My newsletter

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My newsletter

I wanted a convenient way to compile a list of friends, family, and colleagues who might be interested in attending one of my concerts. To that end, I've just signed up for TinyLetter, a newsletter distributor.

If you want to be notified when I have a concert coming up, click this link to sign up with your email address: http://tinyletter.com/mariajc93

This newsletter will be infrequent and the messages will be just long enough to give you adequate information. I have some exciting news to share soon...

Cheers!

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Acoustic or Electronic? Instrument Choice

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Acoustic or Electronic? Instrument Choice

So you or your children want to take piano lessons, but you don't have an instrument at home yet. What is the best choice for your household? For many folks, purchasing a new or used acoustic piano is not economically feasible, but that's not the only way to get a keyboard instrument worth playing.

Choosing an instrument is both an artistic and a financial question. Playing on an acoustic piano is a more satisfying and enriching experience, but electric pianos and electronic keyboards have vastly improved over the decades. I've listed the common options below.

1. Rental. In many major metropolitan regions of the United States, it is possible to rent a good quality piano locally. Your local piano tuner can connect you with a showroom or dealer who rents out instruments on a monthly or yearly basis.

2. Electric. You could also choose to purchase an electric keyboard. Many families with young children choose this option because keyboards are easy to store and cost a fraction of the price of a piano. Plus, keyboards can be easier for smaller hands to play, as fine motor skills are still developing. 

Unless you are very familiar with the parameters and criteria you expect from a keyboard purchase, I suggest visiting a brick-and-mortar music store rather than buying an instrument online, sight-unseen. The prospective piano student should be able to touch the keys and hear what the keyboard sounds like. Weighted keys are essential because they mimic the feeling of an acoustic piano's mechanical action. Regular pianos have eight octaves and 88 keys. I personally wouldn't purchase a keyboard that had less than 64 keys for a piano student. And don't forget to purchase a damper pedal, a stand, and a comfortable stool or bench. Sitting at the correct height will keep the student from overexerting back and shoulder muscles.

3. Giveaways. The third way is to look for classified ads and online notices of people giving away pianos locally. Estate sales, churches, and newly empty "nests" are all common sources. It happens more often than you think, and it's how my parents got their baby grand! Of course, there is no such thing as a free piano: moving, tuning, and making any necessary repairs to the instrument should be done by professionals. Again, your local piano technician can be a big aid in this process.

Did I miss any common or creative solutions? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Meridy

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Tuning and Crooning

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Tuning and Crooning

Here's what I've made of my summer:

As you can see from my previous blog entry, I was excited to take a piano tuning course at the Hartt School of Music that was to happen the last week of June. Unfortunately, the course was cancelled due to low enrollment. Feeling disappointed and at a loss for where else to learn, I called Marco Scott (of http://www.marcoscottpianoservices.com), who has been tuning my family's piano for two decades.

In a strange twist of fate, Marco had just gotten a shoulder injury and was going to be out of commission for weeks, unable to do much of his tuning and repair work or even drive. For most of June, I drove us around Fairfield County to his different jobs. We have unscrewed Steinways, attended a guild meeting, repaired faulty hammers, replaced felt, vacuumed dust, and restored a 97-key piano to perfect tuning.

I have loved learning and practicing this difficult and rewarding craft. An academic setting probably would have been a great experience, but you can't beat practical application. Marco has been a great mentor to me and I can't recommend his tuning and repair work highly enough. If you are in the Fairfield County area and your piano needs tuning or repair, give Marco a call. Or if you are looking to buy a carefully attended new or refurbished piano, stop by his shop in Stamford (and tell him I sent you!): http://www.hallerpiano.com/ 

Meanwhile...

I had my second wonderful summer at the Columbia Gorge School of Theatre. We spend four weeks together on the campus of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. It was a welcome break from the East Coast humidity!

By day, I teach general music and vocal ensemble skills; by night I am the music director for the musical theater show. This year's musical was The Fantasticks. I fell in love with the quirky score and the vaudevillian style of the show. Our high school-aged cast did a tremendous job pulling meaning out of esoteric lyrics. You can see photos of the production here: http://www.cgst.com/gallery 

Photo by Don White

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Summer Plans

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Summer Plans

This summer is going to be full of music for me!

During the last week of June, I am taking a piano tuning course at the Hartt School of Music. As a pianist, this is another step to mastering the instrument and understanding its mechanical subtleties. I'm also looking forward to challenging my own aural skills and experiencing temperament in a new way.

After that, I fly out to Portland, OR for a month of teaching musical theater at the Columbia Gorge School of Theatre. Music direction is a wild combination of diverse skills and I am excited to stretch my own capabilities as well as those of my students.

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May Concerts

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May Concerts

Do you want to see a concert I'm in at Carnegie Hall for as little as $20?

Or, would you like to hear me sing Beethoven for zero American dollars?

Today's your lucky day!

I will be singing with NYChoral on Tuesday, May 10 at Carnegie. The concert starts at 8 pm. Concert description here: http://www.nychoral.org/events/handel/ You can get tickets here on the website, or send me a message if you want the $20 ones (I have to place a special order). The piece we will be performing is Handel's Israel in Egypt. It has everything you like about the Messiah (stirring melodies, powerful arias) in under two hours. The soloists are rising stars in the international opera world, and the plot is the Passover story! You'll have fun.

Then on May 15 and May 20, I will be singing with Downtown Voices and some other ensembles at Trinity Church on Wall Street. One of my favorite things about singing with Downtown Voices is the accessibility of the concerts: They are all free and open to the public, and available through livestream and archived video. That being said, because there are no reserved seats, you should plan to arrive at least thirty minutes early if you want to sit.

On Sunday the 15th at 5 pm, we will be performing Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, an arrestingly beautiful and strange work for chorus, solo singers and orchestra. The instrumentalists will also play a cello concerto by Alberto Ginastera.

On Friday the 20th at 7 pm, we will be performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (yes, that one) and Ginastera's Psalm 150. There is nothing that I can say that hasn't already been said about the Ninth Symphony, but I will say that I am relishing the opportunity to sing in German again. The Ginastera piece is a gorgeous (and very short) ode to the celebratory and praiseful power of music.

Both of these concerts are part of a series called Revolutionaries, which pairs later works by classical giant Ludwig van Beethoven with later works by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. You can find out more about the concert series here: https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/music-arts/season/concerts-at-one

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