In this issue...
An Interview with Valentina LisitsaValentina Lisitsa is a formidable pianist with dazzling technique and an ever-growing fan base. A self-made luminary, she was arguably the first classical musician to catapult herself from relative obscurity to superstardom using social media alone. Senior Editor Vanessa Cornett joins her for an exclusive interview
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Piano Teaching Programs ReviewedIn this issue, we look at two programs that assist with piano practicing. These reviews have been written by piano teachers who have no affiliation with the programs, and reviewers have used the materials with real students.
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2017 Directory of Summer Camps and WorkshopsExplore summer offerings for teachers and students in our annual directory of summer camps and workshops.
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Developing sound expectations: Does the sound match the picture?So often the wonderfully phrased and dynamically diverse musical performance in a lesson becomes a lifeless memory of its former glory when presented in public. The teaching techniques discussed in this article all relate to the fundamental concept of student-centered teaching strategies that nurture critical listening skills in our students.
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This is the extended online version of the interview that was printed in the March/April 2017 issue of Clavier Companion
by Vanessa Cornett
Valentina Lisitsa is a formidable pianist with dazzling technique and an ever-growing fan base. A self-made luminary, she was arguably the first classical musician to catapult herself from relative obscurity to superstardom using social media alone. At forty-three, the Ukrainian-American virtuoso now boasts 300,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel and enjoys hundreds of millions of online views. At times controversial, she can be provocative and uncompromising, both on stage and off. Her style of playing and her personality are equally charismatic and engaging, and she was eager to share her perspectives with our readers.
How did your parents support your musical talents as a child?
My case was not by any measure unique. The relatively new definition “tiger mom” could be as easily applied to many parents in ex-USSR, particularly because of cultural similarities between our family traditions. At three years of age I was taken to figure skating, ballet, competitive swimming and piano classes. Only piano survived!
I grew up in a household with just my mom and grandma; my parents were divorced. My mom worked and my grandma took care of me. She was lucky enough to get an excellent education in her youth: a few years of gymnasium, an equivalent of private school, and later on, Odessa Conservatory singing class. My mom had it much harder. Her childhood passed in World War II under German occupation, and she missed precious years of school. She dreamt of becoming an actress but she ended up working in the clothing factory as a seamstress all her life. Nevertheless, the opportunities for culture and music were aplenty. She loved music, the opera in particular. I remember being taken to opera at a very young age.
From the Autumn 2003 issue of Keyboard Companion magazine
by Helen Smith Tarchalski
We are privileged and pleased to share a conversation with Fernando Laires in which he offers a rare glimpse into the exceptional life of an extraordinary man and musician. In this interview, we learn how many of Fernando Laires' perspectives developed and evolved. Although some of his experiences were clearly opportunities that helped to shape his career, others were challenges that he turned into opportunities and life lessons.
Fernando Laires lives by his precept that "piano teachers are more than piano teachers, they are music teachers and tutors about many things, including life itself." He closes his comments by answering a decades-old musing by members of the piano pedagogy field: How do artists of the stature of Fernando Laires and Nelita True co-exist in the career of music while maintaining a deeply devoted marriage?" His advice is simple, and proves that his philosophies and approach to musical and teaching perspectives are indeed inexorably intertwined with his approach to life.
His fascinating story is rich in examples of how we can use our own experiences as "life lessons" that mold us into stronger human beings with a deep sense of mission and artistry.
As a sophomore in college, I performed in a master class given by a former Van Cliburn Competition medalist. At one point, I was asked to play certain chords so that my fingers moved toward the fallboard as they depressed the keys, and this was supposed to change the timbre of these loud chords without actually changing their volume (providing a “richer” sound). It took all of my willpower to quietly follow this advice and not bring up the fact that the piano escapement mechanism makes the basis for the advice completely fallacious. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, so I followed the advice.
This “pushing in” technique caused the hammers to strike the strings more slowly, as I predicted it would, producing a softer sound, giving the master of the class (and the audience) a most glorious false positive. I felt violated, because I had just been used as a tool to advance an illusory belief system I did not share. Asking me to simply play softer would have been equally as effective and a lot simpler. I’ve received instruction like this in more than a few lessons and master classes, and I have encountered many teachers and pianists who subscribe to various misguided beliefs about what can change the tone of a given note at the piano. This has led to my interest in researching the topic.