How Dirk Nowitzki Motivated Me to Pursue My Passion

In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks won the National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship by defeating the Miami Heat in the final round of the playoffs. This is interesting because they were not considered a serious contender for the title at the start of the season. Bemoaning their aging stars, the Bleacher Report ranked them 9th out of 33 teams and urged them to begin rebuilding with younger players, declaring: “They need to forget about their championship window because it is all but shut.” Their aging star player, Dirk Nowitzki, was good on offense, but not great on defense and by his own admission was not a terrific athlete. 

What in the world does this have to do with playing piano? Read more

music-competition-trophy

The Iron Chef and Quantifying Art

I imagine that a lot of people have seen at least one episode of The Iron Chef. I was discussing this with a customer the other day and we decided that we liked the old Japanese version with dubbed English over the new American version (apologies to American moderator Alton Brown, who is great). The Japanese version seems more like a true food fight. All that is missing is Samurai Swords. If you haven’t seen the show, two world class chiefs face off in competition. One is a regular on the show (one of the Iron Chefs) and one is an upstart who wants to knock the resident chef off his or her throne. A panel of bona fide foodies get to enjoy the two meals and determine the winner. The show can be fun because the two contestants have to use a secret ingredient that they do not know about until the start of the show in every dish. If you are patient I will show you how I think this pertains to playing music without too much of a stretch. Read more

Family playing piano

To Parent or Not To Parent

A beautiful and culturally rich life is not something that just happens. It typically must be designed and nurtured into a young person from an early age. I will tell you about one parent who did just that. He pointed his metaphorical bat at the bleachers and knocked it out of the park. It was quite a remarkable achievement.

First, understand that I am really on your side. Being a parent is a tough job. For one thing nearly everyone thinks that they can do a better job at it than you and they will tell you so if they get the chance. This is especially true if they have never had children of their own. Today’s parent has to cope with more distractions and influences trying to capture the minds and hearts of their kids than probably any other generation in history. Having raised children of my own I can sympathize with your plight but today things are even more desperate then when I was raising kids. It seems as though our society has given us very few tools and many challenges to being an effective parent but when it comes down to the nitty gritty we still need to be the parent. We all want to be friends with our kids; we all want to be appreciated and liked by them but sometimes what they need are boundaries, guidance and some degree of tough love, even when they don’t want it and resent our “input”. One consolation is that often when they are grown and especially if they have kids of their own they will appreciate and respect what we did for them in guiding their lives, even though they may have resisted it at the time.

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Piano Keyboard

Compilation of the Best Piano Jokes

‘Haven’t I seen your face before?’ Judge Cleary demanded, looking down at the defendant.
‘Yes, you have, Your Honour,’ the man answered hopefully. ‘I gave your son piano lessons last winter.’
‘Ah, yes,’ recalled Judge Cleary. ‘Twenty years!’

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True story: In teaching a little girl piano, a teacher told her the intervals are called “little” and “big” (for minor/major). The teacher said, “see, minor sounds sad, major sounds happy”. The young girl replied, “I know why the minor 3rd is sad: because it’s little!”

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Musical Quotes, Quips and Anecdotes

Here are some more quips, quotes and anecdotes that I found. The are mostly from composers and pianists but some are by others. Many are humorous but some just interesting.

“If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted, I beg his pardon.”Johannes Brahms

“Sometimes it is to your advantage for people to think you are crazy.”Thelonious Monk

“If I decide to be an idiot then I’ll be an idiot on my own accord”JS Bach

“Get up from that piano. You’re hurtin’ it’s feelin’s”Jelly Roll Morton

“There was no one near to confuse me so I was forced to become original”Joseph Haydn

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Piano Anecdotes – Quotes, Quips and Conundrums about Keys, Conductors and Composers

Here are some quotes and anecdotes that I’ve found. I will start with one of my own. Our Gospel singing group was scheduled to play at a fair put on by a local monastery in the San Gabriel mountains of California. This was back before everyone had digital pianos to schlep around. One of the organizers arranged to have his personal piano brought in but he wasn’t sure when it had last been tuned. Although I am not a piano tuner I brought my electric tuner and tuning hammer along just in case it needed a little “fluffing”. We had several other instrument that had to play in tune with the piano. I also got there a bit early. You can imagine that when the piano finally arrived on stage it was not just out of tune, it was a total horrific disaster. It probably had not been tuned since it had been purchased decades before. I went to work the best I could but I only had time to tune the middle three or four octaves. Another pianist and I split duties and I had to show her the extent of where we could play. We got through the concert somehow without straying too many times into “No man’s land”.

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what is a piano?

What is a Piano?

That may seem like a silly question but you would be surprised at how many people, even skilled piano players, have absolutely no idea what goes on inside the big wooden box or even where the design originally came from. I’d like to give you a quick thumbnail sketch of what a piano is, a smidge of its history and how it works. I will try to keep exotic nomenclature to a minimum (backcheck, key bushing, agraffe, sostenudo, etc.).

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Benefits of children learning the piano

A Great Gift: Music for Children – Part 5

If you’ve missed the first four (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) award winning parts of this series (well, I awarded myself some Oreos for my good work if that counts) we are discussing the tremendous value of a musical education to children and how we can help our kids benefit from music. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. Before we go any further, let me touch on something that I missed. I said in an earlier post that I was going to talk about what we can do for the really little guys – infants, toddlers and preschoolers, to help them get a piece of the musical action. Have you ever noticed how little ones dance or sway to music when it is being played? It actually helps them to develope their motor skills. Young children love music and they are especially attracted to music with a nice beat, fun lyrics and a happy melody. Conversely, if you want to encourage that serial killer streak in your little ones do put on some good hardcore rap, screamo, death metal or something of that ilk. Don’t shoot the messenger folks. Singing with our young children is a wonderful activity that will foster a love of music and also will strengthen the emotional bonds we have with them. I would encourage you to help them develope a love of different kinds of music: classical, baroque, bossa nova, folk, Celtic, etc. It’s all good and it all builds the foundation. If you can stream Pandora on your smart phone or computer you can create your own custom music channels for your children. The Creator gave us music as a great perk so let’s share the best of it with our kids.

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benefits of music lessons for kids

A Great Gift: Music for Children – Part 4

I am going to give you some tools today to help you give your child one of the best leg-ups you can in life, that is, learning to play a musical instrument. Before we start let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits we have seen so far in a musical education for a young person.

  • Improved math and science scores
  • Improved over all scholastic achievement
  • Better social skills
  • Greater self-confidence
  • Higher I.Q.
  • Greater appreciation for the arts
  • A great stress relieving tool
  • A positive outlet of self-expression

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Piano Keys

A Great Gift – Music for Children – Part 3

I really had great aspirations. No, I really did. I was going to do all of this tedious research and give you the top five studies that have shown the dramatic, profound and even incredible impact that a musical education has on children, especially on a young child. Take my word for it, it is really is pretty incredible and I was going to give you this ponderous and somewhat tedious blog post – copiously footnoted with quotes and the credentials of the quotees  (Those quoted? Pontificators? Whatever). Well, that will need to wait for another week but if you do any research at all on the web you will find a surfeit of scholarly articles about how a musical education supercharges a child’s life. Higher I.Q.? You bet. Greater self-confidence? Indisputably. Improve math and science acumen? Like mini-Einsteins. Social skills, poise and ability to perform under pressure? Think Michael Buble vs. your typical code monkey (and my apologies to all you non-musician code monkeys).

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