Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Music for the first day of spring - Schubert's Frühlingsglaube, sung by a young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Gerald Moore at the piano.

For those in the southern hemisphere, where today is the first day of autumn - Mahler's Der Einsame in Herbst from Das Lied von der Erde, sung by Christa Ludwig and the Israel Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

May the seasons turn meaningfully and pleasantly for you in 2018.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018: Current Work

A post shared by Chris Foley (@foleymeister) on

Until this last week, the Collaborative Piano Blog has been on hiatus for a year and many of you are probably wondering why there have been no new posts for so long. A short answer: this has been one of my busiest years for work, and I find myself at a cognitive overload. It has also been a difficult year for me personally, as my mother passed away in September, while my father has recently moved to a nursing home. Next year I plan to cut back on a few things, as I realize that writing is very important to me, and I would once again like to make blogging a primary activity for me in the 2018-19 season. This means that I need to start planning now.

This is my 24th year in the profession following grad school, and my 16th year in the Toronto area after an initial 8 years working in Vancouver. Here are my current professional responsibilities:

  • I teach 67 students in total, including 6 singers in The Glenn Gould School’s Vocal Literature class, 6 piano students in The Royal Conservatory School, and 55 students at my home studio in Oakville
  • As an Examiner for The Royal Conservatory’s Certificate Program, I travel across North America to assess developing musicians of all ages and levels. 
  • I serve as Adjudicator Certification Program Specialist at The Royal Conservatory's Academic Office. In short, I'm on the team that trains the next generation of examiners for The Royal Conservatory's College of Examiners. 
  • My wife and I manage Foley Music and Arts, a company that encompasses all our non-employment professional activities. 
  • I'm on the music staff for Temple Sinai's High Holy Days. Although I’ve had to limit collaborative projects recently, my duties at Temple Sinai are incredibly satisfying, and this is an engagement that I find more meaningful every year. 
  • I'm the current President of the Hamilton-Halton Branch of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association. This year marks nearly 25 years in a row where I've sat on a volunteer executive committee. Although I've found that governance of volunteer organizations highly rewarding, I've found it exhausting and it's time for a break. My volunteer duties will be significantly curtailed in the coming year, and it's this change in my schedule that I hope will open up time and cognitive space to become an active blogger once again. 
The shift from working exclusively as a collaborative pianist to moving towards piano pedagogy began back in 2006 and has completely revamped my professional activities and outlook. The balance between institutional and private work at present also provides plenty of variety and challenge.

In the next while, look for more posts on the nature of work in the teaching and performing professions, as well as how technology is changing things irrevocably for all of us.

Friday, March 16, 2018

3 Ways to Memorize Music When Nothing Else Works

Lydia wrote an interesting comment on my 2007 article about memorizing music:
I notice that many of your tips for memorization include the word memorize in them. "Run the piece from memory, mistakes and all, keeping track of all the slips." In other words, memorize where you messed up. "Memorize, the articulation, memorize the dynamics, memorize the work away from the piano." These are all suggestions I've heard from my teachers for years, but my question is always HOW? HOW do i memorize the dynamics, HOW do i memorize the form, HOW do you expect me to remember where I messed up after playing a piece? These are not suggestions for people who have difficulty memorizing. These are variety exercises for people who are already decent at memorizing. Do you have tips for people whose brains simply refuse to remember these things?
What an awesome comment! Lydia asks some completely valid questions here. There are indeed times when absolutely nothing works. In the 11 years since originally writing that article, I've found this to be the case with myself, especially as I age and tend to think a little differently.

The situations that Lydia describes are places where thinking laterally can work. Rather than a full frontal memory practice assault, consider working in different ways. Here are some ideas:

1. "How do I memorize the dynamics?" Dynamics aren’t just a volume dial, but a way into playing with different tonal colors, textures, shades, and moods. All of these colors can be accessed through varieties of touch, and you can commit them to memory by remembering what the touch feels like. Practice with the music, not just reading and listening for the dynamics, but feeling the speed of attack and quality of touch. This is something that the body can remember. And if the body remembers it, the senses and emotions are never far behind. How does a piano feel? What about pianissimo? Fortissimo? Dolce? Mezzo forte? What about crescendo and diminuendo? Being aware of the slight changes in touch and pressure with these dynamics in practice can unlock a way to perform with them as well.

2. "How do I memorize the form?" Get out a blank piece of paper and draw the form. Take what you know about the basics of the form that you’re playing, whether it be binary, ternary, Sonata, Rondo, or whatever. Draw the main divisions. Write the bar numbers, phrase lengths, cadential points, and key centres on the page. Then try to play from the piece of paper. Still confused? Write in as much information as you need. Your written-out form can serve as a cheat sheet.

3. ”How do you expect me to remember where I messed up after playing a piece?” Record yourself. It has been said that there is no more effective, blunt, or honest teacher than observing yourself play on video. If you’ve got the guts to watch yourself having memory bloopers in a run-through of whatever work you're preparing, you can go a step further and figure out exactly when, where, how, and why the mistakes happened. Then figure out how to fix them. Then record/watch again and look for progress.

But to be completely honest, sometimes memory is simply not happening. Unless you’re in a situation where playing from memory is absolutely compulsory, consider using the music. There’s no pride lost in using the score in order to bring a work to life and feel confident in performance.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pulp Fiction for Cello and Piano

A brilliantly filmed reimagining of Dick Dale's Misirlou for cello and piano:


Celloproject are cellist Eckart Runge and pianist Jacques Ammon, who have a website devoted to their continuing collaboration.

Carnegie Mellon's Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival Runs June 24-29 in Pittsburgh

For those interested in instrumental collaboration, Carnegie Mellon will be offering an Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival at its School of Music in the last week of June. From the festival's About page:
The Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival (ICPF), a unique and essential festival, is the first festival with the instrumental collaborative pianist in mind. 
Designed to give both established and new collaborative pianists the opportunity to work with renowned faculty and musicians, the ICPF will present masterclasses, lessons, lectures and workshops exclusively for the exciting world of instrumental collaborative piano. 
The Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival will explore the numerous settings in which collaborative pianists are needed, as well as provide a variety of tools to succeed in the professional setting. 
Boasting an international faculty of outstanding caliber, the ICPF is dedicated to promoting the study of Instrumental Collaborative Piano and refining the skills of the established collaborative pianist through masterclasses, lectures, workshops and private lessons. 
Applicants can choose between a masterclass performance track or a lesson track and will have the opportunity to compete in the Festival Competition, in which one winner will have the opportunity to perform on the faculty recital.
Faculty include Luz Manriquez, Vincent de Vries, Alison Gagnon, Kyoko Hashimoto, Sung-Im Kim, Pilar Leyva, Rodrigo Ojeda, and Peter Stumpf. You can apply online or contact an administrator if you're interested.

(Thanks Luz!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Collaborative Piano Institute Is Accepting Applications for its Second Season

The Collaborative Piano Institute at Shattuck St. Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota is off to its second year, after a highly successful inaugural season. Led by Artistic Director Ana Maria Otamendi, the institute has an exciting lineup for 2018 with a residency by none other than Martin Katz(!) as well as a partnership with the Bravo Summer Music Academy in the second and third weeks of the festival.

The Collaborative Piano Summer Institute runs from June 3rd to 23rd, and you can apply online. The application deadline is March 15, after which there will be a late application fee. Those interested in a scholarship should definitely apply before the March 15 deadline. If you would like more information, feel free to contact the festival at any time.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Valerie Capers Solo on 1981 Dizzy Gillespie/Ray Brown Birks' Works

Although this is a Dizzy Gillespie/Ray Brown fronted lineup, the Valerie Capers piano solo is one of the highlights on this 1981 Birks' Works. Go to 3:50 to skip right to the piano solo: