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.

Introducing composer and pianist Jose Luis Turina

Jose Luis Turina
 Jose Luis Turina



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:


We are really ambitious for our members and in 2018 we want to offer scholarships, bursaries and financial assistance to aspiring musicians.

Help us achieve this by visiting our sponsor below

Today’s FFM Stage Belongs to Pianist Alice Thompson

I am a composer, making contemporary piano music (mostly; sometimes there is the odd experiment with electronica ’n’ stuff!). I am currently making the first full-length album I have made in five years, which will be called ‘Solo Piano 2’. It is my plan that Solo Piano 2 will be released in the Spring of 2018.

My intention is to use Bandcamp to share works in progress in fuller versions that I am able to do on social media, early recordings that can be enjoyed now and more of an in-depth insight in to the making of the album. As part of the subscription, you can also download any of my back-catalogue that is available on Bandcamp.

I am also aware that the people who are likely to subscribe to me on Bandcamp are the same people who have already purchased my music, both here and in other places. And this feels unfair. So to resolve this concern, I have set the price for the subscription at £7.95, which will be the cost of Solo Piano 2. So even if you already own my entire back catalogue, you are essentially just pre-ordering Solo Piano 2 on Bandcamp now.

Please do subscribe to be part of the journey!

Much love,

Alice xx

When you go to explore an old National Trust property…and there is a piano you can play!  Of course, I couldn’t resist giving one of the pieces from my forthcoming album Solo Piano 2 a go on the lovely old Broadwood piano at Leith Hill Place in Surrey…full length video on my youtube https://www.youtube.com/

Today’s FFM Stage Belongs to Pianist Anna Nadiryan

Anna Nadiryan is an Armenian-Greek pianist. She began playing the piano at age five, made her public debut at age ten in Tbilisi Concert Hall and performed on national television in Armenia at age twelve.

After having won awards in several piano competitions as a youth, Anna Nadiryan studied at Philippos Nakas Conservatory, took a diploma in classical piano performance and pedagogy in 2003 and completed the conservatory’s soloist programme for classical pianists in 2007. Both educations were completed with excellent grades and special honors.

In the period of 2003-2012, Anna Nadiryan taught at a conservatory in Athens while actively giving concerts as a soloist and chamber musician.

In 2012, Anna Nadiryan moved to Denmark, continuing her work as a musician by performing concerts across the country. She also worked briefly as musical leader on the country’s first performances of the youth musical Terezín’s Fireflies, the performances of which were covered in newspapers, on radio, and national television.

As of 2017, Anna Nadiryan is expanding her musical abilities to the organ, currently studying at Vestervig Kirkemusikskole.

Anna carefully plans the themes of her musical programs, which are based on a large repertoire, and performs them with great musical understanding and an unusually high technical level; things that often bring audiences to the edge of their seats from the very first tone.

Musical Legends – Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson was one of the greatest piano players of all time. A pianist with phenomenal technique on the level of his idol, Art TatumPeterson‘s speed, dexterity, and ability to swing at any tempo were amazing. Very effective in small groups, jam sessions, and in accompanying singers, O.P. was at his absolute best when performing unaccompanied solos. His original style did not fall into any specific idiom. Like Erroll Garner and George ShearingPeterson‘s distinctive playing formed during the mid- to late ’40s and fell somewhere between swing and bop. Peterson was criticized through the years because he used so many notes, didn’t evolve much since the 1950s, and recorded a remarkable number of albums. Perhaps it is because critics ran out of favorable adjectives to use early in his career; certainly it can be said that Peterson played 100 notes when other pianists might have used ten, but all 100 usually fit, and there is nothing wrong with showing off technique when it serves the music. As with Johnny Hodges and Thelonious Monk, to name two, Peterson spent his career growing within his style rather than making any major changes once his approach was set, certainly an acceptable way to handle one’s career. Because he was Norman Granz‘s favorite pianist (along with Tatum) and the producer tended to record some of his artists excessively, Peterson made an incredible number of albums. Not all are essential, and a few are routine, but the great majority are quite excellent, and there are dozens of classics.

Peterson started classical piano lessons when he was six and developed quickly. After winning a talent show at 14, he began starring on a weekly radio show in Montreal. Peterson picked up early experience as a teenager playing with Johnny Holmes’ Orchestra. From 1945-1949, he recorded 32 selections for Victor in Montreal. Those trio performances find Peterson displaying a love for boogie-woogie, which he would soon discard, and the swing style of Teddy Wilson and Nat King Cole. His technique was quite brilliant even at that early stage, and although he had not yet been touched by the influence of bop, he was already a very impressive player. Granz discovered Peterson in 1949 and soon presented him as a surprise guest at a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert.

Peterson was recorded in 1950 on a series of duets with either Ray Brown or Major Holley on bass; his version of “Tenderly” became a hit. Peterson‘s talents were quite obvious, and he became a household name in 1952 when he formed a trio with guitarist Barney Kessel and BrownKessel tired of the road and was replaced by Herb Ellis the following year. The PetersonEllisBrown trio, which often toured with JATP, was one of jazz’s great combos from 1953-1958. Their complex yet swinging arrangements were competitive — Ellis and Brownwere always trying to outwit and push the pianist — and consistently exciting. In 1958, when Ellis left the band, it was decided that no other guitarist could fill in so well, and he was replaced (after a brief stint by Gene Gammage) by drummer Ed Thigpen. In contrast to the earlier group, the PetersonBrownThigpen trio (which lasted until 1965) found the pianist easily the dominant soloist. Later versions of the group featured drummers Louis Hayes (1965-1966), Bobby Durham (1967-1970), Ray Price (1970), and bassists Sam Jones (1966-1970) and George Mraz (1970).

With Respect to Nat

In 1960, Peterson established the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, which lasted for three years. He made his first recorded set of unaccompanied piano solos in 1968 (strange that Granz had not thought of it) during his highly rated series of MPS recordings. With the formation of the Pablo label by Granz in 1972, Peterson was often teamed with guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Niels Pedersen. He appeared on dozens of all-star records, made five duet albums with top trumpeters (Dizzy GillespieRoy EldridgeHarry “Sweets” EdisonClark Terry, and Jon Faddis), and teamed up with Count Basie on several two-piano dates. An underrated composer, Peterson wrote and recorded the impressive “Canadiana Suite” in 1964 and has occasionally performed originals in the years since. Although always thought of as a masterful acoustic pianist, Peterson has also recorded on electric piano (particularly some of his own works), organ on rare occasions, and even clavichord for an odd duet date with Joe Pass. One of his rare vocal sessions in 1965, With Respect to Nat, reveals that Peterson‘s singing voice was nearly identical to Nat King Cole‘s. A two-day reunion with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown in 1990 (which also included Bobby Durham) resulted in four CDs. Peterson was felled by a serious stroke in 1993 that knocked him out of action for two years. He gradually returned to the scene, however, although with a weakened left hand. Even when he wasn’t 100 percent, Peterson was a classic improviser, one of the finest musicians that jazz has ever produced. The pianist appeared on an enormous number of records through the years. As a leader, he has recorded for Victor, Granz‘s Clef and Verve labels (1950-1964), MPS, Mercury, Limelight, Pablo, and Telarc.

Pianist Oscar Peterson was the biggest name to emerge from the golden age of jazz in Montreal.

If this has been helpful to you, please help us by clicking on our sponsor’s ads. It won’t cost you anything but we will get a few pence per click.

Much love and happy music making,

Roger Moisan