Another day, another diverse set of pieces. Someone stated that an average piano teacher teaches 600+ titles a year. I believe it.
Up next: Music rehearsal with my friends, the pianist Jim Finlayson and bassist Rory Slater. I'll be drumming. We've been meeting every 2 weeks for years. It is always a highlight of my week playing tunes from the "Great American Songbook". Lots of Porter, Corea, Hancock, and Ellington.
Back to class
7. Prelude in Db by Glière
8. Fantasia in D minor K397 by Mozart
9. Pumpkin boogie by Faber
10. Sonatina in C by Faber
11. Drum rudimental warmups
12. Never Going To Give You Up by Rick Ashley
13. Theory class RCM 8 and Band Lab DAW
Now to the drummers
14. Video game music
15. 3/4 Scottish snare drum solo
16. Free Fallin' by Tom Petty
17. Rollin' in the deep by Adele
18. Superstition by Stevie Wonder
Another day of teaching piano and drum set comes to an end. Here is today’s student repertoire.
Marching by Kabalevsky
Skating Waltz by Berlin
Love Me Tender by Elvis
Claire de Lune by Debussy
Les Baricades Misterieuses by Couperin
Chitlin’s Con Carne by Burrell
Etudes by Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in Bb by Bach
Clementi Etude in E by Clementi
Serenade by Haberbier
Cancion by Mompou
Cottontail by Ellington
Kamado Tanjiro no Uta by Shiina and Ufotable
Watermelon Man by Hancock
Haunted mouse by Faber and Faber
Forest Drums by Faber and Faber
Dinah by Fats Waller
Never Going to Give you up by Ashley
Street of Dreams by Ella
Scottish ¾ March
It’s Only A Paper Moon by Nat King Cole
Meditation by Jobim
Night train by Forrest
Time for a beer.
In the summer 2001 I spent the summer in Santa Pola, Alicante overlooking the Mediterranean. I fondly remember the sun, heat, paella, wine, the flowers, and the nightly walk amongst the townsfolks. And the moon, I remember the moon. Every night after dark I’d watch the little fishing boats leaving the harbour. The sea was always calm. The lights of the boats bobbed into the night while the moon rose through its phases. I experienced two full moon cycles that summer. Wow !
I had had big plans to drag my piano from Toronto. The piano, in the large box I had built for its flight was promptly returned from the airport when the airline won’t let me check it as baggage. Something about being oversized and overweight. Luck would have it; I had a relative in Elche, Alicante with an unused Casio keyboard of sixty-five keys, one pedal, and a stand. Not exactly an eighty-eight key Steinway, but oh did we make music on that thing. Playing jazz on sixty-five keys was discouraging; so off I went to Alicante on a hot sunny day in search of a music store. Bach WTC 1 and a book of easy Chopin returned with me.
Every siesta that summer I played and played and played. I fell in love. Apparently so did my new neighbors who heard me practicing, but that’s another story.
Back in Canada I started asking about for a “Classical” piano teacher. Our first meeting didn’t go well. I banged through scales, thumped out some Bach. Leon was so kind. He said, “you are of course going to do your ARCT?” “I am?” So begun a four-year, 5000-hour odyssey. It changed my life.
Maybe such a journey would change yours. If so, call me.
Sugar was 1st released in 1926 by Ethel Waters, you can find it on YouTube.. This is my 2022 version on xylophone with piano accompaniment.. Have fun and keep on swinging.
I've been learning to play jazz on the xylophone over Christmas break. Who knew it was so much fun? It is making me reconsider the advice I hand out to my jazz students on rhythm and improvisation. So far the advice is holding up.
I've fond memories of listening to New Orleans Jazz as a kid at home. It stuck with me. If you would like to have as much fun as this on the piano, call me.
Yesterday fourteen music students got together and played jazz. What a blast!
Next up February, Covid willing.
Number 3 is the saddest. “I tried teaching myself “. Trying to teach yourself from YouTube or a half-baked app is like trying to teach yourself to drive a car from YouTube. Let that sink in for a moment. A teacher will make you a plan, sequence the material for you, respond to your concerns, and inspire you.
Number 1 and 4? " I have no talent, I have no rhythm." I take ballroom dance classes with my wife. She is a natural and trained dancer. I’ve no talent or rhythm. But, I’m having fun every week. Nobody cares, not even my wife/dance partner. We are having way too much fun together to worry about my lack rhythm or talent.
If I can help your overcome the resistance, call me.
I practice piano and drums daily, except Sundays when I rest. This summer I'm practicing bass. My student Barb asked me, "how do you practice?" This is what I said.
I learned piano in a rather haphazard way as a teenager. Berklee College piano teachers never talked about “playing” the piano only what to play. In my professional work as a commercial musician the playing demands were not too strenuous.
In my early 40’s I spent a summer with a small keyboard and a book of Bach WTC book 1 and Chopin Waltzes, in a Spanish condo on the Mediterranean. Santa Pola to be exact. Every afternoon after lunch while the world took a siesta, I would explore the music on this tiny 60 note plastic keyboard. It was magic.
Returning home, I started asking around for a piano teacher. Leon Karan’s name came up a few times, so I called him. He answered with his warm Russian accent. Yes, I will see you. An appointment was made.
“Mr. Story, please play for me a c major scale.”
Gritting my teeth and tensing my body as hard as I could I dug in and roared up the piano. He looked at me sympathetically.
“Please play your piece for me.”
I’ve no idea what the piece was now but his reaction was one of concern.
“You are of course going to do your ARCT?”
“ARCT, you are a piano teacher. You have a duty to your students.”
In short, I got my you know what kicked and challenged at the same time.
Four years and 5000 hours of practice later, I graduated age 47. It was the most difficult and rewarding thing I’ve ever done as a musician. Truly a marathon. I felt like superman.
"Spending winters in the sunshine, reading, playing golf and socializing seemed a wonderful way to spend retirement. With both of us being music lovers, our sound system is always on all day with great music ranging from Classical, Jazz and some pop. But I felt something was missing and it wasn’t snow. My wife encouraged me for years to take music lessons. I was not too keen because my memory of lessons was the Nuns whacking my fingers with a ruler insisting, I keep my lazy fingers off the keys; that ended in 1958 when I got my Grade 8 piano. But the seed was planted. I decided to look on the net for a music teacher near Burlington and came across David’s website. This really looked interesting. During our cocktail hour that night, I said – when we get back to Burlington, I am going to take Jazz lessons from this David Story guy. On April 23, 2013 my life changed.
Of course, I thought I would be rattling off Jazz tunes within weeks; grief! As time progressed, I realized how complex Jazz really is, especially soloing; how do they do that? Practice, practice, practice every day and soon I started to see the tunnel – no light yet! After a few years of toil and trouble, something that sounded akin to music emerged; I encouraged my cousin to take lessons from David. Then, 4 years ago, David encouraged us to attend the Jamey Aebersold Summer workshop in Louisville. There we were for 6 days: 2 old guys, jamimg in groups, attending classes and intense listening, from 7am to 10 PM. Hardly time for a Scotch closer at night! At last, all those lessons from David were clicking into place like a Rubik’s cube. We went back the next summer and did it again. Then, David encouraged me to try and get a group together to Jam. The pressure was on; my 2 songs would not cut the mustard. More practice. An advert in Kijiji did the trick; we ended up with an exceptional drummer, bass, guitar – and me. We met every week for 3 hours until covid.
My lessons continue. The Jam will continue after we all get our shots. I am still amazed at what some practice along with amazing guidance and encouragement from David has done for my life and continues to do so. Not bad for an 80 year old!"
Tomorrow Part 2. Learn more about Gary's jazz journey.
Setting out to create your own music has many satisfactions.
But first a story.
I'm 13 years old, a self taught guitarist. Full of confidence I head off to music camp in Kirkland Lake Ontario in the summer of 1972. Oh boy! The instructor Harry Forbes, was kind and tolerant. Good thing, I sucked.
One day I spotted a strange looking keyboard in the corner of the room. I asked, "what is that Harry?"
"It's a ARP2600 Synthesizer".
"What does it do?"
"It does this"
"Holy *D*D(#KD+!" I was hooked. I've never looked back.
So why create your own music?
1. Personal expression.
2. Participate in the sound of our time.
3. Keep the "play" in playing music alive.
4. Creative exploration and discovery.
5. Learn some new instruments.
6. Join an online community of music makers.
7. Become a rich and famous DJ
Electronic music has some of it's own terms.
DAW Score paper
How to get started.
The cheapest way is to explore apps on your phone like garage band. This can be expanded with the addition of a specialized keyboard attached to your phone. $100+
Next up, purchasing a USB keyboard and a Digital Audio Workstation and pair of audio speakers. $500+
All in, purchasing a USB interface, USB keyboard and a Digital Audio Workstation, microphones, yards of audio cables, a pair of audio speakers, a specialized desk, and a room to put it all in. $5,000++
I can help you get started, call me.
I'm excited to share new ideas with my students going forward.
Over the duration of the classes, I've upgraded and tweaked my technology, lesson plans, and much much more.
I'm 15 or so, I've been playing a year or two. I "practice" in quotes all the time. She is cute, she sings, she needs an accompanist for the church strawberry social. I step up. I'm waaaaaay over my head. But keen to impress.
We practice, I survive. But I am about to learn the difference between the practice room and the stage. In hindsight I imagine it is like the difference between basic training and real combat.
It's a beautiful day, they haul a small piano outside on the grass. The back of the piano faces the singer and the audience. We step up. I am soooo nervous, so underprepared that my right leg starts to bounce uncontrollably, audibly, banging the underside of the piano. People are looking around for the source of the noise. I'm deadpan behind the piano.
It mercifully ends.
1. "Superbia et ante ruinam" Pride goes before the fall. But the show must go on.
2. Never underestimate the power of shameless audacity in a show biz career.
3. It's harder than it looks. The magic of the performing arts is the illusion it is easy.
Poland is a long way to travel to learn with American Jazz Masters Dena DeRose, Miguel Zenon, Aaron Goldberg, Mike Moreno, Ali Jackson, and Luques Curtis.
It was worth every penny for such a transformational experience. Bonus, a beautiful country and people too.
Aaron Goldberg, pianist, was our ensemble leader for the week.
About seven years ago I first attended the Jamie Aebersold Jazz Workshop in Louisville Kentucky as a drummer. I was green but pumped. I was pulled out of the workshop on day one and sent to a room where two instructors waited. Bassist Bob Sinicrope started drilling me with questions. Who are you? Why are you here? Very direct.
I explained I was a piano teacher and musician from Toronto who now played the drums. I had attended Berklee College of Music back in the day… He cut me off. “Who did you study with?”
Ah, Ray Santisi.
“Ray Santisi, I’m his bass player!” We were instant friends.
Which brings me back to Poland and Aaron Goldberg.
After hearing us all play we were put into groups and assigned rooms to report to. A bunch of us showed up, nervously eying each other. Language was an issue. There were 5 Poles, 2 Russian teenager wunderkinds, 1 Chinese Rock Star, and 1 Canadian old guy. We all noticed the room was devoid of music stands.
Aaron walks in. He was a student of Bob Sinicrope! He calls the first tune: Body and Soul. No music. We sing as a group the bass line of the song after much discussion and negotiation. We get it. Then the singer, in halting English, explains it’s in the wrong key. Aaron gives us a new tonic note and low and behold we sing the bass line in a new key. He counts us in. Away we go. I’m glad I’m a drummer that day.
At the concerts during the week, we are the only group playing without music. We play with intensity and conviction born from pure terror. We nail it.
Aaron buys us a bottle of Bison Vodka at weeks end and salutes us all.
Thank you Aaron for valuable insights and the vodka.
If you are feeling stale, try the following exercises.
If I can help you, let's chat.
Meeting in person students you've only met online is always a thrill.
Today I had coffee with a student from Northern BC who was passing through town. We recognized each other immediately, even in masks.
We chatted about his hometown and the music making possibilities therein. For a town of 6 thousand there was a myriad of opportunities:
Four out of five of those present music making possibilities. For many students piano is a solitary activity enjoyed with a cup of tea or class of wine. Others? It's a party. More the merrier. I help students achieve both ambitions.
I've made mine. There are below.
Time for yours. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Have fun, lower the intensity. Except if you are a professional or preparing for post secondary music education. Time to ramp it up!
2. Now back to recreational players. Normally I would recommend some concert attendance, but alas, this is not currently possible. Maybe attend some online live events. The Village Vanguard in NYC is presenting some of New York's finest.
3. If you can visit a music store with a large print section and ask the clerk for some recommendations on what is new and exciting for players at your level.
4. Revisit and reflect on your goals for the fall.
My plans. As I'm a professional, I'm ramping up the intensity until Labour Day in September.
90-day summer music plan 2020
Before Covid 19 1/3 of my students were already online. Now it is everyone. How are folks dealing with it? Generally fine. One young man, 4 years old, had to take a breather. But another 4-year-old is thriving. Kids are still learning, maybe even better because of the extra practice time available. Several parents have taken up the piano again to assist their kids during lessons.
Parental involvement has been a revelation. What fun they are having! Duets are ringing out, lots of laughter and perspiration.
Older adults have really taken to the whole project. Many of them are not going back schlepping through the snow to the studio, they are staying online. Safe and sound in warm and familiar surroundings.
How is the teacher doing? I miss the travel and environmental novelty of travelling. When social distancing passes, I will enjoy the personal interaction I had before. But, I'm pleased as punch that we are all settling into the new normal.
Call me now for the fall. Spots are filling up.
How does the teacher practice?
Good question. So, here goes.
I do the following things on a regular basis:
How do I practice in my studio?
If I can help you, feel free to call me.
What are the take aways for students?
I'm off to Louisville. I'm quite excited about the trip. I expect it will be a great learning experience and hang.
I'm rooming with my former Berklee College of Music professor and adviser Andy Jaffe. I expect to meet lots of folks from my musical past there including Ed Soph, Bobby Shew, and lots of Berklee folks.
I will be posting details of the workshops and concerts here over the next couple of days. Drum workshops will be posted on my drum blog. Have a look here: Drum blog
Piano inspiration of the week is found here: Pianist magazine.
Ninety six instructional videos on the fine art of classical and jazz piano.
I have new recordings of myself playing drums in the Toronto band "Jakes not here" on the hear me button. Jazz and Blues fun, found at the bottom of the page.
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.