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A new year 2012;- new batch of students wanted

12 Jan

Since I’ve been in Hawaii, I’ve only had 1 or 2 students who actually paid my fee and listened to me, their teacher. And, I feel badly that I have had to “sell” my 1st piano that I purchased upon arriving in Hawaii in order to cover my immediate need of a living space. In the past 2 years and 11 months, I have attempted to build up a piano studio. However, I don’t have enough paying students.

Some of my “students” including relative(s) of people with more established Hawaii piano studios, have not paid the appropriate fees as scheduled;- and have offered what they define as payment in other terms. So, this has not worked for my piano studio financially. Additionally, I decided that it would/will be better in the future to leave men out of my studio in entirety since some of them are belligerent and insensitive to the piano business;- and have largely contributed to destroying my studio operations in Hawaii;- despite their well-groomed upbringing in Hawaii’s better High schools. Also from their threats of cutting off my fingers for fun.

In Hawaii, my teaching services and experience goes largely unappreciated financially and otherwise. And, as an instructor I will not sign a contract with other “schools/studios” where my students and thus income can be “taken away” at the whim of some “artistic director” who governs the “broke artist” realm.

So, as it stands I will be finishing lessons with the student(s) who have already paid me on my academic calendar schedule.

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And, if there are sufficient complying students who not only fill out the application, but also pay the member fee, as well as full tuition up front I will resume teaching beginning students. Until that happens, I will only be available for more advanced students who pay and seek interpretation, technique, and other more artistic development lessons.

If there is a School/conservatory in Hawaii that will sufficiently cover my expenses and suitably meet my teaching fees;- I will resume teaching beginning students. My capacity for students remains below 15 students. However, at this time;- they must be paying in entirety since there are no funds for me to support students. My own living needs are priority.

If there is a “new batch of students” who can meet my requirements to employ my teaching services;- I will resume with studio hours and performances. My piano performances cannot happen with the strain of trying to financially carry needy and uncooperitive students as much as I would like to perform in Hawaii. I need that time to myself;- that has literally become part-time job  hours to afford my own basic housing & living needs. Aloha, & thanks.

Angela M. “Kikuchi” Kneale

Intro: Dragon Mom versus Tiger mo

4 Jan

The Dragon, a universal creature that is emblazoned in both European and Asian cultures. Moms in both European & Asian culture both try to prepare their children for the battles in life. However, being the first generation in a USA culture that discriminates regardless of lies that are told, the Tiger mom’s methods are out. Most of the mothers who come from foreign or “exotic” cultures had plenty of self confirmation. Many of the moms grew up with friends who had similar experiences to them in their motherlands. If they had TV and media, these mothers were frequently inundated with cultural images of their parent culture. The amount of criticism they received was likened to that of people who were like them in their motherland.

Now, these mothers enter their new realm USA. Parents of the 1st generation can be subject to major identity crisis. They are singled out. And, many parents who typically lie to hide a common social problem, don’t understand just quite how deep an emotional and psychological ravine their children  fall into. Many of these children grow into adults who need to try and “verify” their own image in early adulthood by travelling to Asian countries. Sometimes, this is such an emotionally and psychologically intense experience that the once successful child that the Dragon mom pinned to her ego ceases to live. Mostly, due to frequently high suicide rates among Asians & Asian-Americans who strive for success in the USA. There is little acceptance by the Dragon mom or parents as to why their children did not successfully complete college, university, or their PHD program when it is within a week away. Some outwardly blame their own children and mock them to maintain status in the USA community, rather than take on the blatant responsibility to protect their children through early adulthood.

Sometimes this protection involves participation in the young adult’s life past the age of 18. And, it still involves calling the College or University where their son or daughter attends to keep things in line, yet at a distance. Being a minority “ethnic” group in the USA is another thing that many Dragon mom’s don’t understand or want to accept. Sometimes this will unfortunately include unnecessary and costly legal battles to get their children through higher educational institutions safely. Many minority families can’t afford these battles and so usually the child of the Dragon mom is left to fed for themselves in an unrelenting pit of discrimination, abuse, and being taken advantage of (including assault or pushed to the brink with suicide). Competitive majority & USA domestic dorm mates can also score automatic 4.0gpa if their dorm mate commits suicide.  Being a Dragon and hovering over the child even in early adulthood is of prime importance for success.

Many children of these parents usually begin to do soul searching by the time they reach their mid 20’s. For others looking for answers, this stage happens later and sometimes in the midst of a pressing professional life.

To be continued… and revised 1/4/2012 – 11/23/2016

Cross Cultural Understanding

28 Dec

repost: Cross-Cultural- Understanding from Piano_Noir  

First published Dec. 28, 2012


Aloha…is from a land of Hawaiian Ukulele music.  Ukelele music is popular among the local Hawaiian families and is frequently used at weddings and celebrations. Aloha land is 4920 miles away from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the East Coast of the United States where traditional Christian weddings are plentiful. Philadelphia, PA where Rachmaninoff hisself conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, where the legendary piano instructors Gary Graffman & the Sokoloffs reigned for over 50 years as the best piano instructors on the planet through the 2000 millenium. Though I was adventurous as a prior student of a Hungarian piano instructor who was a collegue of Zoltan Kodaly where local folk music was embraced, the Hawaiian attitude is anything except harsh.

I was in a condusive traditional Classical piano environment and learned piano in a very strong Christian based community. One where every church has at least one grand piano, if not two or more grand pianos and electric organ or common pipe organ. I grew up with the general knowledge that Bach and many of the great keyboard Composers were supported by the Church and wrote sacred as well as secular music, with a pethora of churches and institutions where I could perform on a variety of period instruments frequently.  In diminished comparison, Hawaii barely houses an electric keyboard at any church, let alone 1 studio upright or pipe organ.

In the current 21st century economy many Hawaii churches have “gotten rid of” their keyboard instruments due to maintenance costs and vandalism from an obtrusive population. Before moving to Hawaii, I took my east coast musical environment for granted and wished the general population was understanding of my Japanese heritage. However, most of the Christian community included everyone in the USA who has traditionally hated the Japanese;- including newly formed Korean specific churches. So I continually befell physical attacks, verbal criticism, and blatant discrimination on the East coast for most of my 30 some years of life.

So, I move to Hawaii and am inundated with a severe local attitude that is against piano.  They say I have  “too high makamaka”  think I’m better than them. I worked at piano because I loved it and my talent put me through college with a scholarship.

The other day, a local parent mentioned to me that his child was learning a popular “Traditional Christian wedding piece” on their keyboard on her own. This is the first time that I have gotten to explain that these are normal pieces, that many children on the mainland learn to play at their family weddings. It’s difficult for me to believe that the culture in Hawaii is so vastly different from the East Coast USA that these things are so “foreign” to local Hawaii. Especially since I see the religious rosary with crosses dangling from many rear view mirrors, and other Christian car markings. Just as most mainland people could not explain the differences and nuances of Hawaiian musical performances because they don’t know the Hawaiian traditional song repertoire;- most Hawaiian Islander natives could not begin to explain the subtleties of any Classical piano repertoire performance.

edited: Nov. 23, 2016 Sproutfuel.com

Chihuahua: A piano that made me smile

10 Dec

Phone call, the doctor’s office;- the eye doctor. I got in just by 4:30pm through the thick Friday shopping traffic. So, then I deposited the very small amount of money I had left on me into my bank account this holiday season.  This will be my 3rd Christmas in Hawaii this year. And, nothing really has made me smile so much as trying the Ritmuller 4’11” today, at a Honolulu piano store and school.

The Ritmuller I tried out, as a possible purchase should I stay in Hawaii next year and succeed enough in the USA financially next year;- was impressive for such a tiny instrument. Brand new, it was tried after I went into the Used Steinway selection room full of “out of shape” Steinway sound;- aside from some Steinway Upright. The price tag on the 4’11” Ritmuller for the holiday was just under $12,000 + taxes (4%). Perfect for a small apartment or home. And, also highly responsive to execute Ritmuller’s “Euro Sound”.  I enjoyed the small thing immensely.

The “Ritmuller” piano that performed exponentially better than many of Hawaii’s pianos that I have tested. Beethoven, check hard. I found this very challenging compared to even a Steinway or Mason & Hamlin. The precision check needs to be nearly immaculate for the performing artist. Adjust my playing?, definitely. Chopin, discriminate pedal. Hypersensitive if you will. Voicing;- Ok this is the killer;- Topped the voicing of “Hawaii’s” voicing technicians on the Steinway. This is Hawaii. It is not New York or down the road  to Elephant Rd. Pennsylvania.

The Ritmuller 4’11” in Mahogany laminate grabbed my ear when I heard the lovely singing A5-C7 registers. It is quite satisfying for the size of the instrument and lacks the boxed sound of the Upright. I’m uncertain to say however that this is a piano for every learner;- though it should be in a sense.

Steinway is dead in Hawaii comparatively. Climate is #1. #2 is the lack of decent technican/  restorer who can independently, fully regulate a restoration job, or make the keys appear as if they are evenly spaced. Price tag;- will never fallow for Hawaii’s most elite.

So, for these reasons above, not to “unmention” the Steinway Chihuahua’s from Willow Grove ;-). I’d like a Ritmuller to practice on in Hawaii.  Thanks to Ritmuller for making me smile in Hawaii, for a brief bit, to remind me about the Art of being pianist. This “teacher” definitely approves.

My Hawaii Studio Recital & My Birthday

22 Nov
Gifts of Hawaiian Lei & Koko-Pele

Gift & Music from students for my first Studio recital in HawaiiFlowers for the Instructor

I arrived with a batch of recording equipment. One of my adult students  immediately “lei’d” me with a beautiful and soft fragrant lei. The lei smelled soft, light and fruit-like and really changed the aura around me to being immediately pleasant.  It was only my 2nd lei made of flowers that I have received since being in Hawaii. So, it is something very special to me.  Three beginning students of mine committed to performing that day for about a half hour. My prior studio recitals were 20-25 beginners playing short works of 1 min. a piece over 30 minutes.  So, this felt more like a recital should to me. Two of the composers prepared original works for they day. We had performances of a Christian based song called “An Angel is Born” by a Hapa-American composer that I accompanied on piano in the style of Pebble Hill Inter-faith Church, and a piano piece entitled “CY7” by a young Japanese-American composer.

Others adult students bailed out on performing, days before, or had business trips and other things planned. The Studio recital this year went well. Held on the 20th of Nov. 2011. Some of my adult students were able to perform, and in the aftermath of APEC that greatly affected the island and our schedules. And, on a weekend before the Holiday season “officially begins” with Thanksgiving day in 4 days.

I was very happy with everyone’s efforts. Before the performances I gave everyone performing a copy of Ruth Laredo’s book for advice and to aid them in their first performance. And, very proud of an adult student who had to play and carry most of the music time in this beginning recital with more lengthy and intermediate classical & jazz works.
 At the end, I was given a Hawaiian Koko-Pele necklace (aka as Kokopelli) with the spirit of the music muse. And, for the first time in my 20th year of teaching;- I gave out awards. Awards are something that I usually reserved for students who were in my studio in excess of 2 years or in the rare case of exceptionalism. This time was quite different. My youngest student and only child student has studied with me since August, barely making the 3 month mark. Another student who was on-again/ off-again and never having much time for learning piano and practicing pulled through with lengthy song lyrics and a melody that I helped to arrange.  What a wonderful day! All ended with another

Asian Lillies- fragrant
Flowers for the Instructor

bouquet of Asian lillies and requests to hear me play, despite my attempts to clear the hall for recording. I realized that I normally make and evaluate self-recordings before performing as part of my artistic process.

It was nice to see happy faces. Thanks to everyone for making it a wonderful day.
Later, I got to cash in my Starbucks Birthday coffee card for a Venti Peppermint Soy Mocha. Then, I was able to get some extra hall time to try out the piano and recording in this hall (a new place for me). Afterwards, I was taken to dinner at PF Chang’s for some Vegetarian spicy eggplant and yes, a Chopin Dirty Martini- Shaken not stirred.
(reminiscent of a small group of male tweens in my  piano studio, years ago who performed the James Bond theme, and one made the Philadelphia Inquirer re: his serenades)

Briefly on Technique

17 Nov

Technique for the lifelong pianist is something that one grows into from the time the young pianist is able to press her/his first key on the keyboard. This is much like any child who grows into becoming an all-star athlete in his/her chosen sport. And, I try to explain to students that playing with straight and un-curved finger is like trying to run a race with locked knees.

The mindful part of the developing pianist is within the inner-ear development and leads to a delicate/sensitive musicality which emphasises subtle tones to contrast the more bombastic elements of technical power. Lest we forget, the art is NOT to bang exclusively as a show of control of the instrument. Sometimes I have male student who see my small frame and try to outplay me. When, the focus and bigger show of maturity and refinement as a pianist is in the musical control of being able to play subtle and sometimes nerve-wracking slow passages perfectly.

Editions- a mention

28 Oct

What edition are you learning _____ from?

Why is this important to any developing artist at the piano? It’s important because every note is crucial. What we see, hopefully as close to the Composer’s written hand manuscript as possible.  Close to the Composer’s notes written in his students’ studied scores. All, to “recreate” a hearing of the piece that is live and as close to the “intent” of the composer as possible. Or, to know that which is intended and bring out nuances that, debatable, reflect a historical representation of sounds leading to that piece’s interpretation.

So, Tuesday, I went to the small Honolulu music store adjacent to Sanders Piano on King Street. And, I asked if they had a Durand edition of the Debussy Preludes.  Apparently, not. There was a small dose of Debussy that wasn’t much thicker than Beethoven’s complete Sonatas in Henle and the Complete Mozart Sonatas in Presser. The Debussy editions available were Henle, Alfred, and Schirmer. There wasn’t even a Dover Edition. And, then I was left with one choice for the Preludes, and I cringed…it was the Schirmer Edition. Something I was told to NEVER work from (except for my Concerti for already set competitions to be one by the highest bidder- not I).

So, There are no fingerings in the Schirmer edition. The print itself seems too lifeless…I don’t know how to explain that, being that I am the daughter of a Printer. And, there is no acknowledgement of where this edition was derived. There is a 1900 copyright acknowledgement and international copyright claim posted with G. Schirmer Inc., ASCAP on the 1st prelude page. I’m not sure about the notes throughout the edition. And being that Hawaii already severely lacks resources, it is quite expensive for me to order books since there is no free shipping to Hawaii;- I’m still waiting for 2 shipments of books for students that were to be here on the 18th, and have still not arrived via USPS from Amazon (5 days left before I can formally complain.)

However, with some recordings and listening and a highlighter in hand I’ll mark any stray notes and accidentals, as I have done in comparing a Dover edition of Mussorgsky’s Picture’s at an Exhibition with an International Music Company, (Frankenstein edition) of Pictures at an Exhibition. There seem to be more errors in the Dover Edition.

However, The only really decent editions I have secured after my $30,000 solo music library of good editions that I secured over the years was stolen, like my good CD’s by by college classmates, is in some Sikorski editions. Not to mention college faculty stealing my old Chopin markings with all my other scores from my Music School basement locker It would be nice, if anyone has editions to send my way;- to drop them in the mail to me. Even IMSLP is difficult for me to afford in printing costs, due to the high volume of pages that comprise my repertoire. I’m sure there’s a pianist, or anti-pianist laughing about further damaging my career while helping plenty of “their own”. This is not something new I have to contend with, though I have a love of music that is very seperate from the people who make this a most difficult path to exist on.

 

Two Metronome Method differences

27 Oct

There are a few approaches when it comes to the perpetual ticking, tocking, beeping, and flashing that aggravates any piano cat to the point of metronomic annihilation.

The two approaches are:

1. Develop strong rhythm first and then later develop artistic technique.

The first way, is usually used with developing a good sight-reader and accompanist who won’t falter the tempo. These learners can become powerful sight-readers, and we see and hear them at auditions. However, many of them lack artistic sensitivity because they are literally just pounding out the notes without a significantly more skilled control of their voicing, crescendos, and rubato. They can make decent group players rather quickly, in band and other endeavors, however for some more picky ears;- they may not be a desired accompanist to perform with another inclined artist at a different instrument.

2. Develop a personal rhythm and artistic approach to the piano and then impose the metronome.

The second way is the reason why some students attend auditions and are given comments that say they have a nice musicality about them, but have a weak rhythm that needs work. However, the artistic process is long and to develop students to masterful maturity can sometimes take years. This type of playing is where they have developed their own sense of rhythm and musicality and phrasing that is pleasing to a well-trained artistic teacher’s ears, and then that tone and touch is put into the metronome beats. Even today, online, there are pianists who display their videos and have still not reached maturity with this process. That is to have a desire to play like a master with the Composers intended tempo, and not at a tempo that is convenient for themselves. It’s important for parents to understand and support this process at the Piano.

The difficulties and the “lost” art of musical artistry

Unfortunately, there is much teasing and ridicule that befalls students of both categories of metronome and rhythm learning. The students who are avid sight-reader early on make fun of the artists who are concerned about the shading of each note and “lack rhythm”. And the artists, who have musical control, usually remain silent for a long time, detest the hoards of sight-readers who lack a decent sense of rubato and musical phrasing to make sense of a contemporary period modern piece. The battle goes on until the second category artist catches up in sight-reading ability (that many mistakenly neglect for their lesson assignments).  The first category is full of learners who usually have a more solid attitude to secure work with the public and impress people with the quantity of music that they can make. This is because masses of people  in the USA can be easily impressed with a large quantity of piano music rather than the quality. However, many of these players are not going to be winning prizes for interpretation. But, as the piano industry changes and the art of creating musical control and tone becomes “lost”, due to a high number of electric keyboard players, more of the sight-reader (I expect) will win because they have more money to spend in their industry. Maybe in time, that will make them better artists. It’s difficult to say. I can only hope, as an instructor who was held to a high artistic standard, that the art isn’t completely lost among the American masses that are so abrasive and not understanding when it comes to these things. Yes, developing your own sense of rhythm, touch, and control at the piano way of learning is an art and tradition that is ultimately expensive in numerous ways. You must afford the time, humility in practice, and such until one day you emerge like a hard-pressed diamond who doesn’t expect any reward.

Differences of Adult piano/music lessons

27 Oct

Live without piano lesson regrets.

Piano teachers everywhere have heard parents talk about their own experiences with piano, and with some hint of regret that they didn’t stay with the piano. Adulthood is a wonderful time to learn the piano as a safe and enriching hobby that can be done easily in one’s home or office.

Why piano?

There is something, as an instructor, that makes me giggle when I hear colleagues who made the life commitment to teach stringed instruments. It usually occurs sometime when I’m walking down the hallway and I can’t help contain my laughter. I’m happy as a piano instructor that I don’t have to focus on getting a student to improve the sound quality of a squeaky tune. However, that’s probably the only laughter I get to have as a piano instructor. The things that I focus on improving as an instructor with pedagogical technique/method are far more serious in producing quality and quantity of piano music.

The Focus and differences of Adult piano/ music lessons

1. Training hands that are accustomed to other movements & using fine motor skills that are previously untapped.

2. Ear training in tonalities;-  the Adult ear has a musical awareness the new child learner is only forming.

3. Memory work that can, for some time at the beginning, be inconsistent from week to week. One week it’s easy for an adult to remember something and the next week the focus isn’t there. We adults simply have more pressing matters on our mind than most children. And, we have to mentally prepare ourselves to block out those thoughts and keep the cel phone turned off for the time that we are practicing, if possible.

Memory and focus for adults is one of the biggest trials for me as a piano instructor. And, I can also relate in adulthood. Adults simply have more things going on in life. And, unlike a life threatening rock climb, piano doesn’t require complete focus to stay alive, as an enriching hobby. For this reason, it’s important for adult learners of all ages to treat their time at the piano as a musical meditation time. When one begins to equate learning slow finger movements to a slow walking meditation, we have begun to enter a more focused mindframe. This level of awareness is needed in the first months of adult lessons so that performance frustrations don’t overwhelm the chance of success at the piano.

4. Performance self-conciousness for adult piano learners is usually higher than for children (who accept that performing is another kid thing they’re supposed to do, and all kids understand this). It’s important for beginning adults to perform in a peer friendly environment. Everyone has different amounts of time to give to their piano study in adulthood in order to maintain their adult responsibilities. And, this time is everchanging in our adult lives. We must be patient with ourselves and our life circumstance, breathe, and accept where we are at the instrument. It’s more important to embrace our piano study as a gift to ourselves, and accept any performance opportunity as a step in our progression at piano learning.

5. Musical awareness is a bigger difference with adults taking piano/music lessons. Adults simply have heard more, seen more, and experienced more in life than a child. Because of these factors and the life long experiential depth that has developed a full range of emotion;- adult learners who take their time at developing tonal/muscular control of sound will have more to express than many adept child performers. In part, as performers, we call this practicing the aura or emotional maturity of a piece rather than just practicing getting the keys and basic rhythm.

I hope that this helps adults who are looking into taking piano lessons. The most important thing though is to have fun with playing the piano and performing. For adults who want to begin on their own, I suggest checking out Alfred’s Adult Piano Course level one with CD. The CD is a bit “fast”, but work through the book at your own pace. Find a teacher to correct your written work in the book (which may be a good review if you’ve had prior lessons), and maybe if you feel ready;- assign some pieces.

I have my own 2-3 year syllabus that has 14 pieces selected from the Classical Repertoire for children or adults to learn from, and to expand their understanding of the Classical piano performance and dialogue. The pieces range from simple Bartok to Mozart and Bach, and then Mostly the Great Romantics – Beethoven & Chopin followed with Debussy and Shostakovich.

Aside from the above mentioned syllabus, I primarily teach adults how to work on anything that they want to play.

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