Monday, November 24, 2008

Gabriel Faure - Romance sans Paroles

This is my second recording of a piece by Gabriel Faure. It is called Romance sans Paroles (Romance without Words). It is a beautiful little piece. I feel as though I am dragging a bit too much in this recording. I also must have had the audio adjusted incorrectly because when I play it in iTunes it cracks during the louder parts. Oh well, It's free!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Piano Society

Several months ago I came across an excellent resource for piano music called The Piano Society. They "audition" artists to put some of their recordings online, essentially creating a massive database of recordings. They also provide royalty free sheet music for the works where possible.

Over the weekend I decided to try my hand at an "audition" so I submitted three of my recordings. I was pleased to find out that they accepted me as an official artist and my recordings have now been posted to the site!

To the piano society, I say "thank you" for providing the public with such an excellent resource and for allowing me to be a part of it. You can read my artist bio here. Be sure to visit their site regularly to enjoy the great service(s) that they offer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stephen Beus - Gina Bachauer "Piano Gold" Performance

Yesterday I received an email from Dr. Paul Pollei reminding me about the Bachauer Concert Series performance that would be going on this evening. For some reason, I neglected to get this on my calendar and so I hadn't even purchased tickets yet! It is a good thing he called, otherwise I would have missed a most spectacular performance!

This evening I had the extreme pleasure of attending the "Piano Gold" performance by Stephen Beus, sponsored by the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation. What an amazing event! Stephen performed a perfect blend of music for his program. He opened with Bach's English Suite in G Minor - which awakened my senses. Bach is dear to my heart (as he is to virtually all musicians) and this performance was worthy of the greatest praise.

He then performed a piece that I was previously unfamiliar with, by Medtner - Sonata-Tragica (Op. 39, No. 5). Wow! I will promptly be purchasing a recording of this work so that I can appreciate it even more. Stephen played this with the power and force that is typical of his great musicianship. He followed this piece with one from my favorite composer, The Great Franz Liszt - La Campanella. His interpretation and the color that he added to this was marvelous! I have no hesitation in saying that this was my favorite performance of this work. I particularly loved how he played with some of the trills in this work.

He closed with one of my favorite Beethoven Sonatas - the Hammerklavier! It was pure joy to participate in this performance - and I use the word "participate" intentionally. Stephen has a way of drawing in his audience and he certainly did that this evening. His performance was a masterwork of art and entertainment.

Please visit Stephen Beus' website and support his artistry and career!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Optimum time to start piano lessons?

I am a member of a piano group on LinkedIn and one of the members recently posted a question that I have been asked by several friends and associates -- "when should I start my kids in piano lessons? How old is old enough?" This is a great question, and, like you would probably guess, there is no right answer. Every child is different. However, here are some of my thoughts on the matter...

How do you define "lessons"? I have three children ages 5, 3, and 22 months and all three of them are playing the piano at various levels, all of them are learning musically, but none of them are currently taking formal "lessons". I believe that a parent (or a good teacher) can teach children of ALL ages to be involved with the piano. At the very least, children should be involved in some type of music creativity. They might surprise you at what they can do with just a little encouragement. Let me give you some examples from things I've done with my children:

  • My youngest LOVES to sit with me at the piano and play along while I practice. You can see a picture of this on my profile picture :) This is a great way to form a closeness with your child while allowing them to become familiar with the geography of the piano and basics of how the piano works.
  • I will often get my children together and let them pick a simple tune (ie "I've been working on the Railroad"). I will then let them take turns picking animals and I will play the tune so that it sounds like that animal (as best as I can) while the kids act out the part - they LOVE this game! It gives me the opportunity to practice improvisation and transposition, while the kids get to have fun and hear how music can affect our moods and can represent feelings/characters.
  • I've already started my two oldest in learning Hanon. This provides fairly simple patterns that they can learn and practice to gain finger dexterity and familiarity with the piano. Beginning them in scales and chords is also quite simple. Just take it slow, be patient, and understand that all children go at their own pace.
  • Sometimes I find a song that my kids like (a Disney song, or something on the radio) and then I'll teach them just a few notes of the chorus. As an example, I taught my three-year old son to play the opening notes to the theme from the Pixar movie, "Cars". He loves to play it :)
  • I NEVER ask my children to stop playing the piano. If they hop on the bench (which they will randomly do throughout the day) then I let them just explore and play. Doing this, my daughter composed her first song a couple of weeks ago and entered into the national reflection's contest. You can hear a recording of her playing it here.
  • I also often let my kids listen to recordings of great pianists playing short pieces of music and then ask the kids to talk about what they imagined while they listened. This is a great way to get their imaginations running and invites in creativity through music.
  • Of course, there are also the formal sit-down lessons that I've done mostly with my oldest child. This is a great time to talk about chords, scales, dynamics, etc (in ways that children can understand). I think that even 10 minutes a week, with encouragement to practice (or "play") daily, will work wonders on a child.

So my official answer is, "It is NEVER too early to get your children involved with music/piano". As far as "formal" lessons - I guess that depends on how comfortable you are with getting them involved in your home, your financial situation, and the ability of the teacher. If you don't feel comfortable trying some of the ideas I've suggested above and you can afford lessons, then get your kids involved with a good teacher right away. Find somebody who can do some of the simple ideas I suggest, or that has lots of great ideas for kids that gets them involved and excited about the piano!

I hope that helps somebody!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Farewell Waltz by Chopin Dedicated to the IT Faculty at BYU

Marie Wodzinska
This is my first recording of a Chopin Waltz. This particular Waltz (A-flat Op. 69, No. 1) is one of Chopin's better-known waltzes. As with many of his popular pieces, this work was published posthumously (after he had passed away). It is often called L'adieu, or The Farewell Waltz as a result of its origin. Chopin wrote the piece as a farewell to Marie Wodzinska (pictured to the right) to whom he was once engaged. Chopin was deeply in love with Marie, but her parents did not approve of Chopin's less-than-favorable financial circumstances. Thus the engagement was called off. Chopin was heartbroken and wrote this Waltz to his love, Marie, as a farewell.

In my recording I made every attempt to bring out the melancholy, the longing, and nostalgic reminiscence that I imagine would accompany such a sad parting.


This piece is dedicated to the faculty of the IT program at Brigham Young University. I spent 6 of the most critical years of my life under their watchful care and inspired instruction. I often reflect on the impact that each of them had on my education and personal growth. Although many of the professors I encountered during my education were wonderful, I was particularly appreciative to those of the IT program. I received my bachelor's degree in IT and my Master's in the Technology program so I had the opportunity to work closely with many of the faculty members. Each of them played an important role in my education.

Education is something I consider extremely important to individual growth and to the general improvement of our society. Without excellent teachers and mentors, it would be difficult to pursue a solid education. It is thanks to these willing and dedicated individuals that I personally have prospered and that thousands of others have benefited as well.

To them I say, "Bravo!"


This recording was made at my home on my studio upright. You can download this recording in the form of MP3 or WMA on my Lisztonian site. You may also subscribe to my free iTunes podcast which makes it easy to stay updated when I release new recordings. If you'd rather just have a quick listen, you can use the embedded media player below (I recommend downloading the full files from my Lisztonian site for better playback).