Category Archives: Piano

Why I Started Piano Lessons at 26


Go to the profile of Alex Korchinski

Humility and practice go a long way in keeping a promise to myself

had played piano for over a decade, but my fingers still plunked the keys with the precision of bratwursts.

The way I saw it, I had an excuse: I had never taken a formal lesson.

Piano became a hobby of mine in junior high. I wish I could say I was inspired by a Mozart concerto and had a grand vision of morphing into a musical maestro. But the truth is that I just really liked Linkin Park. We had a piano in our living room, and I thought it’d be awesome to learn their hit song, “In the End.” That was my grand vision.

Those first nine notes, which I insisted on learning by ear, took me a week and a hundred listens to unlock. I was not a musical prodigy — I was just persistent and obsessed with a rock band.

The more I played — and I would learn every song from their debut album Hybrid Theory — the better I got. Songs that used to take me weeks to learn started to take days. Then hours. My progress was addictive.

I dove into piano like a seagull seeking sardines. I jammed on the keys after school each day. I learned how to play the chord progressions and melodies from dozens of pop songs. I taught myself basic music theory. I even wrote my own music.

But I refused to take lessons. Didn’t need ’em. They would ruin the fun, I thought.

I brought a cheap keyboard with me to college. When mathematical modeling homework grew too tiresome, I took breaks by tinkering with songs on the piano.

When I finished university, my parents gave me a beautiful Yamaha keyboard as a graduation gift. I placed it in my new grown-up apartment, excited to play every day.

But I didn’t. Between long hours at work and a barrage of personal experiments, the piano’s beauty was ornamental; its keys covered in dust.

I was stuck. When I did sit down to play, the adolescent joy flowed, only to be stymied by mid-twenties cynicism. I’d hear my sausage fingers hit wrong note after wrong note, and think, Dude, for as long as you’ve been playing, you still suck.

I was sick of being mediocre at something I loved. I wanted to get better. I just needed a goal. So I made it my New Year’s resolution to put on a piano recital.

That motivated me to plow through the cynicism. I picked up right where I’d left off in high school — figuring out songs in mere minutes and learning them just well enough to jam along.

I picked a crowd-pleaser to master for my recital: “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift (Oh, how my musical taste has grown since junior high). I learned it the same way as I had the songs before — no sheet music, no tutorials, and no teachers. Besides, I was always my own best teacher. I learned by doing, dammit.

It only took me a few listens to figure out T Swift’s chord progression, melody, and chorus. It took me a few more to memorize everything. All I had to do was play it again and again until muscle memory took over.

After a few weeks, I thought I was pretty decent — closing in on my New Year’s resolution after just one month. I showed off the song to my friends. They all had the same reaction: “Not bad.”

I could hear the subtext: Not bad for someone with no formal training. Not bad for a cheap laugh at a party. Not bad for an amateur.

The bottom line was, it wasn’t good. No matter how much I practiced, my performance still stunk of mediocrity. My technique was abysmal; my hands moved at the speed of an arthritic octogenarian’s.

It was tough to admit: Maybe I’m not such a great teacher. If I actually wanted to do this — to not just play piano, but to perform — I would need to swallow my pride and learn from someone more skilled than myself.

Thirteen years after hitting my first note, I hopped on Yelp and searched for “piano lessons.” I found McAllister Music Studio, which seemed perfect: They had a 5-star Yelp rating, were located 10 blocks from my apartment, and held piano recitals in December.

I should note that my private piano lessons weren’t cheap: $60/hour. I’d have to cut back on extraneous spending, but I had enough to cover the cost. I count myself as lucky, since many can’t afford private tutelage to pursue a passion.

But just as many say “can’t” when they really mean “won’t.” And I didn’t want to be part of that second group. The check could’ve been for $30 or $300 — either way, the monetary investment signaled commitment. After all, if money was too big a hurdle, how could I expect to climb others? I booked a lesson for the following Wednesday.

I was nervous before my first lesson. The butterflies were bolstered by a run-in with the previous student, an 8-year-old girl. She looked down at her tiny shoes as we passed one another. I was twice her height and had been playing piano longer than she’d been alive, but we were probably at the same musical level. I felt like I was going back to third grade.

My mental image of piano teachers added to my anxiety. I’d heard so many horror stories of adults suffering from pre-pubescent piano PTSD after a verbal shellacking from a strict teacher. I had pictured this prototypical piano teacher looking like Ruth Bader Ginsberg — wrinkly, tough, and demanding.

Those fears were quelled when I met my teacher, Debbie. She couldn’t have been further from Justice Ginsberg — young, with dark brown bangs, and a bright smile. She was fun, upbeat, and sometimes spoke with a delightful sing-song cadence to her voice. (I later found out that she’s an amazing singer-songwriter.)

During my first lesson, Debbie assessed my skill level by watching me play “Blank Space.” She immediately zeroed in on my worst habit: I only played with four fingers. My pinkies hung off my hands like gnarled antennas.

She gave me two pieces of homework: Buy a piano lesson book and practice playing with just my pinkies.

For the next week, that’s what I did, plunking note after note with only my pinkies. It was humbling homework. It felt like I had been preparing and serving up 5-course meals all by myself only to suddenly be demoted to cutting carrots.

Despite the literal monotony, I was proud to display my pinkie prowess at my second lesson. My reward was another week of practice and tackling another bad habit: Leaving my foot on the pedal when I played. I had justified the muddiness by claiming that it added ambiance. Debbie was dismissive and gave me a pedal exercise to smooth the sustain.

Here’s the thing with being self-taught: You don’t know any better. You made the decision to eschew the well-trodden path. Sometimes that’s good. You’re learning for the buzz. You’re free to explore, dabble, and create. But sometimes that’s bad. Your solutions to problems are lazy and uninformed. You’re stubborn. You approach your craft without discipline. And worst of all, you’d never know how to correct your behavior until someone more skilled shows you how.

I can’t claim to have fully realized this on my second lesson. But when I played a chord progression with all five fingers and a sensible pedal sustain, I remember thinking, This feels weird, but it really does sound better.

Although I liked learning the fundamentals, I was most excited when Debbie asked, “Why don’t you pick a song to learn?”

I deliberated. The song had to be beautiful, challenging, and impressive — something that would garner a stronger reaction than “Not bad.”

I picked “Married Life” by Michael Giacchino from the movie “Up.” If nothing else, I had the emotional weight of Pixar on my side.

I purchased the sheet music on Debbie’s request. But this was just a formality — I still liked my way better. I learned the opening melody from “Up” by ear.

At the end of our third lesson, Debbie asked, “Want to give ‘Up’ a try?”

I beamed with pride, “Yep. I already know the first eight bars.”

Debbie replied, “That’s awesome! Did you bring the sheet music?”

“Yep,” I said, placing it on the piano.

I played with my head down, not referencing the sheet music once. “That’s great progress!” Debbie said.

Damn right, I thought. But she continued, “Can you look at this bar and tell me what these notes are?”

I faked it, relying on memory. “That’s an F, then an A, a C, and an E.”

“So the third note is actually a D,” she said.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I’m not sure the sheet music is correct. I’m pretty sure it’s a C.”

Debbie replied, “Hmm… I don’t know. Maybe try playing it the way it’s written and see how it sounds?”

I played it again. The notes rang true.

“Yeah, I guess I can play it this way,” I said. It was all I could offer at the time.

I guess. Did I actually think I knew better than Michael Giacchino, an Oscar-winning composer? The pinkies were bad, the pedal was worse, but this was egregious. That was the last straw for my self-taught hubris. I finally submitted: I really didn’t know very much about piano.

It was good timing too, because the path ahead would only prove more difficult.

When I learned the melody on my right hand, I played it in a way that I thought made sense. But with little sense to draw upon, my fingers crossed and twisted, resulting in awkward movements prone to mistakes.

I had never learned the proper fingering. Debbie detangled my mess, mapping out which fingers would play which notes. I had to relearn the entire melody.

After a week of practicing the correct way, playing got easier. My fingers didn’t jump anymore. Now, they glided. But that was just my right hand. With my weaker left hand I had to learn to play a complicated waltz.

Learning took focus, but once I gathered momentum, I made a commitment. When I got home from work, instead of plopping down on the couch, I’d opt for the piano bench. I would make time to practice every day, even if just for five minutes. I had to stay diligent.

After several weeks of consistent practice, I could play each hand’s part with confidence, but still individually. Putting the pieces together was the hard part.

Playing with both hands is a delicate dance. It’s hard to describe what it feels like, so I’ll use a series of similes to explain. It’s like reciting numbers in Spanish while writing days of the week in French. It’s like being an air traffic controller for a fleet of first-time pilots. Actually, maybe it’s more like walking two Labrador puppies when one wants to wander through the bushes and the other is straining to chase pigeons. Point being: it’s an attempt to harmonize muscle memory and mental cognition. And on a new piece — especially the hardest oneI had ever attempted — it took months to learn.

After three months of minor frustration, major patience, and incremental breakthroughs, I could play the entire song without mistakes. I had memorized the notes and knew the mechanics well.

But I still didn’t sound like a real pianist. I played the piece like a 90s computer simulation. It wasn’t infused with any spirit — the happy parts lacked joy, and the sad parts lacked melancholy.

And so we added more layers. I learned about dynamics, how to vary the volume, and phrasing, how to form the musical shape of each measure. I learned the difference between legato (long and flowing) and staccato (short and punchy)I learned how to ascend a chromatic scale; how to play each hand at a different volume; how to crescendo and decrescendo.

And then the song had life. It breathed and sighed and fluttered. I was obsessed with nurturing it — playing it three, four, five times a day. I had never given this much attention to one thing. But there was always something that could be smoother, a section that could be more expressive. I sought mastery.

It all culminated in my piano studio’s winter recital. The atmosphere was friendly — just the adult students and their friends. But for me, the pressure was on: a New Year’s resolution awaiting resolve. I was a horrible jumble of nerves — sweaty palms, shallow breaths, and a stomach struck with sudden indigestion.

Eight students in, it was my turn.

I walked up to the backlit stage. Rippling red curtains and fresh poinsettias framed the nine-foot Steinway grand piano. I sat at the bench and took two deep breaths. I nodded my head right, 1–2–3, nodded left, 1–2–3, and hit that first F note.

I had played the song thousands of times, but this was the moment — a hundred eyes on me for the next four and a half minutes.

I hit a wrong note early. The sound reverberated through my ribcage. A few seconds later, I hit another wrong note. My chest tightened. I felt hot. Not now. Not nowNot now.

I kept playing, resorting to muscle memory. But my thoughts boomed through my skull. I tried to quiet my mind, concentrating on the upcoming trill. Focus on the trillFocus on the trill.

And then I lost track of the present. I stumbled my way through the whole section, eking out a meek trill to end it.

My dream was becoming a nightmare. I was blowing it. This was a disaster. A full-scale meltdown.

But I took a breath and kept moving forward. I nailed a blistering chromatic scale, then let a long pause and a dissonant chord fill the air before bringing the melody back in. I forgot where I was — it was just my breath, my fingers, and a piano.

Before I knew it, I had landed softly on the final G major chord. I let the notes linger, lifted my hands, and was greeted with clapping and cheers. With a big smile on my face, I took a bow.

I had fantasized about this moment. Even practiced bowing in the mirror. It’s why I started taking piano lessons in the first place. I felt proud of how far I’d come. I felt joy that others enjoyed my music. I felt relieved that all the hard work had paid off.

But I felt something else too. It was small, but it was there.

I felt guilt. I had played the song flawlessly alone in my room. When it came time to perform, I nearly blew it. I felt like the audience didn’t hear my best; that I hadn’t earned their applause.

It’s here that the roles reversed. Up until now, I saw piano as an instrument to be learned. But everything I learned about piano couldn’t compare to what it taught me.

Piano taught me that it’s OK to mess up. No one noticed what I considered to be an epic meltdown. I watched the video later. I could barely tell. And that’s what happens when you’re so far inside your own head that you scrutinize your every move. If you make any mistake, you have one of two choices: You can either succumb to paralysis or keep going.

Piano taught me to keep going. To stay in the moment. To let go and move on to the next bar.

To realize that people remember the right notes, not the wrong ones.



The ‘Soft Way To Mozart’ – A new way to learn to play the piano



One thousand years ago, the system for using notes to accurately record musical sounds was launched into the world. With it, people received the powerful ability to write down and read music.  The author of this project was Guido of Arezzo, an Italian Benedictine monk. Thanks to the Guido recording code, the musical language became written once and for all. But eventually, like any other code, this one needed an upgrade.

The Soft Way to Mozart is an action program that calls us to go back to Mozart’s time, when musical language was in its climax of development.  Only then can we correct the error of history by combining notes and keys, as was originally conceived by their Creator, Guido.

Hellene Hiner
Hellene Hiner

Music Vision International, (MVI) is a software development company that creates and markets interactive multi-media music education programs and curriculum to promote music literacy globally.  MVI’s predecessor company was Do Re Mi Fa Soft, founded in 2002 by a Russian-trained musicologist and music educator, Hellene Hiner, who has more than 30 years of teaching experience.

At the heart of this company is the groundbreaking patented and copyrighted invention of the Grand Staff visual simplification. Music notation has not changed for 10 centuries and only MVI has proven way of spelling it out for beginners from 2-year-old and up globally.

The mission of Music Vision International is to:

  • Dramatically improve music literacy throughout the world by becoming the premier online music learning destination, offering people of all ages and abilities an extremely fun and cost-effective way to learn to play piano and read music; and
  • Create a culture where music literacy enhances academic achievement for K-12 students who are part of the Soft Mozart” program.

The ‘Soft Way to Mozart’ curriculum is the cornerstone of the company’s entire product line. This curriculum covers all levels of music educational development from elementary to secondary schools. The curriculum consists of software interactive learning games, visual and interactive sheet music, books, lessons plans, flash cards, songs and other educational materials.

About Hellene Hiner, the founder of Music Vision International LLC

Ms. Hiner is the Founder and Chairman of MVI.  She developed the ‘Soft Way to Mozart’ curriculum for piano learning and music reading from over 30 years of research and music teaching.   Hellene is also the face of the program and has appeared on numerous TV shows and news programs.   She is an established and well-known entity with some of the most prestigious music institutions in the world including the Moscow Conservatory and the Madrid Conservatory.

Hellene was born in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia, and soon afterwards, her family moved to Ukraine. She entered a Music School to learn piano at age 7 and graduated with honors prior to entering the Zhitomir (Ukraine) Music College to study music theory, music history, and piano. Her favorite subjects were the pedagogy, psychology, and methodology of music. She graduated the Zhitomir Music College with honors and a Bachelor’s degree in music theory, music education, music history and piano.

Ms. Hiner continued her musicology education by attending the Kharkov (Ukraine) Music Conservatory (University of Arts) to receive her Master Degree in music, completing her 16-year-long Russian classical music education. She wrote a thesis, “How to teach children to understand and appreciate advanced forms of music.” The thesis was appraised with top marks, and the committee of the conservatory recommended that it be published.

Professionally, Hellene has worked as a music educator teaching in both public and private music schools and universities.  In the mid-1980’s, she invented a unique system of ear training and writing musical dictations. She also developed a system of teaching young students music improvisations and creating music. In 1991, her students composed an opera, “Kolobok,” and one of her pupils received a medal in the regional contest of young composers.

Upon moving to the United States in the mid-1990, Ms. Hiner founded “Little Mozart” – a Developmental Music Program. She taught piano using this music program in several private schools to children of ages 2.5 – 13 in groups and individually.  She also developed a way of teaching 2-5 year old children to play piano exercises in order to improve their eye-hand and two-hand coordination, and invented some music games to identify fast and slow music, major and minor, intervals and chords. These inventions subsequently formed the intellectual property for the current Soft Way to Mozart learning curriculum, which received a US Patent in 2009. Over the past eight years, more than 3,500 users across 48 countries have licensed the software program to learn how to play piano music.

Ms. Hiner continues giving piano lessons at her private piano studio for children in the Houston, Texas though now her main occupation is in applying her new ideas and vast teaching experience into learning materials, books, and software, and providing workshops for teachers. She also providing teacher training globally to spread her invention globally.

As the head Musicologist for Music Vision International, she keeps close contact with the schools and music studios that use the “Soft Way to Mozart” piano teaching method and learning software.




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Introducing composer and pianist Jose Luis Turina






Jose Luis Turina
 Jose Luis Turina

Collage

Biography

Born in Madrid, 1952. His musical training took place at the conservatories of Barcelona and Madrid, as well as in many master courses (Vilaseca-Salou, Granada, Santiago de Compostela), mainly in Piano (Manuel Carra), Violín (Hermes Kriales), Harpsichord (Genoveva Gálvez), Harmony (José Olmedo), Counterpoint and Fugue (Francisco Calés), Orchestral conducting (Enrique García Asensio and Jacques Bodmer) and Composition (Antón García Abril, Román Alís, Rodolfo Halffter and Carmelo Bernaola). In 1979 he received a grant from the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, for studying at the Spanish Fine Arts Academy in Rome, where he attended the classes in Composition given by Franco Donatoni at the Santa Cecilia Academy.

En 1981 he won the First Prize in the Internacional Composition Contest First Centennial of the Orchestra of the Valencia Conservatory with the work Meeting Point. In 1986. In 1986 he won the First Prize of the Musical Composition Contest Queen Sofía, from the Ferrer Salat Foundation, with Ocnos (Orchestral Music on Poems by Luis Cernuda).




He has been commissioned by different official national and international institutions, as Spanish National Radio, Ministry for Culture, Spanish Society for Broadcasting (SER), Spanish National Orchestra, Madrid’s Cercle for Fine Arts, Cuenca’s Week of Religious Music, Community of Madrid’s Autumn Festival, Alicante’s Contemporary Music Festival, Rencontres Internationales de Musique Contemporaine de Metz (France)), Tenerife’s Symphonic Orchestra, Canarias’ Festival, Juan March Foundation, Community of Madrid’s Department of Culture, Spanish Radio Television Symphonic Orchestra, Music at Compostela, Colgate University (Hamilton, New York), Expo’ 92, Caja Madrid Foundation, Soria’s Musical Autumn, Segovia’s Chamber Music Weeks, Madrid’s Symphonic Orchestra, Galicia’s Symphonic Orchestra, Mexico’s Ministry for Culture, San Sebastian Music Festival, Community of Madrid’s Symphonic Orchestra, as well as by many national and international soloists and chamber music groups.

His works have been played in many important festivals, such as Cuenca’s Week of Religious Music, Lisbon’s Contemporary Music Meetings, La Rochelle’s International Music Festival, Cuenca’s Chamber Opera Meetings, Prix Italia 1983, International Platform of Composers (UNESCO, Paris, 1984), Alicante’s Contemporary Music Festival, Strasbourg’s Music Festival, Barcelona’s International Music Festival, Vicenza’s Music Festival(Italy), Madrid’s Autumn Festival, Madrid- Burdeos’ Biennal, Metz’s Rencontres Internatinales de Musique Contemporaine (France), Zagreb’s Musical Biennal, Granada’s International Musica and Dance Festival, Geneve’s Spanish Music Festival, Rome’s Italy-Spain Festival, La Habana’s festival, Canarias’ Festival, Oporto’s Days of Contemporary Music, Seville’s EXPO’92, Milan’s Antologia di Musica Spagnola contemporanea, the cycle A series of 20th century Spanish music at Almeida Theatre (London), Soria’s Musical Autumn, Santander’s Music festival, and the Festival COMA of the Association of Madrid’s Composers, among others. In january 1992, his Violin Concerto was played in the inaugural concert of Madrid, Cultural capital of Europe.

Likewise, he has taken part in many juries of different national and international composition and performance contests (Madrid –SGAE, Queen Sofía- Oviedo, Granada, Alcoy, Valencia, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, La Coruña, México –Rodolfo Halffter Prize-, among others).

From 1981 to 1985 he was teacher of Harmony, Counterpoint and Composition in the Conservatoy of Music at Cuenca, where he also was Secretary and, later, Director. From 1985 he was teacher of Harmony in the Royal Conservatory of Music at Madrid and, from 1992, of the Conservatory of Music Arturo Soria, also at Madrid. Between 1991 and 1993 he was chairman of harmony and Counterpoint in the High Music School Queen Sofía , of the Isaac Albéniz Foundation. In september 1991 he led the course of Composition and Analysis of the International Contemporary Music festival at Alicante, and in october 2001, along with Cristóbal Halffter, the course devoted to contemporary opera in the Conservatory of Music at Zaragoza. From 1998 he is teacher of Analysis in the High Musical Studies School at Santiago de Compostela.

In 1986 he was designated Correspondent Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Santa Isabel de Hungría (Sevilla), and in 1997, of that of Granada.

In 1989 and 1992 he was invited by different USA universities (Colgate University –Hamilton, N.Y.-, Oneanta University, Cornell University and Hunter College of N.Y.), to pronounce and introduce a series of conferences and concerts about contemporary spanish music, taking place in september 1992 the world premiere of his work Three Sonnets, commissioned by the Department of Roman Languages of Colgate University. In 1996 he was invited by the Spanish Consulate in New York and the General Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers to give master classes in the Manhattan School at New York.

In 1995 he was commissioned by the Cercle of Fine Arts of Madrid, in cooperation with the Department od Education and Culture of Madrid’s Community, to write the musical-scenic work The Strike on the Water, performed in the re-opening of the Theatre Fernando de Rojas, in september 1996.




From 1993 to 1996 he was Technical Advisor for Music and Scenic Arts of the General Subdirection of Artistic Teachings of the Ministry for Education and Science, with the aim of participating in the ellaboration of the normative developpement of the reformation of the teachings of music, dance and drama in the frame of the new Organic Law of General Regulation of the Educative System. In october 2008 he came back to this same work, and in february 2001 was designated Artistic Director of The National Youth Orchestra of Spain (JONDE), until nowadays. From 2005 to 2015 he was president of the Spanish Association of Youth Orchestras.

In december 2007 he led the seminary Youth Orchestras and Social Task , joining Piadeia Galiza Foundation and Spanish Association of Youth Orchestras, around the National System of Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, with the presence of its founder, Dr. José Antonio Abreu.

In november 1996 he was awarded with the National Prize of Music of the Ministry for Education and Culture. Since october 2001 until october 2008 he was member of the Music Council of the National Institute for Music and Scenic Arts (INAEM). In 2007 he was designated member of the Artistic Council of the National Auditory of Musica of Madrid.

In january 2000, his Piano Concerto was performed for the first time in the 16th Canarias’ Music Festival. In october of the same year his opera D.Q. (Don Quijote in Barcelona), with libretto by Justo Navarro, scenic direction by La Fura dels Baus and scenography by Enric Miralles, had its world premiere in Barcelona’s Liceo Great Thatre. In may 2001, its DVD recording was awarded with the 16th Prize to the best DVD of an opera production by the magazine CD Compact. In november 2001, D.Q. was awarded with the Prize Daniel Montorio of the Spanish General Society of Authosr and Publishers to the best score of a lyric work first peformed in Spain during the year 2000.

In november 2001, the Tokyo String Quartet performed, in the Chamber Hall of Madrid’s National Auditory, the world premiere of his string quartet Clémisos y Sustalos, commissioned by that chamber group. In may 2003 the sopranist version of Four Sonnets by Shakespeare, commissioned by Madrid’s Symphonic Orchestra, had its world premiere in Madrid.

In may 2003, Sevilla University and the Central Theatre devoted him their Concert à la carte, including the world premiere of the soprano version of Four Sonnets by Shakespeare, and the definitive instrumentation of Ocnos.

In may 2004 he finished the composition of the string quartet The seven last words of Jesus Christ in the Cross, commissioned by Caja Madrid Foundation for the cycle Haydn at Cádiz, where it was performed by the Brodsky Quartet. In october 2004, the Sonata for violin and piano, commissioned by the Spanish Embassy at Bulgary in commemoration of the Hispanity Day, was performed for the first time in the Bulgarian Hall, at Sofia.




In january 2006, Málaga’s Filarmonic Orchestra devoted him its 12th Cycle of Contemporary Music, made up with nine symphonic and chamber concerts, in which 18 works by him were performed, including the premiere of Sleeping Notes, for harp, and the Violin Concerto, with Ara Malikian as soloist, along with the release of an ample biographical study written by José Luis Temes, as well as a monographic CD with five orchestral works.

In may 2006 he was part of the jury of the 2nd Iberoamerican Composition Prize Rodolfo Halffter, which took place in Mexico D.F., along with Mario Lavista, Mario Davidovsky, Roberto Sierra and Tristan Murail.

In december 2006, the Community of Madrid’s Orchestra and Choir, conducted by José Ramón Encinar, performed in Madrid the premiere of Three Carols.

In april 2008, the Youth Orchestra Simón Bolívar of Venezuela, conducted by Alfredo Rugeles, performed in the Teresa Carreño Theatre at Caracas the Phantasy on a Phantasy by Alonso Mudarra, within the 1st Hispanic-Venezuelan Arts Festival. In the same month, the Centre for the Diffusion of Contemporary Music devoted him a semimonographic concert, in which the Plural Ensemble, conducted by Fabián Panisello, performed Variations on two themes by ScarlattiTumulus of the Butrterfly and Kammerconcertante.

In may 2008, the Community of Madrid’s Orchestra, conducted by José Ramón Encinar, performed the premiere of Tour de Manivelle (Music for five shorts movies by Segundo de Chomón), within the projection-concert that took place in the Zarzuela Theatre at Madrid.

In july 2008 the monographic CD José Luis Turina. A Portrait opened the Collection “Contemporary spanish and lationoamerican composers” of the BBVA Foundation and the label Verso.




In august 2008, in the María Pita Square at La Coruña and before an audience of over 5.000 people, the brass and percussion section of the Galicia’s Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Victor Pablo Pérez performed the premiere of Hercules and Cronos, written in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the granting of the title of City to La Coruña.

In april 2009 he is appointed to collaborate with Maestro José Antonio Abreu for the creation of Iberoamerican Youth Orchestra, which, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, gave its first concert in Estoril in december 2009, during the 19th Summit of Iberoamerican Chiefs of State and Government.

In january 2010, the Madrid Community Choir gives the world premiere of Ritirata notturna, written for its 25th anniversary.

In october 2012 he is object of a homage for his 60 anniversary, at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Madrid.

In January 2013 the label Verso releases the CD José Luis Turina. Chamber music, second monographic recording devoted to his music in the collection “Contemporary spanish and latinoamerican composers” of the BBVA Foundation, including six chamber pieces performed by Plural Ensemble conducted by Fabián Panisello.

In June 2014 the label Verso releases a CD including Exequias (In memoriam Fernando Zóbel) and the Violin concerto, performed by the Córdoba Orchestra, the Ziryab Choir and Ara Malikian, conducted by José Luis Temes.

For more information and contact details visit:

www.joseluisturina.com

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Today’s FFM stage belongs to Tom Arnosch with some beautiful piano music






Listen to this haunting and beautiful new piece of piano music from Tom Arnosch. Spread the love by subscribing to and sharing Tom’s youtube channel.



Introducing Oboe Player and Pianist – Gail Ford






Gail Ford
Visit Gail’s website
Gail Ford is a pianist/accompanist/oboist, based near Cambridge but working throughout the UK and Europe.

Gail studied at Manchester University, and later privately with teachers such as Nina Walker, Gordon Back and Clifton Helliwell. Her performing experience ranges from music hall to grand opera, including recitals, auditions, rehearsals and silent movies.

She has played in many prestigious venues including the Barbican, South Bank Centre, the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, the Embassy of the Czech Republic and the Italian Consulate, and her clients have included English Heritage, The Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, wedding parties, music societies, corporates and cinemas.

With the Collaborative Orchestra and Singers, she was a semi-finalist (oboe) on Britain’s Got Talent 2016, and also took part in the 10 Day Orchestra Challenge. She performs for rehearsals, performance, auditions and functions.

Available for bookings, session and recordings. Contact Gail to check availabilty and discuss fees

gailfordmusic@gmail.com
07739187137

Gail Ford
Listen to Gail on Sound Cloud

As An Oboist

As well as having orchestral experience, Gail plays regularly in wind and concert bands, chamber ensembles, pit bands, in solo recitals and in duo with the flautist Andrea Dunton.

She is especially interested in using the oboe in jazz & Latin-American music, and has recently performed for the sixth year in the Summer Music Season at St John’s Stratford, East London, with a programme of jazz arrangements, and has also performed with the London Phoenix Orchestra and The Collaborative Orchestra at St John’s Smith’s Square, as well as not a few jam sessions! She is available for functions, pit band, session, commercial and group work.  She has a classical training, but also plays by ear, and improvises, in jazz, blues, rock & funk styles – if you need a reading musician who can also work in jazz, Latin-American, soul and other fields, she can help you. She can also record and send tracks to you via the Internet.

“A very organic moment of music” Gail Ford “ Because You Asked Me

˜Because You Asked Me ” is a beautiful recording, a very organic moment of music, simplistic in elements, yet vast and calming in its output. The oboe is not so commonly heard as the leading instrument in modern music, but it’s a gorgeous sounding instrument and is played with great skill and grace throughout this track.

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Listen to ” Because you asked me”

The piano backing piece is a fairly big part of the recording, the playing in this case is crisp and confident and effective and it contrasts well with the gentler, more dreamlike sound of the wind instrument. Both work well together though, and one without the other would possibly be somewhat less captivating. The music is the sort that you can put on for those reflective moments at home, writing perhaps, thinking deeply, staring out of the window on a rainy day. The notes throughout the piece are the sort that conjure up quite a nostalgic array of imagery; films from way back when, a mellow jazz bar, maybe some quieter times. It’s likely that it’s the kind of music that means something quite different to each person who hears it, and that it’s the beauty of it in many ways. To each their own in how they receive and experience the sound.

The music takes you on a journey, the melody of the oboe tells a story, and the break towards the middle of the track “ when the piano takes the lead for a while “ is a moment to let go for a while. It’s a well placed break and, all in all, despite its simplicity, there is a strong and clever use of structure throughout that keeps things interesting, whilst always relevant and fitting. It’s a fairly unique sound and a pleasure to listen to.

By Rebecca Cullen

 

 



Introducing Our New Feature – Spotlight on a Music Student


At FFM, we want to highlight new and aspiring musical talent wherever we find it and where better than the many Music Colleges, Universities and Schools around the world. Our new feature ‘Spotlight on a Music Student’ is an opportunity for you or someone you know to step into the spotlight and share your talent, dreams and ambitions with the musical world.

All you have to do is send us your information, pictures, videos, sound clips and links  and we will compile your feature.

email direct to rogermoisan@yahoo.co.uk

Much love and happy music making,

The FFM team

Red Bull’s favorite music startup lets you lay down a beat with a rainbow and a ring




If you’ve ever been in a band, you know the sharp pain of pinching your fingers trying to carry a giant kick drum through a door frame. You thought drummers had ripped arms from whipping wooden sticks around in the air? Think again. When they move their equipment from show to show, they’re essentially Olympic crossfitters.

But now, thanks to Specdrums, a Boulder-based music hardware startup, percussionists are about to get flabbier. Well — hopefully not, but seriously: Specdrums created rings for the finger-tappers of the world to play drums wherever there’s color.

That’s right. Wear a Specdrums ring like Frodo Baggins and tap the color “blue” and you could hear the crash of a cymbal or the rap of a snare. It all depends on the sounds you assign to each color in the app.

Who came up with this zany idea?

Steven Dourmashkin, a Cornell graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, who sat at his first drum set in sixth grade. He wasn’t a famous drummer. He didn’t tour across the country on the big stages. He was just an average player in the high school concert band.




Steven Dourmashkin, founder of Specdrums

“I was more of a casual drummer,” said Dourmashkin, recalling how he’d practice his double strokes on a pillow to improve his chops. Dourmashkin is tall and built like an indie metalhead but thoughtful and professional like an Apple Store salesperson.

While working on his masters at Cornell, he wrestled with the question that plagued so many drummers: How do I make drums more portable and affordable?

“The goal was to create a lower barrier to entry for new drummers, since drums can be a very large investment and parents may not want to buy a full set for thousands of dollars just to have their child lose interest a month later,” he said.

The lightbulb moment

The early prototype of Specdrums was a kind of “air drums” where a sensor would measure the movement of a stick and trigger a corresponding sound. But the technology always had trouble with absolute position: where did one drum start and another end? It was very unintuitive and unreliable, said the founder.

He tried attaching a black and white photo sensor to a finger ring. But there’s not much you can do with two options: Back, black, white, black, black, white — gets old really quick.

One day, “When we were giving a demo, a ‘lightbulb’ went off when we realized you could just use the colors around you,” said Dourmashkin. He immediately began prototyping a bluetooth ring that detects colors and an app that links a sound to each color. For example, the Specdrums logo — four colored circles in quadrants — can double as a four-piece drum set. Blue can be a bass drum, green a snare drum, and so on. Basically, if it has color, it can make a sound using Specdrums’ technology.

Nothing like this existed. Drumpants let users strap pads anywhere on their bodies to trigger sounds (i.e., your thighs become drum pads) and Freedrumsmade something to clip to a drumstick for a real-life air drums experience. However, nothing used colors, like an assortment of Red Bull cans, to create a digital drumset.

With a dinky prototype, Dourmashkin knew he needed to make his operation official in February 2016. “We knew it was time to incorporate when we started showing more people and preparing for a Kickstarter. We incorporated to have a bank account and file the utility patent under the company.”




Would you rather pursue a PhD or a startup?

The 24-year-old moved out to Boulder, CO to get his PhD in engineering. A year later he found himself divided.

“I was doing both half and half,” said Dourmashkin. “It wasn’t working and finally got to the point where I needed to choose one and focus.”

I had interviewed another ambitious 24-year-old founder who chose to finish his education first before jumping full-force into a startup. But Dourmashkin had different thoughts.

“A PhD is different from a bachelor’s degree in that if [the startup] fails, I still had a degree. You can come back and get a PhD anytime in life, but you can’t really come back to a startup. This is time sensitive and the momentum may never return. It’s like we have one chance.”

With mind made up, Dourmashkin tabled his doctorate program and focused on making a Kickstarter campaign for Specdrums as successful as possible.




The key to Kickstarter success

In August 2017, he and his four teammates launched on Kickstarter with the goal of raising $15,000.

Less than two months later, the campaign ended with a whopping $188,944.

Why did it work?

The engineer said the key to a successful Kickstarter is patience and bloggers. “We wanted to launch a year ago but instead started building an email list,” he said. During that time, they contacted other Kickstarter champions and asked for advice.

The advice: prove the product beforehand. Many Kickstarters fail because they’re unproven ideas.

Dourmashkin hired a Kickstarter consultant from New York and worked out a profit-sharing deal. They built out a beautiful and detailed campaign page and set up social channels. As the launch date approached, the email list was 500 people — not too shabby but not significant. The tour de force that powered their campaign was a list of 100 bloggers.

“We looked at similar Kickstarter projects and contacted the bloggers that covered them,” said Dourmashkin. “Especially right before we launched. Blogs like AppAudio started writing about us and our consultant got us into NowThis. The video received six million views. It was a snowballing effect from there.”




How a young founder finds a reliable manufacturer

With money raised, the next big obstacle was manufacturing. How does a young person go about manufacturing thousands of products? Until now, Dourmashkin had soldered every ring by hand. “It was tedious,” he said.

Dourmashkin found MacroFab, a small batch manufacturer out of Houston, by sifting through blogs and asked them to make 10 prototypes. When he received the first shipment, the young CEO couldn’t have been happier.

“Other manufacturers usually have a 100 unit minimum and expensive set up fees. MacroFab specializes in orders of less than 10,000 and they help with packaging and fulfillment, too.”

Besides, overseas manufacturing sounded scary to Dourmashkin. “I’ve heard stories of companies that’ve gone to China too quickly and have found out the factory next door started making an exact copy of their product.”

Yikes. Thank you, MacroFab.




Press coverage explodes

Funding and manufacturing in place, a hurricane of press picked up the colorful music tech startup and plastered it all over the web, including Mashable, The Verge, Business Insider, and Nickelodeon.

Word was getting out rapidly. Then the clincher happened: Specdrums wonRed Bull’s Launchpad 2017 competition, a program designed to “give wings” to collegiate entrepreneurs. Part of the winnings included flying out to global tech conference TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, a promise land flowing with tech startups and investors.

The Specdrums team at TechCrunch Disrupt SF

A big conference for an early-stage startup like Specdrums is a mixed bag. It’s great for marketing and networking, but there are also risks of having the idea stolen. “It’s a little concerning,” said Dourmashkin about Disrupt. He said the patent helps, but the exposure also means risk of copycatters. “That’s why speed is key.”




To raise money or not to raise money

Nothing oils the gears of a growing startup better than a few million bucks in the bank, right? But Dourmashkin wasn’t feeling the fundraising route at the moment.

“I decided in terms of scaling at a rate we can handle the best thing to do is to continue bootstrapping. The Kickstarter gave us enough to manufacture. We’re profitable. So right now, we’re focused on hiring a developer and working with consultants to get the app and the hardware to be the best they can be.”

Today, Dourmashkin and his team opened up pre-orders on their own website and are busy prepping to ship the first big order to backers in mid-December.

The future holds a number of new features, including new instruments as in-app purchases, importing and sharing your own sounds, and partnerships with companies like Harmonics, the creators of digital music game Rockband.

“It’s pretty open-ended right now and that’s the point,” said Dourmashkin. Probably not a bad idea when their audience is so diverse, ranging from parents of young kids, to teachers, and live performers.

In the meantime, Dourmashkin has his eye on another accelerator in Los Angeles, a place where the music performance industry is hot. He’s also hoping to find a mentor.




What is your “I made it” moment?

I always like to end interviews by asking founders what the moment would look like when they realize they’ve found true success. Dourmashkin said retail expansion.

“But what store?” I asked.

“Apple,” he replied immediately and I could tell he’d already thought about it. “The intuitive design, no-buttons, and accessibility seem to match our brand.”

“Do you consider yourself an ambitious person?” I asked.

“Yes.”

That was it. In typical “mechie” fashion, he didn’t elaborate any further. He didn’t need to. It’s this kind of matter-of-fact, uninflated self-awareness that undergirds entrepreneurs to burn the midnight oil (or crush the 2 a.m. Red Bull, in Specdrums’ case).

I suppose one would have to be somewhat ambitious to get into an Apple Store… as far as I know there’s only one way to get your product on the same shelves as the iPhone X: acquisition. Who knows what’ll happen.



Improvisation is Scary




For some, improvisation is a little scary. It doesn’t have to be with a clever back pocket pattern guaranteed to sound black-cat cool.

As I was planning for the fall, I wanted to include an improvisation activity that would introduce beginners to the idea of creating their own music as well as something to please seasoned improvisers. Thanks to an inspiration while attending a lesson with Bradley Sowash, I came up with a pattern that I call Black Cat Strut.

It’s an accessible improvisation jumpstart that offers tasks for both hands. While the left-hand stays pretty simple it still sounds hip. With the suggested tips, the right hand will get the opportunity to strut its stuff.

Check out this video that shows snippets of improvisers of all levels and ages strutting their chops.

Black Cat Strut is guaranteed to sound pleasing because both hands play something appealing and it’s in minor–always a popular choice for this time of year.

The patterns are suited for anyone at any level because both hands play separately–at least at the first level. In fact, there’s no need to play hands together at all and that’s the beauty of this jumpstart. However, it has just enough sophistication to build on it–suitable for those who are comfortable with improvising.

Here are some tips to help your students CATch on quickly:

  • When introducing the pattern, divide and conquer each part by playing one hand yourself, while your student plays the other.
  • Better yet, divide and conquer in a group lesson. Ask one or more to play the left-hand part and assign others to create right-hand patterns. You’ll have all kinds of cool cats improvising together!
  • Teach the pattern by ear. Provide few visuals for them and repeatedly model snippets for them to echo.
  • Give step by step instructions, adding more ideas as they became more confident with the patterns.
  • Play a pattern on white keys (CDE GA) and ask students to learn and copy it by ear.
  • You’ll notice in the video that fingering is a personal choice for the sake of building a safety net for young improvisers. If given too many things to think about, students might give up.

You (try it yourself!) and your students will have even more opportunity to sound like a pro as I’ve created a chart in iReal Proa must-have app that generates lead sheets and provides an instant backup band.

Detailed instructions for Black Cat Strut can be found here. They include:

  • A colorful, black kitty-cat visual of the keys required for the right hand.
  • The pattern broken down into three skill levels with sequential steps on how to teach them.
  • Grand staff notation of all parts.
  • A link to the video and the iReal Pro chart.

At any level, this improvisation jumpstart is guaranteed to sound purrfect. There’s no need to be scared!

Leila Viss

Hi, I’m Leila Viss, pianist, organist, teacher, author of The iPad Piano Studio and blogger at 88pianokeys.me.
I enjoy teaching piano to around 45 students ranging in age from 6 to 91. I am drawn to discovering innovative teaching methods and successful practice strategies to encourage the average player stick to the bench for life. Customizing lessons for each student is a priority and therefore… [Read more]