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September/October 2018: Variations

The music of life Serious illness visited my husband last winter. Our lives suddenly became a round of doctor appointments, surgery, tests, treatments, and continual bad news. My husband and I have received thoughts, prayers, food, visits, gifts both serious and funny, cards, and people's heartfelt love. We are gratefu...
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May/June 2018: Variations

girl
Rediscovering the joy of music  1950.  Rediscovering the Joy of Music Lincoln, Nebraska. I am four years old, living with my parents in a new GI-Bill financed tract house, dancing around my bedroom to Side B of my Golden Record of The Five Little Firemen . It is a 5-inch 78 RPM made of yellow plastic, and I am quickly wearing down its gro...
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March 26

Johannes Brahms
1874 - Premiere of Johannes Brahms's Variations on a Hungarian Song, Op. 21 no. 2 for piano, in London.
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Jan/Feb 2018 Variations: A nickel for every mistake

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Seven-year-old Serena's mother describes her daughter's first piano practice of every week. "We always have tears! If she makes even one mistake, she is ready to give up. She expects herself to be able to the play the piece perfectly the first time. No matter what I say, she gets upset. Eventually, she turns her frustration on me, which means she e...
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Studios are not just in living rooms anymore

Guitar-Orchestra-compressed
Sometimes the world brings people into your life who ignite your energy and restore your passion for teaching. Last February, on a sunny morning in Austin, Texas, last February, I met two such individuals, Wendy Kuo and Klondike Steadman, the executive directors and owners of The Orpheus Academy, a music school with 410 students employing more than...
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Perfectly managing imperfection

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. ---Vaclav Havel I am listening to seventeen-year-old Olivia play her college audition pieces: a Chopin Ballade and a Bach Prelude and Fugue. I am not her teacher; Olivia has an outstanding mentor at a renowned ...
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Variations: Being comfortable in your teacher skin

I recently met a passionate young teacher who told me this story: "One of my students came up to me the other day and observed: 'Mrs. L., you either love what you do, or you just can't find another job!' The child, only seven years old, had already intuited society's adage: 'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.'" We laughed together over this...
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Make parents your partners

​In her book ​The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, ​Jessica Laney writes,"... why do so many teachers cite the challenge of dealing with their students' parents as their main reason for abandoning the classroom?" 1 Throughout the public and private school systems, the relationships between parents...
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Variations: Take the leap

Do you remember your first piano student? I certainly do. His name was Steve Glickman, and I was his fifth piano teacher in four years. It was 1974. I had just completed my Master's degree in Piano Performance at Northwestern. True, I had studied Piano Pedagogy with the legendary Fran Larimer, and had already taught several students as part of her ...
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Making time for happiness

When will I eat breakfast?" This question came from eleven-year old Irene during a recent interview with a family seeking piano lessons. The mother called me wanting to transfer Irene and her eight-year-old brother to a new piano teacher so "We can get our life back." Both children had studied from the age of five at the area's most prestigious mus...
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C.P.E. Bach meets Death Cab for Cutie

​I think I have finally reached an age where I can say: "Teaching today just isn't like it used to be." In the "good old days," my way of working with a high-school sophomore went like this: I would peruse the MTNA Syllabus and choose several appropriate pieces listed at my student's current performance level. At the next lesson, I would demon...
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"I have a student who..."

​The next time you are sitting with a group of teachers, count the number of times someone says, "I have a student who..." When I am on the road giving workshops and teachers approach me at the break, these words begin the phrase I hear most often. The speaker usually goes on to describe some problem with a student that he or she has so far been un...
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Clara Schumann: Ambivalence and resilience

The lives of Clara and Robert Schumann make great movies.Two exist: Hollywood's "Song of Love" (1947), starring Katherine Hepburn as Clara Schumann and Paul Henreid as Robert, and the German film "Frühlingssinfonie  (1983), starring Nastassja Kinski and Herbert  Gronemeyer. Both films present what have become  typical versions of Cla...
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Seeds for the future

Fallow periods. Farmers know every crop field needs them. The earth cannot sustain continuous growth. Why then do we humans think we can? Unflagging effort creates steady progress, or so the story goes. Yet who among us is capable of unceasing work and ever-expanding creativity? The instant communication of this twenty-first century world heightens...
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