it over and over again is not going to make it better. What will make it better, potentially, is putting on your detective’s hat and trying to figure out why it’s not playing/feeling/sounding like it should, or could. Another axiom to keep in mind (and this I attribute to my brother’s tennis pro): “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent“. And in my experience, habits, whether good or bad, are developed very quickly, and are less easily undone (or redone). The brain is agnostic as far is this is concerned. It will do whatever you tell it to. The mind, if I may make the distinction, is where discriminating awareness takes place, the executive function that has to constantly assess and reassess whether a passage is working well or not. One more quote from the great Polish teacher Theodor Leschetizky (1830 – 1915) and I’ll get off my soapbox (for now):

“Decide exactly what it is you want to do in the first place; then how you will do it; then play it. Stop and think if you played it in the way you meant to do; then only, if sure of this, go ahead. Without concentration, remember, you can do nothing. The brain must guide the fingers, not the fingers the brain.”

 Thanks, Ted, I couldn’t have said it better (or in fewer words) myself.

Inline image 1

Laundry Liszt
The great Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) was reported to have told his students who were struggling with technique to “wash their dirty linen at home”. With all due respect to the master, I say, please bring me your laundry. It’s my job, and my great pleasure, to help you unravel the mysteries of pianism, so that you can play your instrument as it should be played: with joy, ease, and great satisfaction. I look forward to helping you achieve your pianistic goals in 2018! Just know that I don’t use fabric softener.
WIth kindest regards and much gratitude,
Robert

Inline image 1

If you would like to receive this Newsletter by email, please write to me at robert@robertdvorkin.com.

Copyright © 2018 Robert Dvorkin Music Studios

December 2017 Newsletter

In this issue:

● Vacation schedule
● Masterclass guest teacher
● Recommended concert
● Thoughts on rotation

Dear Students, Parents, and Special Guests,

Another year has just about come and gone! As I reflect upon the past 12 months, I feel very grateful for my students, their parents, and all my musical colleagues here in Ottawa and beyond for their dedication and hard work. Being a musician, whether one does it professionally or strictly for one’s own enjoyment, is a true gift and a privilege. As a teacher and performing artist, not a day goes by when I don’t contemplate my great good fortune in being able to live a musical life, and I have my students to thank for that.

VACATION SCHEDULE

The Studio will be closed from Monday, 25 December 2017, and will re-open on Tuesday, 2 January 2018. Students are welcome, though not obligated, to reschedule missed lessons in the New Year. Students who will be away during the Holidays should let me know no later than 48 hours in advance. Please refer to the Studio Policy regarding absences and scheduling make-up lessons.

MASTERCLASS GUEST TEACHER

I will be conducting a masterclass as a guest teacher for Ryan Phelps’ studio on Friday, 8 December 2017, at 6:00pm, at the Steinway Gallery Ottawa, 1481 Innes Road. Some of the repertoire being played will include the Chopin “Winter Wind” Etude, and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor Op. 23 No. 5. You are welcome to attend!

RECOMMENDED CONCERT

My friends and colleagues Roland Graham and Matthew Larkin will be leading two performances of Handel’s Messiah this week with the Rideau Chorale, Thursday and Friday, 7 and 8 December at 7:30pm at Southminster United Church, 15 Aylmer Avenue. Roland and Matthew are musicians of the highest calibre and the Rideau Chorale is a great ensemble (full disclosure: I am an alumnus!). Please don’t miss this incredible event (though it conflicts with the above Masterclass — Ottawa is nothing if not an embarrassment of musical riches!). You can buy your tickets here.

THOUGHTS ON ROTATION

Now for the geek section of the Newsletter: When pianists are re-trained in the Taubman Approach, an enormous emphasis is initially placed on rotation, meaning the placement of the finger into the key by means of pronation and supination of the forearm. Questions often arise about the necessity of this phase of retraining, and of its ultimate efficacy, particularly in speed. Tension, muscular fatigue, or pain while playing is caused primarily by favouring the fingers alone, misalignment of the playing apparatus (fingers, hand, and arm), or both. In order to relieve the burden or work from the fingers alone, and to ensure that each entry into the key feels strong, capable, and free, there must be a connection between the fingers/hand and the forearm. Rotation is the primary means of establishing that connection. Because it relieves the fingers of much of the workload, they move more freely, and tension and fatigue are far less likely to occur. The use of rotation also involves and facilitates the favorable posture of the finger, which “lands and stands” on the key in its natural curvature, without flexion (curling) or extension (splaying). It allows the finger to enter the key feeling completely aligned with and connected to the forearm.

As the student progresses, the initially large rotational movements are minimized, but not ever entirely eliminated. Rotation folds into other movements and becomes part of a synergistic whole. At that point students begin to feel an ease at the keyboard they may have not previously experienced. Even the so-called “double-rotation” (the anticipation of a rotation into the key by a preparatory swing in the opposite direction) can be achieved at great speeds when minimized, and allows for total alignment, control, and release of each finger as it enters and leaves the key. When the pianist is thoroughly trained, the rotation is often more “felt” than observed, but its beneficial effects are undeniably palpable.

So why is so much time and effort spent on learning how to rotate? The piano is a relatively static object compared to the infinite combinations of movements humans beings are capable of making, and a lot can go wrong unless the pianist is trained in learning how to rotate in a precise, efficient manner. Rotation, learned incorrectly, can lead to ungainly and inefficient movements. Retraining in the Taubman Approach requires the objective observation of a trained teacher such as myself, to ensure that the student stays within the parameters of efficient, coordinate movement. This can take time, but it is time well-spent in the process of learning how to play the piano with freedom and expression.

Inline image 1

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Newsletter, and please don’t ever hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you! Please enjoy whatever holiday you might celebrate as the year draws to a close. I look forward to seeing you in 2018!

With gratitude and appreciation,

Robert

__________________________________

If you wish to receive this Newsletter by email, please write to me at robert@robertdvorkin.com.

Copyright © 2018 Robert Dvorkin Music Studios

November 2017 Newsletter

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