Performance Workshop: Helping Students Play Their Best

Last Saturday, my students and I traveled to Steinway Hall for our Fall Performance Workshop and played on a beautifully maintained 6′ 11″ Steinway Model B piano. The students were happy to see each other and to meet new friends. It warms my heart when I hear the children say that they can’t wait to see all their piano friends again. Aside from the camaraderie, Performance Workshop is a valuable experience for young pianists.

Having the chance to play a real piano is                                                         a dream come true.

 

Benefits of Attending Performance Workshop

  • gaining experience playing an acoustic piano
  • playing through their nerves for a small group of peers
  • practicing critical listening and observational skills
  • giving and receiving feedback
  • refreshing their performance etiquette
  • viewing their own recorded performance
  • setting goals

 

Playing for a small group of peers helps prepare students for a larger audience.

At the workshop each pianist practiced exactly what they will do at the concert: stand tall, take a bow, play their music and finish with another bow. For a few children, Saturday was the very first time they ever played for someone outside of their family. Playing for a small group of peers helps prepare students for a larger audience at our recital.

Students evaluated one another in the areas of technique, stage presence and artistry. In their lessons next week we will watch their videos and read their peers’ comments (and mine too).

My New Piano | Steinway & Sons Designed Essex

I just love my brand-new Steinway & Sons Designed Essex 111E Upright.  I tried all of the Essex pianos in the showroom at Steinway Hall, but I kept coming back to this one. The tone and the way it feels sold me. It’s so beautiful too with its lustrous mahogany finish and modern design. Not only does it look great in my new studio, but it sounds even better.

Some have asked me, “How can I get a piano like yours too? How much will it cost me?”

That’s an easy one to answer. Just let me know and we can go to Steinway Hall to pick out your new instrument.  My piano costs $5,790. For many, myself included, paying it all upfront is not an attractive option. You may be interested to learn that Steinway has a rent-to-own program and after six months of renting, you can either return the piano, pay the remainder of the cost and own it, or pending a credit application you can continue to make payments until it’s yours. They also offer a true rental program. You can choose from their “bank of rental pianos” and rent from month to month and return the piano when you feel like it. Normally the rental price is 1.5% of the purchase price per month, but if you let me know, I can get you a 1% rental rate through my contact at Steinway, Regina Davidoff.

It is a little known fact but Steinway makes three lines of excellent pianos: Steinway & Sons, Boston and Essex. The Steinway upright piano goes for about $23,000. They spare no expense and take as much time as needed to condition the wood. It takes them one year to make it and they use the best materials in the world. Steinways are handmade by master craftsmen. The Boston upright still has quality materials and the design is very like that of the Steinway, but part of the production has been automated. That allows them to bring down the price to $10,000. The Essex upright is about $5,500. They are produced in a factory in China, under the supervision of a Steinway and Sons specialist. The materials are good, there is no plastic anywhere in the Essex piano, however the parts cost much less than what is used in the Steinways and it takes less time to make them with machines.

I got really excited when I heard about the Steinway Promise. If you purchase a new Steinway designed piano, and decide to trade it in for a new Steinway designed piano of greater value, you will receive an allowance equal to the full purchase price of your piano.

So, if you know you want a Steinway someday, you can start with an Essex.

 

Students Visit Steinway Factory

Normally, only adults are admitted into the Steinway & Sons Piano Factory in Astoria, NY, however, once a year they open their doors to admit children. Last March, I jumped at the opportunity to invite my students and their parents to the factory tour.

First we watched a film about the history of Steinway & Sons Company. The “Steinweg” family immigrated to New York City from Germany in 1850. Initially they apprenticed under other piano manufacturers and then in 1853 the Steinwegs opened their own factory on Varrick Street. Their family business grew and moved to Chinatown and later to Park & Lexington Avenues between 52nd & 53rd Streets. In the 1870s the Steinwegs began to create their plant in northern Astoria, where it continues to produce the finest pianos to this day. In fact, this plant currently supplies all the pianos for North and South America.

After our history lesson, we visited the lumber processing room where we saw machines that measure with lasers, identify weaknesses in the wood, and saw it into manageable pieces. We went to the sound board room next and learned that Steinway pianos only use the highest quality of spruce from Alaska for their diaphragmatic, crown-shaped sound boards.

Steinway-2One of the highlights of the tour was witnessing the lamination and bending of a hard rock maple rim for a grand piano. It took five strong men, several three-foot long torque wrenches and about ten minutes to coax the wood into its U-like shape. Naturally, trees have some flexibility and can bend with the wind without breaking. Steinway and Sons over the years experimented with the flexible property of wood and through trial and error determined the thickness the maple needed to be cut in order for it to bend to their exact specifications.

Next on the tour was a visit to the action department. The sophisticated mechanism inside of the piano that connects the keys to their resonating strings, is called the “action”.  The action supporting just one key is made up of 57 moving parts. That means for the entire 88 keys, over 4,500 parts are needed! That’s incredible. Steinway & Sons pianos have “accelerated action”. This means that the system of hammers and levers inside are so organized that they allow you to replay a note up to 14% quicker than on other pianos. All the action’s intricate parts are made of wood, never plastic. Special pear-shaped hammers are used for their superior tonal quality.

Steinway-3After the sound board is fitted into the rim, they place an iron frame into the piano. Across this, hundreds of steel and copper strings are stretched. The frame supports up to 20 tons of string tension. The action and the keyboard are put into place and the piano takes a trip to the “pounder”. A machine with 88 “fingers” strikes the keys, breaking in the action and conditioning the hammers. Sensitive technicians sound test each piano and adjust the hammers to ensure evenness of tone. The entire process from beginning to end to make a Steinway takes nearly one whole year.

At the end of the tour, the students were allowed to test drive some new pianos. For some, that was their favorite part of the trip.