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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Announcing the Selected Collegiate Connections Proposals


The Frances Clark Center is pleased to announce the selected proposals for our Collegiate Connections event on Friday, April 26, 2024 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Eastern. Congratulations to:

Selected Proposals
Honorable Mentions

University of Cincinnati / University of Michigan; John Ellis, faculty mentor

University of Colorado Boulder; Jennifer Hayghe, faculty mentor

Thanks to All Submitters and Faculty Mentors

Bowling Green State University; Solungga Liu

Cleveland State University; Angelin Chang

Fresno City College; Brandon Bascom

Georgia State University; Sergio Gallo

Michigan State University; Derek Polischuk

Mississippi State University; Jenna Klein

Roosevelt University; Yeeseon Kwon

Southern Methodist University; Catharine Lysinger

University of Cincinnati; Michelle Conda

University of Colorado Boulder; Jennifer Hayghe

University of Michigan; John Ellis

University of Missouri; Wendy Sims

University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Spencer Baker

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Lynn Worcester Jones

West Virginia University; Peter Amstutz

Western Illinois University; Natalie Landowski

We look forward to highlighting the outstanding work of pedagogy and collegiate groups and to foster global community engagement among our collegiate cohorts and faculty. Register today to attend the event!

Piano Inspires Podcast: Susanna Garcia

To celebrate the latest episode of Piano Inspires Podcast featuring Susanna Garcia we are sharing an excerpted transcript of her conversation with Luis Sanchez. Want to learn more about Garcia? Check out the latest installment of the Piano Inspires Podcast. To learn more, visit Listen to our latest episode with Chee on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or our website!

Susanna Garcia and William Chapman Nyaho after their performance at NCKP 2023: The Piano Conference.

Luis Sanchez: So let’s fast forward to Susie today. You’re involved in so many wonderful things with eNovativePiano, with your work with Nyaho. How are you—or your work—changing our world?

Susanna Garcia: Well, it helps to be retired from your academic job.

LS: I was wondering that!

SG: When you’re working a full-time academic job, your commitment is to that job. I mean, that’s your obligation, that’s your responsibility. Your work should be about your students, nurturing them, giving them what they need to be successful in whatever they do, whether it’s music, or they change their majors and go to psychology. You still are there to nurture that. You’re helping to build the school, to build the reputation of the school, to support your colleagues. The school that I retired from—the University of Louisiana at Lafayette—that music school has a phenomenally collegial and supportive culture, which is one reason I stayed there my whole career, because I could thrive. The faculty, the middle administration, the upper administration, I just had support all the time, and you don’t hear that said very much.

LS: It’s true, yeah.

SG: And so it was a good place to work, but all my efforts really were on my obligations to the students, and frankly, building my resume. As a young professor, I had to have resume items. I always chose projects that I was interested in, I never did anything just to do it, you know, just for the resume item. So, when I retired in 2021, in May, I thought I had all the time in the world to take on all these projects. So I took on kind of a lot of projects.

SG: I think I’ll start with the eNovativePiano for just a second because it is a business, it’s a group piano multimedia curriculum. It’s a business that grew out of two teachers that wanted to improve their students’ experiences. Group piano is hard. It’s hard for college music majors because they have to get proficiency in something fast that they may have had no experience in. And that’s a big ask. We were not satisfied with the progress our students were making towards proficiency. I mean, they could pass their proficiency, but we didn’t really feel like they were really proficient, that they could leave the group piano classroom and use piano as a tool professionally as needed.

LS: Which is the goal, right?

SG: Which is the goal. The goal isn’t the proficiency. The goal is you are the band director or choir director you need to plunk out parts. You need to be able to read a score, you need to—maybe you are a music therapist, and you need some keyboard skills. You need these skills. So, we just started making materials that we thought—videos and audio tracks—that we thought would help. This wasn’t about starting a business. It’s nothing about the business. We started and we would post them on our LMS. And we just started noticing real progress, quick, and also a much higher motivation level. Students were having a sense of fun. You know, they were they’re enjoying the process, and they were more engaged. So we took these first five videos that we made to a conference, and people said, “Where can I get these videos?” So we thought, okay, well, maybe we should commercialize it. So we did. And it’s been a long process, but that’s eNovativePiano. It really grew out of a need to serve our students. To me serving your students is changing the world. I mean, I think that’s, we have to remember that that’s what we’re doing. If I’m creating more ease, for someone who’s going to be a music professional to go out and do a better job more easily, I see that as changing the world. That’s changing the world like one-by-one, which is important, of course. But then the other projects—and this is why I love working with The Frances Clark Center, because The Frances Clark Center has a really global vision. The Frances Clark Center wants to make big changes, you know. So it’s great to be doing the one-to-one change, but I also like being associated with an organization that’s trying to do things in a bigger way.

SG: So my other current project is researching the music of Thomas Henderson Kerr, Jr. who, if you don’t know his name, when you’re listening to this podcast, I hope you will in another year. So briefly, Thomas Henderson Kerr, Jr. was an African American composer who died in the 1980s. He was a professor at Howard University for mostly his whole career. Well, he composed a lot of pieces, piano works, choral works, organ works—he was also an organist. None of his piano works—and very few, just maybe two of his organ works are appearing in anthologies—but none of his piano works have been published. All his music and his papers are in fourteen boxes in the Schomburg Center for Black Cultural Studies in New York City.

SG: The story of how I came to be interested in Thomas Kerr is too long to tell, but a manuscript came to Nyaho’s and my inboxes from somebody who had a 20,000 times Xerox version of this two-piano piece. And so we learned it and we loved it. It’s on our latest CD, but we’ve been touring with it, and it’s a concert scherzo, a set of variations based on the Negro spiritual, “Didn’t my Lord Deliver Daniel?” It’s a fantastic piece, it’s a fantastic piece. Where has it been? It was written in 1940! And it’s in a box. The crime here to me is that if there hadn’t been this accidental email, this piece would be completely forgotten history.

SG: So this is how I feel like I’m trying to change the world anyway. I’m not just bringing this piece to light, but with The Frances Clark Center, who is going to publish this piece, we’re going to also publish two more of his piano works. That’s, to me, a huge accomplishment, but what I want to inspire others to do is to understand that there are boxes like this, in every archive, in every library all over the world waiting for to be discovered. And you know, and there’s reasons this music wasn’t published, which I’m not going to go into, and I’m not even sure what the reasons are—I can just kind of guess. But I don’t know for sure. But I’m going to promise you that there are going to be dozens, if not hundreds, of African American composers whose music has never been published. This is why history is important, and this is why honesty about history is important. I do think it’s important to know why the music wasn’t published. I’m just not able to say for sure why that was. But I think that’s part of the research process. I hope, if you’re a young pianist, or young scholar, hearing this podcast and and looking for a topic for your doctoral work—

LS: To direct your attention to.

SG: You know, just going into these libraries and cataloging what’s in there for the world to see, would be changing the world and being truthful and honest about music history, and for African Americans, that experience in the United States. I think that history is a little bit under attack right now, and I’m going to be the first one to say, history is what keeps us moving forward, as a people, as a culture, as Americans. History is what keeps us grounded and tied to our past, and gives us the ability to have a future that is equitable.

If you enjoyed this excerpt from Piano Inspires Podcast’s latest episode, listen to the entire episode with Susanna Garcia on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or our website!


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Teaching Transformation: My Experience as a Postgraduate Teaching Fellow

We would like to thank Savannah Royston for this insightful article on The New School for Music Study’s Postgraduate Teaching Program. Want to learn more about the Postgraduate Teaching Program? Learn more and apply by clicking here.

The New School for Music Study.

When I began the Postgraduate Teaching Program at The New School for Music Study, I knew three things: I knew that I loved teaching, I knew that I wanted a career in teaching, and I knew that I desperately needed guidance if I was going to make that dream a reality. Little did I know how this program would impact my teaching, my career, and myself as a person.

1. I learned tremendously through this year-long PRACTICUM.

In a conversation at the beginning of my experience, the educational director referred to this year as an extended practicum, which I would soon discover to be an apt label. When I moved here, I was fresh out of graduate school, brimming with a multitude of pedagogical ideas from my graduate courses. Although I was lucky enough to have had some teaching experience even while enrolled as a full-time student, this fellowship was a unique position for me because for the first time in my life, my main priority every day was my piano students. I was able to see firsthand how all of the pedagogical tools lining my teacher tool belt would play out in real time. As with all of life, anything theoretical becomes an entirely new experience when nestled within the person sitting across from me. I learned how to plan effectively and efficiently, as well as what to do when plans are derailed. I learned how to respond to unexpected behaviors, obstacles, and attitudes. I learned how to go from working with young children, to adults, and every age in between. I learned how to teach group classes and how to develop classroom management strategies. As I try to summarize an entire year in a few sentences, I realize that I cannot overestimate how transformative this practicum was to all aspects of my teaching.

2. I gained a vibrant community of PEOPLE.

After beginning my year at the New School, I realized that all of the rumors I had heard about the school were true—the faculty really are a tight-knit community of kind people who look out for each other in any way they can. As a young teacher who moved alone to a region of the country where I knew no one, these people became my network of support instantaneously. If I ever had questions, I learned quickly that I could ask any of my coworkers. Regardless of what was happening, they would take a moment out of their busy schedule to help me find a book, locate a teaching manipulative, or wrestle with our feisty printers. Every single employee at the school has a wealth of knowledge and expertise that they share generously. The New School is a vibrantly varied community, as we have teachers at every level of experience, none more vital or irreplaceable than the next.

3. I developed a PASSION for teaching.

When I graduated from school, I knew that I loved teaching, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved teaching. I had been given glimmers of this during my graduate school experience, but I had no idea what lay in store for me over the course of this year. I have seen my students laugh and cry, feel joy and frustration, experience surges and declines in motivation, and so many other aspects of the human experience—all reflected in a simple piano lesson. I have seen my students grow in skills and expertise, learning new pieces and advancing into new books. I have seen my students prepare for the rigors of performance and score extremely well in festivals. But most importantly, I have seen my students grow in confidence, blossoming into individuals who feel capable, empathetic, and brave, knowing that they can rise to the challenge. If my students learn how to meet challenges with bravery and empathy, then who knows how they are going to change the world beyond their piano lessons.

All in all, this year has transformed me in profound, meaningful ways that I am still discovering. As I step into the future, I move forward knowing I now have a wealth of practical experience, a network of people cheering me on, and an undeniable passion for the beauty of teaching. As an educator working to help others and change the world for the better, I often reflect on this wise quote from the philosopher Confucius: “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”

Learn more about teaching and professional development opportunities at The New School for Music Study by clicking here.


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Originally from East Tennessee, Savannah began studying piano with her grandmother when she was six years old. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Master of Music and a Bachelor of Music from Lipscomb University. Her former teachers include Paul Barnes, Jerome Reed, and Elisabeth Pridonoff. Beyond teaching piano, Savannah has extensive experience in arts administration and is currently the Executive Director for the Cutting Edge Concert Series.

A Haven for Musical Learning and Excellence: The New School for Music Study

We would like to thank Adam Salas for this insightful article on The New School for Music Study’s Postgraduate Teaching Program. Want to learn more about the Postgraduate Teaching Program? Learn more and apply by clicking here.

The New School for Music Study.

The New School for Music Study stands as a haven for musical learning and excellence, leaving a mark on those fortunate enough to be a part of it. My time there was an enriching experience that continues to shape my professional and personal life in many ways.

As the 2020-2021 “pandemic” fellow, I had the unique and enriching experience of being a part of a mostly online New School. My duties as a fellow included applied teaching, lesson planning, co-teaching, observations, meetings, and online teacher education courses. In addition to academics, I was required to attend all staff meetings, recitals, and special events including teacher enrichment programs.

In spite of moving to a virtual setting, a silver lining emerged in the form of recording each lesson for observation and review. This approach provided a valuable tool for improvement in my teaching, challenging me to explore new methodology and incorporate new activities during lessons. 

The recording of my teaching sessions proved to be an invaluable resource. Under the guidance of Educational Director, Amy Glennon, I not only refined my teaching process but also developed a framework for ongoing self-reflection. Glennon’s specific feedback highlighted special moments in my teaching but also areas in need of improvement. Each of her suggestions seamlessly integrated into future lessons, yielding immediate results. Her unique understanding of the student-teacher relationship and repertoire inspired a thoughtful approach to the learning process, influencing the dialogue and methods I use in lessons to this day. 

Adam Salas

An important aspect of the New School is that teachers freely share ideas and advice in between lessons seeking to resolve issues with their students. Comradery was essential to my overall experience and is what contributed to an environment supportive of continued growth. There were many instances where specific questions about teaching were met with ideas from teachers who frequently cited each other, as well as figures like Marvin Blickenstaff, Frances Clark, and Louise Goss. 

Fond memories of Marvin Blickenstaff’s PEPS classes are etched into my mind. Each session granted a renewed perspective on piano repertoire fostering a deeper appreciation for the subtle nuances that breathe life into music. To this day, whether in webinars or live conferences, I eagerly look forward to his teaching demonstrations and masterclasses. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the New School from co-teaching Time to Begin classes with Trevor Thornton to listening to virtuoso Kairy Koshoeva, practicing down the hall. The NSMS Postgraduate Teaching Program allowed me to make lifelong friendships and share the gift of music, but most importantly, bring my newfound knowledge and enthusiasm back with me to my students and colleagues in Texas.

Learn more about teaching and professional development opportunities at The New School for Music Study by clicking here.


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Dedicated to helping students experience the art of music and its transformative powers, Adam Salas maintains a multifaceted piano studio in the Dallas-Fort Worth area while serving on the faculty of Southern Methodist University’s CAPE program. A Nationally Certified Teacher of Music, Adam is recipient of the 2022 MarySue Harris Teaching Fellowship Award by the Music Teachers National Association. Salas is President of the Dallas Music Teachers Association and serves as chair for the Texas MTNA Composition Competition. He also assists with administrative support for the Frances Clark Center.

A Continuum Between Teaching Styles: Reflections from the US and Chile

We would like to thank Paulina Zamora for this insightful article on her experiences growing up as a musician in Chile. Want to learn more about international teaching practices? Attend our webinar, “International Perspectives: Piano Methods from Different Corners of the World,” with guests Yuval Admony, Rae de Lisle, and Carla Reis, with Luis Sanchez, host. The webinar is today, April 3rd at 11am ET. Learn more and register here.

My trajectory as a concert pianist, teacher, and scholar followed a similar international pathway as many musicians whose native origins are far from the traditionally accepted educational music centers of the world. I excelled in my native Chilean environment until completion of my undergraduate degree and went on to graduate studies abroad. After twenty years of artistic and professional career growth, I returned to Chile and began to forge a teaching career in academia, while steadily building international opportunities for performances and masterclasses.

My beginnings were similar to that of a child prodigy, but I prefer to think that I was a very talented girl with lots of potential and a serious, no-nonsense attitude. From the age of five I intuitively knew I would dedicate my life to music. As the youngest of three sisters, my father’s immediate attention went to fostering a musical upbringing in my oldest sister. I can recall interrupting my sister’s piano lessons and begging my father to teach me as well. After many bold attempts for attention, my father conceded. It is so meaningful to me that as adults, my oldest sister became a beautiful ballet dancer and I am now a professional pianist. We often rejoice in the commonalities between these two art forms.

The Music Department at the University of Chile offers an eight-year pre-collegiate program which is referred to as the Basic Period (conservatory level) and a five-year Undergraduate degree. I undertook studies at both levels, receiving the standard two piano lessons per week during both courses of study. During the Basic Period, piano lessons were complemented with fundamental courses such as Theory, Harmony, and Introduction to Music History. While pursuing my undergraduate, I received the traditional curriculum of a bachelor’s degree in the United States. Furthermore, during my early conservatory years, I would spend summers receiving daily piano lessons. An outcome of this intense training was to play my first formal recital at age nine, performing from memory the fifteen two-voice Inventions by Bach. This was followed, a year later, by the Fifteen Sinfonias. At that time, I did not feel comfortable questioning my teachers or proposing different options and, of course, this exercise gave me invaluable lessons in self-discipline and focus. Years later I would return to these works in recording and editing projects. Having said all of that, I do refrain from reassigning this task to young students of my own!

Pursuing graduate studies in the Unites States presented all sorts of enlightenment and change. The most obvious difference was the adjustment from two or more hours per week of lessons to just to one hour per week, and sometimes less if the artist-teacher was away. The reasoning behind this amount of instruction made sense to me, but it took me a few months to adjust. Ultimately, acquiring self-reliance and independent musical thinking was a valuable lesson from those years.

During my studies at the Eastman School of Music and Indiana University, I had moments to reflect on the wonderful teaching I had received in Chile, while also embracing the opportunity to understand more fully what still needed to be learned. I was mesmerized by the infrastructure of the schools: the buildings themselves, the magnificent libraries, the many practice rooms with decent pianos, stunning concert halls, and the rich musical life of each respective city. The academic level of both schools was outstanding, and I felt this from my first days of attending music-related classes.

We hope you enjoyed reading this excerpt from Paulina Zamora’s article, “A Continuum Between Teaching Styles: Reflections from the US and Chile.” Read the full article by clicking here.


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Norwegian Folk Songs: Making Rhythmic Complexities Easy and Enjoyable

We would like to thank Sarah Jenkins, our 2020 Collegiate Writing Contest Winner, for this insightful article on Norwegian folk songs. Are you a student interested in sharing your research and projects with the piano pedagogy community? On Friday, April 26th at 11am ET, the Frances Clark Center is hosting “Collegiate Connections,” an event to celebrate collegiate groups and their innovative projects. Learn more and submit a proposal, click here. The deadline is tomorrow, April 2nd!

Developing an internal sense of metric pulse and an understanding of subdivisions of beats is essential to the success of a young performer. Without establishing a strong sense of pulse, complex rhythms can be played incorrectly. This is too often a source of frustration for students—and teachers. By choosing repertoire where these aspects are highlighted and emphasized, students gain confidence in these areas of their musical training. Some of the standard teaching repertoire used for rhythmic development can be unappealing to students, due to a seemingly high level of difficulty or lack of interest in the character. The good news is these pieces do not have to be boring—they can be fun to learn and entertaining to play! Assigning pieces that have appealing melodies and fun character will motivate students to push through the potential rhythmic challenges. Two pieces by Agathe Backer Grøndahl, Springdans from Op. 30 and Halling from Op. 33, provide examples of how her arrangements of Norwegian folk songs offer students exciting tunes that also serve as exercises to promote rhythmic development.

Springdans, Op. 30 and Halling, Op. 33 are similar in many ways. They both offer students sources of metric pulse that allow them to further internalize the beat, and they both have lively and animated melodies. Because they are folk songs, each has a continuous, easy-to-follow melody throughout. These two pieces pair nicely together because they offer similar skills that are presented in different ways. Where Springdans offers a strong left-hand position and a grounding right-hand finger one as means for metric support, Halling contains sections that have an ostinato quarter-note pattern that is played primarily by finger five in the right hand. Students will be able to transfer the concepts learned in Springdans, where the supporting elements were more prominent, to Halling, where the rhythmic stabilizers require more sophisticated skill.

This springdans (leaping dance for men) is bouncy, fast, and rhythmically diverse. A forte dynamic marking and accented rhythms, combined with a melody that primarily uses steps and skips, create a fun and lively opening section. There are three distinct rhythmic patterns used throughout. These increase in complexity as the piece moves forward. Within the first three measures, the piece moves from a quarter note, to eighth notes, to triplets, to dotted-eighth sixteenths (see Excerpt 1).

A student might struggle with the juxtaposition of these rhythmic patterns. However, Grøndahl uses accented half-note and quarter-note accompaniment patterns to support the rhythmically complex melody. The open fifth in the left hand is commonly used in beginning method books and repertoire because it creates a strong, but comfortable, hand shape. In this piece the hand position is coupled with an accent—allowing for an overemphasized downbeat. The first finger in the right hand shares this accented rhythm, also giving the right hand a source of stability. Using fingers one and five, the right-hand octave downbeats also help create a strong hand position. Although playing multiple rhythmic subdivisions in succession can be challenging, students will find that the sources of rhythmic stability will help them in maintaining the metric pulse.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Sarah Jenkin’s article, “Norwegian Folk Songs: Making Rhythmic Complexities Easy and Enjoyable.” To read the full article, click here.

My Experience at The New School for Music Study

We would like to thank Esther Hayter for this insightful article on The New School for Music Study’s Postgraduate Teaching Program. Want to learn more about the Postgraduate Teaching Program? Learn more and apply by clicking here.

The New School for Music Study.

As the 2017-2018 Postgraduate Fellow, I came to the New School eager to teach, and put into practice all that I had learned in my master’s degree. I had heard that NSMS was a special place and knew that it was renowned for its legacy of teacher education programs. Little did I know that it would change my life, personally and professionally. What makes NSMS special is not primarily its teacher education programs or curriculum, although they are excellent. What makes NSMS special is most of all the people; both students and faculty.

My year as the fellow, spent under the close guidance of Amy Glennon, transformed my teaching. Amy’s endless creativity, her vast knowledge of repertoire that enables her to assign just the right piece at the right time, and her insistence on technical and musical excellence in every student inspired me then and continues to inspire my teaching. When trying to help a student conquer a difficult passage or technical difficulty, I often find myself thinking “What would Amy do?” Her warmth, compassion, and kindness make her not only a beloved teacher to her students but a beloved colleague and friend.

The memories made during my fellow year, including observing Marvin Blickenstaff’s PEPS rotations, faculty meetings and recitals, and lesson planning with other faculty members in the upstairs office, will stay with me for the rest of my life. Before coming to the New School, I looked up to and admired Marvin and Amy and the rest of the faculty from afar and now I am privileged to not only call them mentors and colleagues, but dear friends. I will forever be grateful for the impact that the NSMS has had on my personal and professional life.

Learn more about teaching and professional development opportunities at The New School for Music Study by clicking here.


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