Gifts for Piano Players
Maya Wood from Missouri & Sonia Nair from Oregon Tie
for 2nd Place Junior Composition
The Violettes by Becky Composition Competition is national, with 4 students entering from Oregon. From Lake Oswego, Oregon, Sonia Nair tied with Maya Wood of Jefferson City, Missouri for 2nd place in the Junior Composition Division.
Maya Wood is the daughter of Tim and Robin Wood and student of Helen Haynes Jefferson City Music Academy.She is a 7th grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle school and participates in Track, Cross Country, Orchestra, and Coding/Technology Club.
In 8th grade, Sonia Nair has been studying piano for five years with teacher, Dr. Anne D. Young. From an early age, she became interested in composing music and recreating songs by ear. The rest is history. Outside of school and piano, her interests include competing in track and field meets, performing dance routines, participating in Girl Scouts, and spending time with her younger sister. Sonia also enjoys traveling with family, completing science experiments, cooking, and helping her community.
Music Art Cards to Benefit Youth Music Competition
The Youth Music Competition will earn 100% from card profits thru the end of May 2016, and 20% after that. Please support our work with card purchases at this LINK. You can buy a set of all the same or an assortment. We are currently working on more cards, and love requests.
With No Formal Composition Training, Ms. Williams takes 2nd Place
A s 2nd Place Senior Composition winner, Lindsey Williams of Bend, Oregon receives $200 cash, donated by the West Knoxville Kiwanis Club.
Lindsey is an 18 year-old senior with many musical interests. She has been studying piano with Peter Brownlee for the last seven years. During this time, she completed, with distinction, all 10 levels of the Oregon Music Teachers' Association Syllabus, and has won a number of competitions, most notably the Cascades Classical Music Competition and the OMTA Bach Festival. She has also participated in masterclasses with Jill Timmons and Sean Chen.
Additionally a violinist, Lindsey has performed with the OMEA All-State Orchestra and is a
member of her high school's Chamber Orchestra. Lindsey loves chamber music and recently won 2nd place at the State Ensemble Festival with her piano trio.
Lindsey has been composing ever since she began learning piano seven years ago, mimicking
her favorite composers, Bach and Mozart. More recently, she has been exploring her own
unique style, often taking inspiration from more obscure areas such as literature and visual art.
While she has never had any formal composition training, Lindsey hopes to advance her skills
at Bard College this fall, where she plans to pursue a double major in music and social studies.
In addition to piano, violin, and composition, Lindsey is an avid French enthusiast who founded
her school's French Club.
Music Art Cards to Benefit Youth Music Competition
The Youth Music Competition will earn 100% from card profits thru the end of May 2016, and 20% after that. Please support our work with card purchases at this LINK. You can buy a set of all the same or an assortment. We are currently working on more cards, and love requests.
Music Training Prepares Cool Piano Purse -un 40
Piano player and music community leader, Ms. Vicki Carr, purchased a number of Violettes by Becky Grand Piano Purses as gifts. In our interview, she tells how her music background influenced her career. In "retirement", she has recently written a children's book called " Lydia Becomes a Flower Girl". It takes the reader through the steps of wedding prep with some family dynamics to add a little crisis. The book is currently being illustrated. It is the first of a two-book deal with the publisher.
1. Violettes: Are you originally from Texas? How many kids do you have and do they live in Texas also?------------------------Ms. Carr: I am a Texan by birth AND by choice. Having spent career time in New York and Los Angeles, I am very happy in East Texas, which is more Southern in its way of life than West Texas, where I grew up. I have one son who lives in Arkansas, just 50 blocks from us (Texarkana straddles the Texas/Arkansas border), and two step-daughters who are west coast dwellers.
2. Violettes: How did you become involved in music growing up? What kind of lessons and teaching methods did you have? What kind of lessons did you give your kids? Did you teach them yourself?Ms. Carr: Growing up in Abilene, TX, I had the advantage of training through the music prep program at McMurry University, just a few blocks from our house. Students majoring in music ed taught me and developed my interest in music. The earliest method we used was from Shawnee Press: the Fred Waring piano series, which my parents bought in a complete kit. Because of that training, I demonstrated an unusual sight-reading ability as a youngster, so I was granted opportunities to play in public at church and as church and school choir accompanist. By the time I got to college at Hardin-Simmons University, it was obvious that music would be my path.My son is a gifted musician, learning mostly by influence from me, rather than lessons. Ironically, he has decided to major in elementary education with a music emphasis, and has recently begun weekly lessons with me.
3. Violettes: You used to have a job in public relations? Tell us about it.
Ms. Carr: My music training opened a number of doors for me, career-wise, leading me into show management, event production, promotion and publicity. My understanding of musicians and performers allowed me to work with major theme parks, specialty shows, and PR agencies, over the years while in Dallas and Los Angeles.4. Violettes: In Texas the music programs for schools are supposed to be very strong
there. Do you know the details of how they became so strong? Is it just that someone decided they would fund them or?-----------------Ms. Carr: The Texas education system does promote music excellence. The University of Texas Interscholastic League competitions are keen - partly because of the size of the state and number of participants that must be culled to the all-state level. Like Tennessee, Texas is known for its professional musicians, so our education system, by and large, presents opportunities for training and exposure to keep that image alive. I wish I could say it is as important as football, but you know better than that!------------------------------
5. Violettes: You were on the MTNA Board or something similar? How did you become involved in that? Are you still involved?Ms. Carr: I serve as president of the Wednesday Music Club, the oldest service organization in our city. I know it sounds like little old ladies in white gloves, but it is far from it. Our club exists to encourage, support and expose musical talent in our area. We are affiliated with the Arkansas Federation of Music Clubs (for which I serve as vice president), and the National Federation of Music Clubs (for which I serve as a scholarship chair). At each and every level there are many scholarships awarded for a wide variety of talents.6. Violettes: Did you say your teaching studio is in a piano gallery?--------------------
Ms. Carr: I maintain a private studio within the Texarkana Academy of Musical Arts. We are located in Central Mall, which gives our parents plenty of parking and plenty of ways to spend the length of their student's lesson time. There are eight teachers at TAMA, and we offer lessons in strings, piano, voice, brass,reeds and percussion. We were selling pianos, but we just really needed the floor space for recitals and large group rehearsals, so that is no longer part of what we offer. Several times a year we do a faculty showcase, as several of our teachers are solo performers in addition to being excellent teachers.
Piano Teacher, Brenda Ginther, Cool (Piano) Purse -un 32
Violettes is always proud to have a Music Teacher amongst our clients. People look up to their teachers and want to emulate them. We have had many students of Violettes owners want to purchase their own. Thank you Ms. Brenda for purchasing a Violettes Piano Purse for yourself for your December birthday! We're so glad that you "love it".
1. Violettes: Are you from Pennsylvania? Or did you move there as an adult? What do you like about living in your neck of the woods?Brenda: Yes I have been born and raised a Pennsylvanian. I love our state for the rolling hills and natural beauty and seasons.2. Violettes: You are a Piano Teacher who plays for your church. Tell us about your piano studio and teaching methods.Brenda:
In my Piano studio, I use the Alfred piano series to teach but also add in music books of the
students music choice. I believe my enthusiasm and rewards system are my best attributes in the studio because it encourages my students and helps to motivate them to practice and do well without strictness. My students compete against themselves and are rewarded for doing so. End result is love and passion to play the piano well and enjoy it.3. Violettes: Do you have any fun stories about working with students?
Brenda: Oh I always have fun with my students. Some have drawn me pictures of there favorite music, others wrote me beautiful notes and so many enjoy doing the duets with me; my favorite part. There music styles and choice of music keeps it challenging for me .
4. Violettes: Do you have other hobbies and interests?
Brenda: gardening and walking are probably my favorite although I simply enjoy being active. I also play 5 instruments and enjoy playing them for my enjoyment. The Bassoon I played in school orchestra, the clarinet was for marching band, the accordion was handed down to me by my aunt and my harmonica was my grandmother's. Of course the piano is my favorite because it is up to my hands to bring out the spirit of the song.
5. Violettes: Do you have favorite music to play? to listen to? or a favorite musician or group?Brenda: My favorite music to play is classical because it really shows off our music ability but my favorite to listen to is gospel because it's uplifting and peaceful and brings me close to the Lord. My favorite groups are The piano guys and Pantonix. I just love the fun and talent of these two groups. They both amaze me.
Piano Gifts from Cool ( Piano ) Purse -un 30 - Ruth Gove
Piano Gifts from Ruth Gove. She purchased our popular Red Fleur de Lys Piano Purse at a craft fair for her talented grand daughter.
I first met Ms. Gove doing swim workouts in Oak Ridge. I love getting swim tips from folks, since I am a novice lap swimmer. She often throws pointers in my direction. Then, I started seeing her at concerts too. She seems to be traveling in the same path as I recently.1. Violettes: Where are you from, and what was your profession?Ruth: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up along the shores of Lake Erie in the eastern suburb of Euclid. My college major was geology and I was able to work in Washington, D.C. as a research assistance for the U.S. Geological Survey. When we moved to Oak Ridge, I later worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a geologist and then as a Technical Information Specialist.
2. Violettes: You have an amazingly accomplished family. Your husband and your sons sound like super stars. Tell us about them.Ruth: My husband , now retired, worked as a nuclear physicist at ORNL. He later transitioned into computers. We have three sons: the oldest is a math professor in CA; the middle one is a neuronet computer specialist in NC; and the third and youngest is a computer engineer working for Google. All three sons were soccer players. They started young since during their youth we lived in Vienna for 3 years. So I don't have any football players.
3. Violettes: I'll bet your kids were all Valedictorians! What else about your sons??Ruth: Two of the boys were valedictorians, 2 were on the ORHS soccer team and one stayed with AYSO. One son was TN's first All-American high school soccer player. That same son won either 1st or 2nd national honors in French and Spanish contests for advanced non-native speakers. Two of the kids have PhDs; the third is our PhD drop out.
4. Violettes: You have a grand daughter who is learning to compose (for whom you purchased one of Violettes' piano gifts). How did she get started with the composing? A lot of kids take private music lessons as part of their education, but not many get involved with composing.Ruth: My grand daughter started piano lessons when she was about 6 and she claimed she kept hearing music. So she learned to write it down. She can "play by ear". Right now she studies piano and occasionally has composition lessons. She also gives piano lessons.
5. Violettes: You are an expert swimmer. Do you have other hobbies or talents?Ruth: I grew up playing table tennis and now as an adult I play with our Knoxville club and also participate in some competitive tournaments. Two yrs ago I won the gold in the National Senior Olympics held in Cleveland.This year I won the silver (also in singles) in Minneapolis. I was a tomboy growing up and played pick up basketball and football. I am taking up pickle ball now that we have a place to play in Oak Ridge. If I ever have time I love to do research on my family history. Right now I'm looking for the birth place of my Welch grandmother - someone I never met. I also love to garden and to mow our 3/4 acre of grass.
Violettes Piano Purses make great Gifts for Piano Players.
Shop at Violettes by Becky for Gifts for Music Lovers.
Playing with the Piano Purse Design and Restaurant Review
I decided to make a daintier piano purse for those looking for gifts for piano players. People must expect some dainty designs after seeing our feature article in the Nash Country Weekly. We can do that. There is nothing funner than making new designs, then modeling them. And of course eating in an upscale restaurant for one's birthday dinner.
Scroll to bottom of page to see back and inside of Piano Purse 2 prototype available later this week for sale.
So after a morning hike on House Mountain in the color season end show, I worked on several designs for the fast approaching Holiday gift rush.
So I want to tell you about the Dancing Bear Restaurant. I had reservations for my birthday dinner there 2 years ago. Coming back from my birthday hike, we saw that it was on fire. They called me, and said we know it is your birthday, so you are the first one we called. So I waited 2 years for that BD dinner. It now has a new owner, chef... For this review, you most note that I am a gourmet cook and a really tough and picky food critic. I went with my mother and my husband.
Food: fabulous, but no low cal options unless you just have salad with controlled dressing.
We shared an appetizer plate of fried oysters with BBQ sauce (for my Mom's sake). Very scrumptious.
We also shared the "House Recommended" Ambrosia Salad, which was wonderful. Fresh berries on delicate butter lettuce with the dressing on the side. It was the warm brown sugar pecan dressing that was the highlight. Some how the salad tasted like a fresh pie! It was super.
All three of our dinners were heavenly. We usually share all our dishes as if in a chinese restaurant, but we all had trouble giving up any of our own plates. Superb.
Drinks: We ordered one drink to share, my Mom and I - an Amaretto Sour. It had whipped egg white on the top . My Mom gulped it down - she usually only takes one sip, so we had to order another. My husband said the draft beer selection was very small, but what he had was excellent.
Dessert: There was a good selection. Since it was a birthday, we all shared the sizeable slice of Guinness Chocolate Cake. They said it had Irish Cream in the Frosting. It came with home made vanilla ice cream in a cookie cup. Yup, enough for the three of us, and yup, really delicious.
Atmosphere: The buildings and grounds were beautiful with an out door gazebo nice for weddings and parties. The inside seemed like almost cafeteria style, but you didn't notice when the amazing , but caloric food came.
People: The people were wonderful, but from the beginning to the end, they said we're ready for your birthday. Honestly, I have never been to a restaurant that didn't give you your cake for free on your birthday, and with no candle or song. Especially after they told me at least 12 times when we arrived and throughout the meal, "We are ready for your birthday". We gave them full tip, but afterwards my husband said we should have subtracted the price of the cake from it. They shouldn't have pretended to make such a big deal about being ready for my birthday if they didn't even have a candle.
Things they still need to upgrade: Lighting and signage for leaving in the dark. It was hard for us to see the dirt walkway to the parking lot after we exited the restaurant front door. My husband got lost on the way out due to lack of lighting and lit signage. Perhaps they need to stock up on candles too.
Piano Purse prototype Back and inside with cards and 2 lipsticks. This is prototype. construction quality will improve greatly for final version, as I was in too big of a hurry here.
Gifts for Piano Players Or Meiling and the Pink Piano
Meiling Martin is a smiley friendly sweet person whose favorite color is pink! When our grand piano purse shipment arrived, I knew they were perfect gifts for piano players, so I gifted her a Red Fleur de Lys Piano Purse. It was the closest that I could come to pink.
"Pink is my signature color. I wear pink every day. My friends or students will tease me if I am sick because I wear different color clothes once a while. " In the photo below, "my sister, Meiwen, a good friend Janis & I visited a toffee museum (in Taiwan); we saw the old Pink piano."
1. Violettes: How did you grow up getting interested in Piano?
Meiling: I heard friends learning & playing piano when I was 11 years old. I really liked the sound. I asked my mom if I could learn how to play piano. She said yes even though she didn't know what a piano looked like. After taking one year of piano lessons I decided to become a piano teacher.
I came to the US from Taipei, Taiwan in 1986 to get a degree in piano performance at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Because of the school system here, it was easier to choose the major I wanted to study. Even though I had been teaching piano for Yamaha School for 5 & 1/2 years, I still wanted to learn to play more advanced repertoire & acquire more knowledge about teaching piano.
I have been teaching piano lessons since 1990 with 1 & 1/2 year break when I was freshman & sophomore in college. I currently have 30 families taking piano lessons. I am involved in different music teachers organizations in the area. The majority of my students participate in piano festival & competition. Because I strongly feel students need to have a goal toward piano learning. I am very fortunate to have one on one special relationships with students. Hopefully I can have an impact on their music learning, and help them to apply their musical learning to their daily life.
My favorite music is Romantic music-- Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov. I love to play and listen to their music too.
I teach Catherine Rollin for beginner & early intermediate students. Chopin for advanced students.
2. Violettes: Do you have any fun stories about giving lessons?
Meiling: I love to use a silly example to teach a concept; a topping (accompaniment) on the ice cream (melody) is just like balance between hands, or how to put on make up expresses the proper use of pedal. My students love to hear my example of Rondo (ABACA) by using 3 of their favorite ice creams.
I love when I meet my former students who tell me they appreciate that I taught them to be the best of what they do.
3. Violettes: Do you have other hobbies?
Meiling: I love reading & watching shows online. My favorite books are Thorn Birds, mystery & detective novels. My favorite movies are Phantom of the Opera, Mama Mia, Notebook, & Somewhere in Time.
Since my parents are getting old I go home to Taiwan every year. I mainly spend time with my parents and sisters. I also go out with friends to eat. We enjoy chatting, sightseeing & shopping.
Meiling sent lovely photos from her summer trips home.
We Sell Gifts for Musicians, but Get Gifts from Musicians!
Each of our bag styles are used by both professional and hobby musicians as gig bags. So this holiday season, remember our Gifts for Musicians! Fill them with concert tickets. Between selling Gifts for Piano Players, mainly our Guitar, Violin and Piano Purse and Gig Bag Merchandise, we hold our Annual Youth Composition and Songwriter Competition for ages 10 thru 18. We find most students have had some piano background. Seeing the layout of all the notes or keys in black and white helps any musician visualize music theory.
While students send in their Compositions, Volunteer Judges review them for comments. So music gifts from both the youth and the professionals are connected to make the competition a successful exchange of inspiration. I would like to present 2 of our past Honorable Mention competition contestants: Theo Harsham, in the Junior Division, and Davis Zamboanga, in the Senior Division. Congratulations to them both on their accomplishments!
Theo Harsham is a middle school student in Newton, Massachusetts. He’s studied violin since age 3, and also plays piano and sings. His improvisation and composition skills have really taken off under the expert teaching of Beth Bahia Cohen. He studies world, classical and blues music. He also plays in two orchestras and a string and wind quintet group. He loves soccer and video games.
Davis Zamboanga: "My principal instrument is trombone, but I also enjoy playing piano and
guitar and, at 17 years of age, I am a composer and music theory activist seeking to find the Music of Life. My love for music is found in the fact that relationships between mere pitches can invoke a deep emotional response, resonating with the listener's soul. In addition, the process of playing music with a group has the power to connect and transform lives. Knowing this, someday I hope to use music education to reach children in underprivileged communities. After high school, I've thought about going to schools like Berklee College of Music in Boston or the Lionel Hampton School of Music in Idaho."
Find Gifts for Piano Players, their mothers and grandmothers at ViolettesbyBecky.com
Happy 90th Birthday Today to my Mother!!!
Maria Brody can not be separated from her Violettes Piano Purse, nor from her cat. Her husband, 1 grandson and 1 granddaughter were
talented pianists. (Hopefully the grandchildren who are now both studying physics, make time to play again in the future). People where ever we go, notice her piano purse. So the bags are not only great gifts for piano players, but they are gifts for wives, mothers and grandmothers of piano players.
My Mom had some piano lessons as a child, but she was a ballet dancer. She danced in the Vienna Opera House at age 12. She was "caught" in World War II, escaping to England at age 13. She came from a "well to do" non-religious Jewish family, who had to escape Vienna. Her father was able to pay off Hitler's men temporarily, but her family took off in different directions...
After graduating from the London School of Economics with an Economics degree, she took the RMS Aquitania ship to America to be reunited with her mother in New York City in 1947. She lived there for a year taking Modern Dance lessons from famous Dancers Jose Limon, Dorris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. Then she moved to Cambridge near her brother, who was attending MIT. She met my Dad at a dance and they married in 4 weeks. So she turned down a dance troupe offer to travel for "stability" with a (difficult, but brilliant talented) Harvard man. She had come from a difficult family and went thru difficult times escaping the war. Who can blame her for diving into a marriage. (It was a difficult one!)
My father was so dominant, and my Mother was devoted to satisfying every whim of everyone (like many of us mothers). We, her 4 children, never completely knew who the real her was. She probably didn't know for quite some time either. (She took many writing classes, and one time wrote that her feelings are flapping in the wind. She says they aren't anymore.) We do know however that she can not pass a street musician without dropping money! She is a big supporter of the arts. We know that if we
had any kind of a desire to take any kind of lessons, she made it happen. She taught her first 3 children (and all the children in the Seattle neighborhood) dance lessons in our house. She is creative - when she was in her 20's, she loved making pottery and painting whimsical scenes on tiles that were assembled into tables. Later she sewed a lot of my clothes. When I was in elementary school, she taught herself and me to sew. And she was a great cook. Our family foodie tastes have been passed on thru the generations. And I almost forgot - she was always wanting to go camping. Being in the mountains was of utmost importance to her being. In fact, last year I took her on an overnight camp out in Pisgah Nat'l Forrest, North Carolina, and she loved it. I filled the entire back of the minivan with mattresses and soft things. We slept on top of a giant pile of soft things in the tent like in The Princess and the Pea story. (One of the best sleeps I ever had!)
She worked in my father's doctor's office as a nurse and secretary for most of my upbringing. She loved the people she met and she loved helping to care for them. She went to night school to get a nursing degree so that she could give shots... in my father's office. A few of the patients still send her Xmas cards!
Who is my Mom? Now we know because she lives with me in Tennessee.
- - As always, she can survive on cake alone, and will whip up whipped cream to eat with a spoon from a cup!! (Her Austrian heritage!)
- - She is always reading a diverse selection of books - science, politics, romance, culture, religion and even poetry!
- - She often runs upstairs to her room for PBS programs in the evening whether about Math, science, a Biography, any history series, opera, ballet or a symphony. Yes - she jumped up from the dinner table one evening saying she must hurry - there is a program about math on! Duane and I looked at teach other. I think it was actually on Galileo.
- - She insists on "carrying her weight" around the house doing laundry, dishes, watering flowers, sweeping the porch and begging me to let her cook.
- - She wants to treat our cat like she took care of her husband, serving it the best food, constantly. She gets lots of exercise letting him in and out all day.
Perhaps she is having 9 lives. Happy Birthday Grandma!!
If you have any memories of her leave them below. Thanks!
I guarantee, she would be thrilled if you bought our Gifts for Piano Players for the Pianists, their mothers and grandmothers and the Piano Teachers on your list !
A Privilege to have Piano Lessons with Dr. Brunell
Dr. David Brunell is a phenomenal pianist. He is a Professor of Music at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has concertized on four continents: North America (including Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean), South America, Europe, and Australia, and produced a number of recordings. He has been described as having “formidable technique”. Last year, I attended his wonderful performance of the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra.
If you are looking for gifts for piano players or any music lovers, we have 2 CD's from Dr. David Brunell for sale in our Gifts for Piano Players. I find it to be perfect music to play during dinner parties.
Personally, I had the great pleasure of witnessing Dr. David Brunell as a devoted teacher who puts so much time and effort into his students, that he has been known to stay in his office until 4 in the morning to get his own practicing and paper work completed. His students include accomplished children as well as University students. His students regularly place well in competitions, including then 17 year old Jerry Feng, who performed a few years ago on NPR’s radio program “From the Top” (a program that showcases some of America's best young musicians and is heard by millions each week).
1. Violettes: I watched you cleverly explain piano techniques in terms of golf moves and
football plays for my son’s benefit. You must do this for many children. What is the wildest technique explanation that you created to match a child’s interests?
Dr. David Brunell: I enjoy the challenge of trying to think from the student’s perspective and interests. So it was fun to compare a sudden unexpected twist in a piece of music to a turnover in a football game. Perhaps the wildest thing I’ve come up with was inspired by the movie “Speed” in which a school bus is hooked up by terrorists to a bomb that will explode if the bus ever drops below 50 mph. For students who can’t seem to focus enough to follow the written fingering for their scales, and who declare that they just can’t do it, I’ve replied that I think they can. I’ll say, “If you had an atomic bomb hooked up to you such that it would go off and destroy the world if you played with the wrong fingering, I bet you could concentrate hard enough to save the world from that fate! As long as you play the right fingering the world will be fine! Furthermore you can take all the time you want for each finger. You can take 10 minutes or more for each note while you look at the written fingering and think about getting that correct finger to play next. And it’s really fun to see that although they thought they couldn’t get the right fingering, they actually can once they learn to slow down enough to concentrate!
Most of my illustrations and comparisons aren’t that drastic or violent. For example, I like to compare a staccato touch to crispy cereal, like Rice Crispies. I’ll compare a lazy not-staccato-enough touch to soggy cereal and ask the students how they like soggy cereal. Most students agree soggy cereal is rather repulsive, but this line of questioning didn’t work one time when a student said he actually liked soggy cereal!
One of my favorite illustrations is my jello analogy. Almost everyone practices too fast. To get the students to see how slow practice is so much better for getting the music into the proper shape, I’ll ask them if they could fit jello that is already solid into a ring mold or if it would just fall apart. And of course they realize that you have to start with liquid jello, and then as it cools it solidifies and takes the shape of the ring mold. In the same way, slow practice is like the liquid jello that can be molded into the proper shape. Then as the passage being practiced gradually speeds up over time, that’s like the jello gradually solidifying in the refrigerator, whereas starting with fast practice is like trying to start with solid jello and it just won’t work.
2. Violettes: You seem to be interested in many things. How did you decide to become a pianist? Are you still glad of the decision? Do you have any advice for young people trying to make this decision today?
Dr. David Brunell: I actually had a rather ignoble reason for starting lessons. When I was six a girl in my Sunday School class in Kansas City, Denise Dreier (whose brother David Dreier would one day became a US Congressman from California and would also serve as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign manager for California governor) started taking piano lessons from my mother and I didn’t want to be outdone, so I started asking my mother for lessons, too. She didn’t want to give them to me because she preferred to wait until kids for 7 or 8, but she finally gave in. Once I started lessons I seemed to take to it very naturally and I loved to practice. Since I loved playing and practicing so much, it started to seem as though piano might be a natural choice for a career. My grandmother kept warning me, though, not to go into music as she said the standards were so extremely high in order to make it as a professional. Also, a distinguished Washington University professor and one-time concert pianist teacher of a Saint Louis high school summer class I attended called, “The Making of a Musician,” kept telling the class, “Don’t go into music!” (So, those of us in the class said it should have been called, “The Breaking of a Musician!”). However, when that teacher said he thought I could make it in music, and when I won some competitions, especially the first prize in the national MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) piano competition, it seemed to indicate that I might be able to make a career of it. I was coming to love very deeply the music of many of the great composers, and whenever I tried to leave music and go into some other career, I couldn’t seem to break away from music. That illustrates, in fact, the standard line of advice that many musicians give to those considering music as a career: “Music is a tough career, so if you can do something else and be happy with that, then do that, but if music is pulling you so greatly that you can’t really do anything else, then stick with music.” I am still happy that I chose music.
3. Violettes: Do you have a favorite composer to teach or to play? Why?
Dr. David Brunell: For a while my favorite was Chopin, then Rachmaninoff, then Brahms. Then I came to love Schumann and Mozart. Then I came to love Fauré and Debussy and Bartok and a host of others. I even came to really enjoy jazz composers like Gershwin. I finally realized it’s impossible to pick one favorite. It’s sort of like fruit. Pears are delicious, but so is cantaloupe and so are pineapple and strawberries. One composer that comes to mind that I enjoy teaching to intermediate students is Mendelssohn. His phrasing is so clear and his use of compositional techniques of harmonic tension and resolution is so clear that his pieces, such as his “Songs without Words,” serve as a wonderful vehicle to help students understand how phrases are put together and how they communicate.
4. Violettes: You give workshops on “Artistry and Technique”. You must have collected knowledge from your teachers, colleagues and years of experience. What part of the program is your personal spin on the workshop? Tell us something about your approach.
Dr. David Brunell: Just as calculus has two main branches – integral and differential – so, too, there are two main branches to my “Technique and Artistry” workshops. There’s the physical, athletic dimension of getting the hands and fingers to do what we need them to do, and then there’s the interpretative dimension of understanding how music is put together and how we should manage the elements of music, such as the shaping of phrases (i.e. varying the volume of sound from one note to the next in the most convincing way.)
Regarding the athletic dimension of piano playing, many pianists pit one muscle group against another and develop too much physical tension that can lead to injuries. I show them how to free themselves from this problem by substituting the force of gravity for one muscle group, thereby enabling them to play with much more freedom, relaxation and mastery.
As for the interpretative side of music, it is my contention that music is essentially a meaningful drama of musical tensions and resolutions, and I endeavor to help pianists and teachers become increasingly aware of these musical tensions and resolutions so that these will guide their playing and teaching. As one of my teachers once said, “Each musical passage has its own inner logic.” I endeavor to help students and teachers find that inner logic.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 5. Violettes: UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, KNOXVILLE is in the process of becoming an all Steinway Music School. How many Steinway Pianos has UT acquired, and how has it affected the school and your teaching program? (Some background info about the project Here.)
Dr. David Brunell: U. T. Knoxville officially became an all-Steinway school in the summer of 2013, with the acquisition of 68 new Steinway pianos thanks to gifts totaling 3.5 million dollars. Many donors contributed to this. Leading the way were Jim and Sandy Powell, who really had the vision to make U.T. an all-Steinway school. Our beautiful new recital hall, the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall, is named after Mrs. Powell with gratitude for the Powell’s vision and generosity. The new Steinway pianos are a fantastic thing. Pianists have an almost unique problem among musicians in that they are unable to carry their instrument with them and must “make do” with what instrument is provided them in each location. When one has to practice and/or perform on poor instruments, it affects the quality of one’s learning and development. The fact that we have been provided with these wonderful pianos makes the whole learning experience here so much better. I believe our practice rooms in the gorgeous new state-of-the art Natalie L. Haslam Music Center with the wonderful Steinway pianos have got to be among the best in the country. In our performance halls and teaching studios, we have both New York Steinways and Hamburg (Germany) Steinways to give students, faculty and guests the widest choice possible. Everybody who comes here raves about the pianos!
((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((Click HERE to go to Violettes by Becky HOMEPAGE)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))