Category Archives: always learning

Summertime – and the Music is Easy….

Summer has arrived in New England. Although we have had a couple of isolated warm days, something about the sudden jump to 90 degrees by Thursday from 45 degrees on Monday got people pulling out summer clothes and air conditioners. We are only a week away from the Memorial Day weekend which actually marks the beginning of summer in this area of the country much more so than June 21st (Summer Solstice-the first day of summer/longest day of the year).

And so it is on that note that today’s featured selection came to mind: George Gershwin’s Summertime. The school year is now winding down; the students of the Mascari Piano Studios are preparing to perform in our Natick Studio Recital, Hudson Studio Recital and Adult Student Recital. People are also making their summer plans.

Many normal activities are put on hold during the summer months. That means that you finally have the window of opportunity for doing something you’ve always wanted to do.

And what do you suppose most of our Adult Piano Students have told me at one time or another? You guessed it! The reason that they are having some much enjoyment learning to play the music they love is because they finally did something they’d always wanted to do: learn to play the piano or get back to playing the piano after many years.

For many, this happened because they took advantage of our unique Flexible Schedule Summer Lesson Program. You can too. More about that later. For now, let’s take a look at one of George Gershwin’s most well known compositions.

Continue reading Summertime – and the Music is Easy….

Stella By Starlight
Victor Young’s Versatile Vehicle for Variation

As time has gone on, my blog “series” featuring composer Victor Young has continued to expand. In past years, I had selected one composer, looked at many of his songs, explored some biographical information and then created a series of posts with accompanying recordings meant to be enjoyable and educational.

Somehow, when it came to the masterful songwriter Victor Young, this never happened. For some reason, it didn’t seem like there would be enough compositions to create a series. Boy was I wrong. Fortunately, both the Always Learning and Revisiting My Favorite Tunes blogs allowed the music of Victor Young to surface a little at a time.

As my knowledge of this composer’s body of work has increased, so has my admiration for it. Ironically, in addition to When I Fall in Love, today’s featured selection, Stella By Starlight, was the standard with which I was most familiar.

Back in 1988 when I had first begun my graduate studies at New England Conservatory of Music, my composition teacher and mentor, William Thomas McKinley, recommended that I start listening to pianist Keith Jarrett. As a result, I went out right away and bought the Keith Jarrett Trio’s 1985 recording called Standards Live. (It was the cassette tape version of the album to play in my car).

Continue reading Stella By Starlight
Victor Young’s Versatile Vehicle for Variation

But Not For Me – George Gershwin Joins
Conversations at the Piano after 9 Years

It may be difficult to believe, but in 9 years of publishing this Conversations at the Piano blog, composer George Gershwin has never once been featured. There were several reasons for this. One of these is to give many other slightly less popular composers the well-deserved attention that is due them.

That said, rather than waiting to schedule a George Gershwin series (which I may do at one point), I recently became excited about playing one of his well-known standards But Not for Me. In all honesty, it is difficult for me to decide whether it falls under the Revisiting My Favorite Tunes series or the Always Learning one. The reason for this is that my relationship with But Not for Me includes both categories.

Interestingly enough, when it came to working on But Not for Me, I found myself in the same situation that several of my Adult Piano Students have experienced. What these students have found, is that over the years they have accumulated a long list of songs that they had learned. Unfortunately, time constraints often cause pianists like you to stop playing the songs that you have learned in the past. That is UNLESS you have a good system in place for repertoire review.

Even so, there are far more songs than any professional or amateur pianist has learned over the years that could possibly be reviewed on a regular basis. As a result, many tunes end up falling by the wayside. Believe it or not, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Here’s why…….

Continue reading But Not For Me – George Gershwin Joins
Conversations at the Piano after 9 Years

Who Can I Turn To?
Giving this Standard a Jazz Waltz Spin

Despite the fact that most of the jazz standards come from the Great America Songbook (late 1920s to early 1950s), there are a few exceptions. Today’s featured selection is a notable example.

Two Englishmen named Leslie Bricusse (b. 1931) and Anthony Newley (1931-1999) collaborated to write Who Can I Turn To? for a musical called The Roar of the Greasepaint-The Smell of the Crowd which was launched in England in 1964 and then toured the USA.

As often happens, the producers hope to draw attention to their show by releasing a recording of the theme song. Unfortunately for them, Shirley Bassey’s single did not garner much success. Fortunately, there was a follow-up recording this time by Tony Bennett, which did hit number 33 on the pop charts.

Since then, Tony has sung Who Can I Turn To? as a solo and duet both in concert and on recordings many times throughout his amazing career. Although I’m not sure exactly how Who Can I Turn To? went from a popular to song to a jazz standard, I will say that the song’s structure and chord progressions went a long way towards its popularity with jazz instrumentalists and vocalists.

Continue reading Who Can I Turn To?
Giving this Standard a Jazz Waltz Spin