Category Archives: communication

Namesake concert: getting to know your audience

We musicians categorize our audiences based on age group and demographics. At one glance, you can usually tell which group they belong to. Is it possible to get to know them individually?

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Have ʻuke, will travel


Tiny Tenor of Romero Creations (mahogany)

This past January, I introduced myself in Joel Katz‘s intermediate ʻukulele class by announcing that I was downsizing from the nine foot grand piano to the less than two foot ʻukulele. People laughed.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t giving up the piano by any means. Rather, I was embracing the ʻukulele. It has my namesake after all: KU in ʻukulele.

In truth, I didn’t know what I was getting into. A few of my music students had shared their love of the instrument. One even gave me a hand-built ʻukulele stand as a parting gift. Eventually I succumbed to my usual thirst for novelty and variety.

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Guitar and mandolin duo and trio at Great Falls Coffeehouse, Massachusetts

Robert and I were thrilled to see the announcement of Mark and Beverly Davis’ Duo concert on Facebook: Friday August 14th, 2015 at Great Falls Coffeehouse, in Turners Falls in Western Massachusetts. We were in Boston, five years after we first made contact with Mark on Skype from London to book our concert in their home in Connecticut. In planning our road trip, we remembered fondly of their hospitality and their beautiful CD which accompanied us on our long drives in autumn in New England through our five week concert tour that ended in Maui on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.

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Filed under arrangement, audience, communication, composition, concert, culture, food, guitar, instrument, review, travel

Concert reviews Maui Arts and Cultural Center

Every semester I require all my music students to attend an approved concert and write a review. The review must demonstrate they actually attended the concert. They can write about the concert-going experience, their impressions, feelings, thoughts, and anything else that resonated with them and for which they wanted to share. I then select the most relevant passages from their written reviews and write a so-called “Review of reviews” on this blog.

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Music from Movies Concert

For the record and to avoid repeating the same program in the future, I’m documenting what I played for the concert I gave on Friday 28th February 2014. I had contemplated the possibilities of piano music from movies a few days earlier.

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Piano lessons: individual or group?

“Should I take private one-on-one piano lessons or should I take a piano class with other students?”

This is a question I get asked from time to time.

The answer: it depends on the time and money you are willing and committed to spending on lessons and practice. It also depends on the results you want to get. In other words, it depends on your goals.

The traditional private individual piano lessons once a week may be outdated by today’s time-challenged adults who have to balance the demands of work, study, and other responsibilities.

In individual lessons, you develop a relationship with the teacher. You set the pace. Except for improvisation classes, all my piano training has been individual lessons with a teacher. I must say that group lessons were unheard of when I was growing up.

Nowadays, because of time and financial constraints, group classes are not only a possibility but also a growing trend. Digital pianos also make group classes possible as everyone can put on headphones.

For beginners, the progress may be faster in a group setting, because of the effect of learning from and with others. The social aspect of learning in a group causes accountability and responsibility. You practice. You show up to class. You participate. You have a benchmark. If you miss a class, you have to catch up.

I say this because I have witnessed the positive results from teaching adult group piano classes for four consecutive semesters. My goal is simple and two-fold — get my students to

  • be able to read music and sightread new music
  • to experience “flow”

Being able to read music notation opens a world of possibilities, for the repertoire for piano is greater than any other instrument. Once a person experiences “flow” he or she will want to do it again. This is the adrenalin-kicking, endorphin-releasing natural high that performers and athletes experience. It’s what keeps us going.

Why does learning to read music work well in a group setting? Short answer: it takes less time and is more effective.

Before playing a new piece of music, I get my students to analyze the patterns and discuss what they see. Everyone gets to participate. By the time we finish and are ready to play the music, most of our anxiety about tackling an unknown piece of music is gone. It takes more time in an individual setting to discuss a new piece of music.

From a financial perspective, it may be more affordable to start with piano classes and continue with individual piano lessons after you’ve reached a level that requires more one-to-one time with the teacher.

At University of Hawaii Maui College, Hawaii residents pay $106 per credit per semester. Consider a 2-credit piano class that meets once a week for 2.5 hours for 16 weeks (or twice a week for 1.25 hours each) versus private lessons that range from $60 to $100 per hour on Maui. You can get up to 6 credits this way (i.e. 3 semesters at 2 credits each).

How big are the piano classes? We need a minimum of 10 students per class for the classes to happen. Check the Spring 2014 music course schedule for class times and availability.


Filed under communication, piano, planning, sight reading, Uncategorized

Review of reviews

Students and guests at the Piano Class Recital, Dec 18, 2013 Maui College

Students and guests at the Piano Class Recital, Dec 18, 2013 Maui College

One important assignment I require of my students is to attend an approved concert and write a review during the 16-week semester. It’s always refreshing to read their impressions afterwards. Below are some of the highlights from their reviews.

Sunday 13 October 2013 Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC) Yokouchi Pavillion
Ukelele Festival

“Music brings the spirit of aloha to everyone: kids and parents love to enjoy a great Sunday afternoon with nice music.”  Roberto C.

The Annual Ukulele Festival in Maui, October 2013 free to all.

The Annual Ukulele Festival in Maui, October 2013 free to all.

Sunday 17 November 2013 @ 3 PM Maui Arts & Cultural Center  (MACC) Castle Theatre
Anderson & Roe 

“There was not a moment of pause or boredom as they introduced and linked each work to the next.” — Concertblog, Dec 9, 2013

“These artists are known for their intense and not-so-traditional ways as a duet. Anderson & Roe will take you on a vertical joyride. As soon as they began to play the Animal Suite, I took that vertical joyride and was sitting at a bar and this cool cat comes walking in, looks at me, takes off his hat, and takes a seat with his jazzy swag. Then we move into the elegance of the swan and the next thing you know, I’m in this electrifying swarm of bumblebees racing.” Mauro C.

“The ability to have such skillfulness of control over volume, speed, intensity. As an adult beginner piano student, I know the effort it takes to have even a bit control! How much they must have put in, to develop the seeming ease — to make what sounds they desire to express actually come out of the piano. With grace and speed and sheer elegance!” Jessica V.

“This being my first piano concert, I thought it would be like sitting in a room in front of a ‘Bose’ stereo system, listening to a piano CD, but it was far from it. At times it was like watching a magic show, I sat there wondering how can she cross over, under and around and still play in sync.” Clement A.

“All too soon the concert was coming to a close but not before the audience gave the pianist a standing ovation urging them with words of ‘Hana hou!’ and whistling so loud I was sure someone’s ear drum was going to burst.” Tenajah T.

“When the duo returned after intermission, Elizabeth Roe had changed her dress. She was now wearing something that looked like a beautiful silk aloha-type dress.The duo received standing ovations from the crowd on at least three different occasions that night.” Daniel G.

“They added humor in the way they shared the stories of the pieces. I liked the variety of music they played. It makes me want to continue playing the piano.” Debbie F.

“Studying piano has many benefits. When I sit down to play, it is like not having any trouble things in my mind. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe are duo pianists on a mission to make classical music a relevant and powerful force in society.” Shuang X.

“At times it was hard to isolate who was playing what part. it sounded as if they were one pianist.” Stephanie R.

“They were all over the place and never seemed to get tired. I was very impressed with their communication style, the way they looked at each other and knew what to do.” John d.

“I think they made the order of the show according to mood and tempo which was nice to have a flow to the music rather than bouncing through ups and downs. They had wonderful chemistry, and I kept watching them both. It was very mesmerizing. What made me go to this concert as opposed to the others was that everyone else was going to this one.” Brandi K.

“Their enthusiasm and joy of music was so evident that it was contagious. They shared with the audience and you couldn’t help but like and have a raport with them. The variety of pieces, moving between pianos and seamless switching for introductions and descriptions of the pieces were marvelous.” Cindee B.

Sunday 1 December 2013 @ 3 PM Maui Arts & Cultural Center  (MACC) Castle Theatre
Harps and Horns

“They had a finely dressed narrator, who was accompanied by a local comedian who also helped with the narration and the translation of the well-dressed man’s fancy words into pidgin. This made the time in between the songs much more enjoyable than expected.” Steven C.

Friday 6 December 2013 @ 7:30 PM A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center at Seabury Hall
Dan Tepfer

“Not only was the music beautiful but it never grew tiresome as you couldn’t predict what key, dynamic, or tempo would come next. Being able to witness and hear such creations was such a privilege and has left me wanting to attend more and more live performances.” Geena G.

“Dan Tepfer did not speak a word. What he did was talk with melodies. Dan’s music also reminded me that finding what you really can become serious about is how you make your life truly yours.” Hidenori S.

“The concert was at Seabury Hall which I thought was a bit too open.” John P.

“Tepfer did not interact with the audience at all during his performance. He did not have to, in my opinion, because his talent did all the talking. If I had to guess, I would say that he played every single key that was on the piano in one performance.” James I.

“Though I felt that if the whole 60 compositions were cut down into maybe ten, he could have used the rest of his time to explore other composers and other reinterpretations. I felt that the performance became too repetitious, and I would have cared for some variety.” Paolo P.

“The improvisations and style Tepfer showed with his variations of the classics was without question a passage from the olden time period to new times.” William M.

“He used his everything to play the music. Not only his fingers and foots, but also he was using his soul.” Misako F.

“The setting was great for the event, with the evening cold breeze, the dark path that made it easy to notice the clear starry sky. I am used to loud concerts and everybody dancing around so to sit in my seat for an hour and a half was a little uncomfortable. The animation that Dan displayed while playing was entertaining.” Josh R.

“I had a difficult time finding the building. … I was interested in the way he played. His hand movements, his facial expressions, the way he danced with the music, and he actually hummed to the music.” Melody R.

Sunday 8 December 2013 @  3 PM Maui Arts & Cultural Center  (MACC) Castle Theatre
Maui Holiday Pops

“Attending ‘Holiday Pops’ was the most beautiful event in my life.” Micah S.


Filed under arrangement, audience, communication, composer, composition, concert, culture, instrument, personality, photos, piano, research, review, travel