Category Archives: always learning

Laura, The Tune that Inspired
My Career as a Professional Musician

When I was in high school, the piano was still my second instrument. The accordion (which was gradually being replaced by portable organs for playing gigs) was still my main instrument. However, despite the fact that I always considered my piano practice as being extra, it was quickly becoming my primary vehicle for musical expression. It did take several more years, however, until it became my exclusive keyboard instrument.

In fact, it was quite a journey to go from the accordion to the two manual Farfisa portable organ, to the Hammond B-3 organ, to the Fender Rhodes electric piano and Mini Moog synthesizers to finally the day when the piano took its rightful role as my primary instrument.

What happened in my life is so beautifully expressed by T.S. Eliot in his Four Quartets
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

This was not as strange a journey as you might think at first. Because I began playing gigs with bands in high school, I always had to have a keyboard that would be reliable (most places either didn’t have pianos or they were out of tune). In addition, my keyboard needed to be amplified to match the volume of the guitar, bass guitar and drums. There were also many other reasons for the 10 years that I focused on playing the Hammond B-3 organ, but we’ll save that for another time.

Needless to say, the decision for choosing one’s particular profession often involves a variety of reasons. There is no exception this in my case of course. However, two of the high school students who sang in both our Glee Club and our school musicals just happened to be named Laura. Although they were both involved in these musical activities, their personalities and appearances were different. One was Irish with red hair and fair skin while the other was Italian with brown hair and a darker complexion.

Continue reading Laura, The Tune that Inspired
My Career as a Professional Musician

Alone Together – From Dave McKenna to
New England Conservatory to Jessica Williams

One of the wonderful things about playing the piano is that you can make music when you are by yourself. In fact, that’s why many of our adult piano students chose to learn to play the piano rather than returning to their original instruments e.g. violin, clarinet, trumpet, etc.

Band and orchestral instruments are almost always played in an ensemble. As a result, when adults feel drawn to return to taking music lessons, they often choose piano lessons. The reason is obvious: they want to be able to enjoy learning to play the music they love in their own homes by themselves.

So in a sense, the title of today’s featured selection is apropos. Often when you play the piano you are alone. Yet at the same time you are playing each piece completely as if you were together with others in an ensemble.

This scenario really rang true for me this summer. Between the fact I was not playing in church on Sunday mornings during July, had a lighter piano teaching schedule since many of students were on vacation and because my jazz trio is no longer performing, I found myself alone together with my music at the piano.

Continue reading Alone Together – From Dave McKenna to
New England Conservatory to Jessica Williams

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