Gratitude for Marvin

We would like to thank Scott Donald for this tribute to his teacher, Marvin Blickenstaff. As we continue the season of gratitude and giving, we pay tribute to piano teachers from around the country who are transforming the lives of their students. Students, parents, and colleagues are honoring piano teachers from their communities as part of the “Power of a Piano Teacher” campaign. We welcome you to celebrate your own teacher by sharing a tribute with us and donating to The Frances Clark Center.

I often tell people that when I grow up, I want to be like Marvin Blickenstaff. My journey with Marvin started in 1999, when we both arrived at the New School for Music Study. During my time there, I had the opportunity to teach, perform, and most importantly, learn from Marvin. His artistry as a teacher and performer is undeniable, but Marvin’s most endearing quality is his humility and the way he challenges us all to be better teachers. 

During my tenure at NSMS, I was presenting a solo recital and after a series of miserable performances, I really had doubts about my playing. Marvin told me a story of a recital that he played years before in which he wrote across the program – Fin. I was touched by his openness about his own doubts and willingness to share. As I thought about that conversation with Marvin and how he managed to overcome some of those doubts and fears, I decided to challenge myself to do the same. His sage advice helped me get past that dark period in my performing life.

Another incredible characteristic about Marvin is his ability and desire to work with students of any level. Marvin is perfectly comfortable working with a young child on “Engine Engine #9” and then spend the next lesson working with an advanced student on Ravel! As a faculty member at NSMS, I was able to observe him working with my students that were in the advanced program. There were so many things that I learned about repertoire, technique, and developing musicianship through those observations. I wouldn’t trade that for anything!  

We no longer teach together but I still hear his voice and his wisdom when I continue to teach my students at my own studio. In fact, as I write this tribute, I have a student working on Grieg’s Notturno. My approach to that piece has Marvin written all over it! I am forever grateful for the friendship and wisdom I gained through our time together. Marvin has made an indelible impression on my life and teaching.

The Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence

In 2023, the Frances Clark Center established the Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence in honor of his legacy as a pedagogue. This division of The Frances Clark Center encompasses inclusive teaching programs, teacher education, courses, performance, advocacy, publications, research, and resources that support excellence in piano teaching and learning. To learn more about the Institute, please visit this page.

We extend a heartfelt invitation to join us in commemorating Marvin Blickenstaff’s remarkable contributions by making a donation in his honor. Your generous contribution will help us continue his inspiring work and uphold the standards of excellence in piano teaching and learning for generations to come. To make a meaningful contribution, please visit our donation page today. Thank you for being a part of this legacy.


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