Marvin’s Enduring Legacy

We would like to thank Marianne Williams for this tribute to her 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 met Marvin Blickenstaff when I was a high school senior attending the Summer Piano Clinic at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1969. At the time, he served as the Director and also held master classes during the clinic. I played Griffes’ Notturno, Op.6, No. 2 for him in one of those classes. I had never felt the tenderness in this piece until he explained and demonstrated it for me. After the class, I wrote to him requesting that I be allowed to study with him at UNC. 

I studied with him from 1970-1974 and I also took his piano pedagogy class. His enthusiasm for all the things that a piano teacher needed to learn and share in order to instill the love of the piano in others was contagious. My piano abilities were forever influenced by my studies with him. Shaping of phrases, improving the tone of a note, technical exercises, and learning to listen to myself were all new and wonderful things to me. He knew my limitations (small hands!) and quickly helped me learn to find repertoire that I would be able to enjoy playing and teaching! Mr. Blickenstaff also made me feel more confident in my ability than I had ever felt before. My piano training from him was complete and covered all eras of piano music. I especially loved learning all the Bach Two-Part Inventions in my freshman year, and still love playing them with all the ornaments that Bach indicated.

After graduating in 1974 as a Bachelor of Music Education with a Major in Piano, I moved around a bit with my husband, but in every place we lived, I set up a piano studio. I have taught continuously since then with a few breaks to have two sons, and I also taught classroom music for thirty years as well.

Marianne Williams with Marvin Blickenstaff.

Thanks to what I learned from Mr. Blickenstaff, and what I am continuing to learn through articles, webinars, and the program at NSMS, I have an intense love of learning new pieces and sharing this love with my students. I still use the same method of teaching all major and minor scales that I learned in college and still have the original printouts with exercises and examples that he gave me. 

I have lost track of the total number of students that I have taught since 1974, but I like to think that they are part of Mr. Blickenstaff’s legacy. He taught me how to interact with my students and inspired me to strive to instill in them the same love of music at the piano that he gave to me. 

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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