One of the things I love about working at Lawrence is the opportunity it gives me to explore so many facets of being a musician. My own teacher, Gilbert Kalish, made his career through the most varied means imaginable—a liberal arts degree from Columbia University, a long stint in the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble premiering all manner of new music, decades of work with the famous mezzo-soprano, Jan DeGaetani, chamber music with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players and the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, concertos with the Boston Symphony and others, and of course a distinguished teaching career at SUNY-Stony Brook. He became my model, and although my own career has of course unfolded on very different lines, his serious interest in new music, his belief that solo and collaborative work go hand-in-hand, his enormous intellectual curiosity and his involvement with cultural and political issues in his community, all made a life-long impression on me.
For many years, almost every program I’ve played has included new music. I have always played both alone and collaboratively, starting many years ago when I was at Juilliard and accompanied violinists Peter Oundjian, Cho-Liang Lin and Nadja-Salerno-Sonnenberg, to the present day when I continue to perform constantly with chamber groups, instrumentalists, and singers. My solo repertoire is varied, ranging from Bach to the present day, with some special emphasis on Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Debussy.
Since my own family is filled with academics, I seem to have inherited a strange propensity for writing and speaking! I give frequent lecture-recitals, recently at institutions like New England Conservatory, Kansas- City Conservatory and UC-San Diego, and have often performed at the annual Music Teachers National Association conferences. I’ve also written quite a few articles by now, most on the intersections of literature and music, and am currently writing a book (which has entailed many trips to Paris!) on the social history surrounding the work of Claude Debussy.
My teaching style is eclectic, as was the teaching I myself received. I wasn’t lucky enough to be endowed with an inborn virtuoso technique, so I’ve worked hard to understand the mechanics of piano playing, studying long after I finished my own formal training, with French-school pianists in Paris and with proponents of the Taubman technique in this country. My earlier teachers were unfailingly superb musicians, having themselves studied with such eminent pedagogues as Rosina Lhevinne and Leonard Shure, and the task of integrating both technical and musical insights from their very diverse points of view has been ceaselessly challenging and fascinating to me.
Such assimilation is, I believe, the task of every pianist –I encourage my students to seek out new teachers over the summer and to consult my colleagues at Lawrence during the schoolyear as well: there are many ways to put together the complex puzzle that is playing the piano, and my hope is to open as many doors as possible, never to parrot single answers!