Happy New Year To All of You!
I hope your holidays were warm and happy despite being scaled down. I am not expecting a huge change overnight, but it sure feels good to put 2020 behind us and move on with a fresh start.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to do with this issue of Pianotes, I realized that on January 10th it will be 40 years since I left my banking job and became self-employed. So, instead of the usual assortment of music facts and trivia, I’ll tell you about some of my adventures over the past four decades (how can that be when I’m still 29?). This issue will cover the first twenty years with “trivia bits” between the other articles, and I’ll bring it up-to-date next month. I am also inserting photos of some of my favorite drawings as well as a few other photos.
Me at about 3.
Pianotes tells so much of the story of my life from 1981 on, so the numbers below refer to the issue numbers followed by the date. Prior to that, in a nutshell, I was born and grew up in Oakland, CA. Mom was my first piano teacher and then I went on to take lessons from our church pianist/organist. I went to Oakland High School, as both parents did, and my first year of college was at University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA as an art major (ironic because UOP is known for its music department). I did my freshman year there and then transferred to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland (now known as The California College of the Arts), graduating with a fine arts degree in drawing. I started working part-time at Wells Fargo Bank while I was in college, and then got married before my senior year. After a few years of trying to get an art career going, I went to work at Fidelity Savings and Loan. In the meantime, I got divorced and eventually moved to Richmond, CA. I quit my banking job in early January 1981 and got married again a couple of years later.
Me at about 11.
Some things never change!
My original plan was to focus on my art career and to teach piano lessons as a side job, but after a year or so, it became obvious that there was a lot more demand for piano lessons than for my artwork. I had worked toward an outdoors art show of my work for many months, but when the date came, it rained - ALL DAY! So, I scaled down my artwork to composer sketches for Pianotes and became a full-time piano teacher. That decision made buying groceries and paying the mortgage a lot easier!
The first issue of Pianotes was a letter to parents and students in April 1982. I taught most of my piano lessons in students’ homes, and the parents were often at work, so the first few issues were info updates about lessons, recitals, etc. The newsletter went unnamed for several years and each issue was “Newsletter #1” etc.)
2020 By the Numbers: 200 new reviews of albums were added to the site - 148 albums and 52 singles. Five of the album reviews were by Michael Debbage, and I did the rest. 25 new songbook reviews were added, and there were 18 new interviews. 53 new artists were added to the site, bringing the total to 1027! We’re now at 2689 album reviews (including singles), 296 songbook reviews, and 91 “other” reviews. There are 234 artist interviews, and the five most-reviewed artists are David Lanz, Peter Kater, Greg Maroney, Matt Johnson and Louis Landon - in that order. Over the course of the year, we had about 39,000 visitors to MainlyPiano.com and about 51,000 visits - an increase of about 10%. Here’s to another productive musical year in 2021!
#18 9/84 was the first issue to have music trivia between the articles and the first issue to feature a Student of the Month and a Composer of the Month. (Beethoven was the first and I continued to feature classical composers each month.)
#34 1/86: I started an almanac listing birthdays and other musical events.
#35 2/86: I was getting divorced, so I was anxious to take more students so I could keep the house in Richmond, CA.
#40 7/86: The first living composer I did a Composer of the Month story about was Stevie Wonder.
#45 12/86 was the first issue with students’ Two Biggest Christmas Wishes.
There are new reviews of twenty new recordings this month and five new songbooks. You can find links to them all here
#46 1/87 was the first issue with a list of quotations about what music is.
#54 9/87: I invited students to design the recital program covers and continued to do so for a lot of years.
#56 11/87 was the first issue titled Pianotes and was the first issue done on my Macintosh SE computer (with its whopping 2 MB hard drive!).
#68 11/88: I went to see Yanni’s first San Francisco concert. At that time, his band included a cellist, John Tesh on keyboards, and drummer Charlie Adams. Liz Story opened for Yanni at Davies Symphony Hall.
#69 12/88: I sold the house in Richmond and bought a townhouse in Hercules, CA since that’s where most of my students were.
Annual Wishes List:
If you missed them last month, the Annual Holiday Wishes will stay active on MainlyPiano.com for a couple more weeks. I’ve added a few since the list was first published, so you might want to visit it again
"Study in Black & Laughter" pastel
#71 2/89: I decided to buy a copy machine since it was taking three hours to print 40 worksheets with my printer!
#73 4/89: George Winston was Composer of the Month along with an explanation of what New Age music was.
#74 5/89: Yanni was Composer of the Month and became my first interviewee. Actually, I sent questions to Private Music and they answered them for me. I did a sketch of Yanni for that issue, too, and Private Music sent him a copy of the article. Composer sketches became a regular part of Pianotes after that.
#80 11/89: I had a message on my answering machine from Yanni when I got home one night! He said he’d call back the next day, but that was when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit and we had no phone service for a while!
#82 1/90: I featured my 15 Favorite Keyboard Albums of the 1980’s. Yanni and Suzanne Ciani dominated the list, but David Lanz, George Winston, Kitaro, Peter Buffet, Vangelis, Liz Story, Tangerine Dream, and William Bolcom also made the cut.
Piano Lessons: I started 2020 with three piano students - two in Reedsport and one here in Florence. In March, when the COVID restrictions took place, none of the three wanted to try doing lessons online (I had quite a bit of experience with teaching online, but that didn’t seem to make a difference). So I taught my last piano lesson on 3/20. Since it’s been so long between lessons, I’ve decided to "officially" retire from teaching. The time seems to be right, and 39 years is a good run!
#83 2/90: I had another call from Yanni! He really enjoyed my article and sketch of him, and became the first artist to have Pianotes mailed to him. This was the first issue to have the “crazy pianist” graphic in the masthead (I still use it!).
#87 6/90: Suzanne Ciani became my second artist to interview, but I was able to ask her questions directly rather than via Private Music (also her label back then).
#97 4/91: I went to see David Lanz’s first concert in San Francisco and had a chance to meet him - the first of many times!
#105 12/91: This was the first Christmas Wishes List to feature an artist - Phillip Aaberg, who was also my first “live and in person” interviewee. That interview was in the following issue.
#112 7/92: I had taken groups of students to two different concerts Yanni performed in the SF Bay Area. The first one was in Santa Rosa and we were up in the balcony, but the second was on my birthday in Berkeley and we were in the fourth row. His band included violinists Charlie Bisharat and Karen Briggs along with two drummers, two other keyboard players, a third violinist, cellist and a bass - an amazing concert! AND we all got to meet him afterwards. Students were shocked that Yanni knew who I was!
New Interviews: I didn’t have time to do any interviews again in December, but I have interviews scheduled with Louis Landon, Todd Mosby, Robert Thies, and Joe Bongiorno, so be watching for one or two of those in the coming weeks.
#115 10/92: David Lanz was Composer of the Month for the first of many times.
#117 12/92: David Lanz and Suzanne Ciani joined Philip Aaberg on our Christmas Wishes List.
#119 2/93: Suzanne Ciani was the first artist to come to Hercules, CA to do a workshop and concert with my students. Some of my more-advanced students played first, and then Suzanne played for us.
#125 8/93: Wayne Gratz was Composer of the Month and joined our growing group of contemporary composer friends. Spencer Brewer joined us the following month.
#127 10/93: Spencer Brewer came to Hercules. Six students performed his music and then he played - the first of many incredible workshops and concerts with Spencer as well as the start of a long friendship that continues.
House Concerts: We were able to do only one house concert this year. It was March 1 with Kate Moody; all the other concerts that were scheduled had to be cancelled or postponed. We’re in an “extreme risk” county and the COVID numbers seem to be increasing rather quickly here in Florence, so I haven’t scheduled any concerts for 2021 yet. Hopefully that will change soon, but it’s not worth taking any chances.
Gregory Kwok and me 1995.
#146 5/95: My student, Gregory Kwok, did a solo fund-raising concert to help raise money for his international summer tour with The Continentals. It was one of the proudest experiences of my life!
#151 10/95: 47 of us (students and parents) went to see David Lanz perform in Marin County .
#157 4/96: This was the first issue with an email address in the masthead. Remember AOL???
#163 10/96: I sold the townhouse and was getting ready to move to my house on the other side of Hercules, closer to San Pablo Bay.
#169 4/97: Robin Spielberg was Composer of the Month and was the first composer I met online. We were both in a new age music “newsgroup” and became great friends.
January Birthdays: Here is a partial list of some of the musical January birthdays:
1/4: Bill Whitfield
1/5: Kori Linae Carothers
1/6: Greg Starr
1/7: Cathy Oakes, Carl Borden & Kerry Barnes
1/8: Stephen Peppos
1/9: Steve Rivera & Artyom Tchebotaryov
1/11: Mark Freshwater
1/14: Scott Cossu
1/15: Matthew Schoening
1/16: David Thomas Roberts
1/18: Beverly Ritz
1/20: Angelo Rapan & Sharon Fendrich
1/21: Fiona Joy Hawkins
1/23: Bernward Koch, Christine Brown & Rick Sparks
1/25: Michael Logozar
1/26: Rhonda Mackert
1/28: Louis Colaiannia & Jose Manuel Quintana Camara
1/29: Danny Wright
Happy Birthday to all of you!!!
#170 5/97: I announced that the first issue of the new print magazine, Wind and Wire, was available. This was a new age music print magazine founded by Bill Binkelman. I was one of the staff writers for the full run of the magazine, and this was a major turning point for me. I preferred doing interviews at the beginning, as I knew quite a few artists, but when Bill insisted that we try to keep our reviews positive, I decided to try it. I learned that there is a difference between being a reviewer and being a critic. This experience opened so many doors for me and I was able to interview artists like Kevin Kern, Laurie Z, Ray Lynch, Clara Ponty, and others, as well as some that I already knew.
#180 3/98: Robin Spielberg and I met in person for the first time when she was in the Bay Area for a concert. She did a concert/workshop with my students the following day.
#188 11/98: In October, Evan Gould did a workshop and concert at my house. He came out from NY to do a couple of concerts that weekend and his friend, John Nicholas, came with him. This was significant because John was thinking of starting a website featuring just piano music reviews and interviews. I was interested, but was committed to Wind and Wire for the time being. We stayed in touch.
#192 3/99: I did four composer sketches for a songbook John Nicholas was transcribing to be published by his Music Media Group: Eric Chapelle, Loren Gold, Evan Gould and Patrick Lee Hebert.
#201 12/99: Kevin Kern did a concert/workshop with us, and it was the first time he’d heard anyone besides himself play his music. It was a moving and magical evening! Also, the final issue (#13) of Wind and Wire was coming.
Whew! What a trip down Memory Lane! I hope you enjoyed it! We’ll be back with more next month! Happy New Year and stay safe and healthy!
"The Unburdening" pastel
#202 1/00: I decided to start writing for John Nicholas’ MusicMediaGroup website. I also started posting some of my CD reviews in Pianotes.
#206 5/00: Loren Gold did a workshop with my students. We recently did an updated interview!
#213 12/00: About a third of the Holiday Wishes were coming from composers who had become friends.
#215 2/01: MusicMediaGroup became SoloPianoPublications.com and the website was listed in the Pianotes masthead for the first time.
#218 5/01: Spencer Brewer did a workshop with students, and Kevin Kern came over from SF to be a part of it. What an incredible musical experience that was!
#219 6/01: I got my first cell phone, but it mostly didn’t work anywhere in Hercules!
#220 7/01: I proof-read and edited Kevin Kern’s first songbook, which was being published in Korea. That opened another door for me!
#223 10/01: 9/11 had just happened, and a group of artists and I were trying to put together a compilation album of piano music to raise funds for the victims of the attack. We were also anticipating our first concert/workshop with David Lanz on 10/7. I included an interview with David, and he had sent me a collection of “fun facts” that I used between the articles of the newsletter that month.
TO BE CONTINUED!!!