Team Janet: Part Five Cliburn Amateur



"You stay where I put you!" Janet said to the notes of her Prokofiev. Not out loud, of course. But when questioned this morning on the veranda, she described her Prokofiev performance last night as akin to a game of Whack-a-Mole. Swearing may have been involved.

On the back veranda having morning tea and coffee before it gets too hot to even consider being outside. 

On the back veranda having morning tea and coffee before it gets too hot to even consider being outside. 

Accompanying me on this trip is my adult student and dear friend, Kara. 

Janet has a great draw - her times are ideal. She played last night in the final group of competitors. We had time to go out for a chopped salad at The Cheesecake Factory across the street from Van Cliburn Hall while we waited for the results.  

They announced them "in no particular order" which added to the drama. Janet's name was announced 18th (I was counting) out of the 30 Quarterfinaists. Whew. 

Pre-performance shopping distraction in the Cliburn boutique. 

Pre-performance shopping distraction in the Cliburn boutique. 

We're staying in the gorgeous home of a friend of a friend in a small gated community in the Fort Worth suburbs. Our host has arranged practice time on a beautiful grand piano down the street, so Janet doesn't have to practice on the uprights pianos downtown provided by the competition. This means she doesn't have to see or listen to the other competitors practice.  

Kara whips up dinner.

Kara whips up dinner.

Yesterday at precisely 4:30 pm, Kara, (a gourmet chef) served up a delicious pre-performance dinner of sauteed salmon, brown rice and broccoli.

Even after all my visits to Fort Worth over the years, I was nervous enough to put the wrong address into my iPhone. We had a slight detour until I figured out we were three miles from downtown. Good thing we'd allowed extra time to get there.

Janet plays her next round on Wednesday, June 22nd at 8 pm Central Time. (6 pm on the west coast and 9 pm on the east coast. You Aussies will have to figure it out yourselves :) 

Detail from the front of Bass Hall at night. 

Detail from the front of Bass Hall at night. 

Waiting in the hall for the judge's decision after the Preliminary rounds.

Waiting in the hall for the judge's decision after the Preliminary rounds.

She'll be playing the 2nd and 3rd movements of the Beethoven Sonata 81a, "Les Adieux" and the "Romeo Bids Juliet Farewell" from the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet - my personal favorite in this round.

You can watch the previous performances as well as watch Janet play live at Take the time to vote for your audience favorite. 

After Wednesday night's performances, stay tuned for the exciting announcement of the twelve semi-finalists. No matter what happens there will be beautiful music. My fingers are crossed. 

Flash Forward: These are Your Students

Sruti playing at my adult student class at the home of my student, Dave. 

They'd all brought dessert. Every last one of them. I'd forgotten to suggest some of them bring appetizers so we had a plethora of sweets. That was the only thing that went wrong, though. Otherwise, the afternoon was wonderful.

I write often about the kids I teach. I don't write as much about the adults. I teach about a dozen adult students, and they are equally rewarding in quite different ways.

Too many wonderful desserts.

Last Sunday I realized that I'd had the pleasure of teaching only one of these performers as a high school student. And even she had been a transfer from my dear friend, Keith Snell. (We should all be that lucky!)  All the rest of them came to me as adults. They'd been taught by teachers I'd never met. Teachers who'd taught them about sharps and flats, about making a melody sing and how to play in time. Far more important, though, these teachers fostered a love of music. These adult students, these doctors and engineers, want to make music. They know that they will never find anything else that will give them the same satisfaction. The same way to express themselves.

To the teachers out there doing their best every day, remember that what you do is important. It matters.

As you watch this video, imagine each of these students is one of the little boys or girls in your studio - all grown up. Maybe it's the girl who makes you want to pull your hair out sometimes. Or the boy who brings a tear to your eye with a beautiful phrase. Because somewhere, five years ago, or fifteen years ago, or sixty years ago (yes, Dave is 84 now and still taking piano lessons!) a teacher taught these musicians that I teach today. And somewhere five years, or twenty years in the future, someone may feel about you just the way I feel about these former teachers.

To those teachers I will never have the pleasure of meeting, I say "Thank you for making music a joyous, meaningful part of these lives. Thank you for teaching."

Did you know that almost every piece of standard piano literature has been recorded and is available for instant digital download? Ever wished you had a recording of a piece from the Burgmüller Opus 100, or a single piece from the Anna Magdalena Bach Book? You can have one right now! These recordings are also available on iTunes.

The Taste of Teaching

Shanti and her husband Lachu, at Ajanta Indian Restaurant in Berkeley, CA.

I had no idea Shanti would be such a delicious student.

I knew she was a delightful person. She played well and worked hard. When she and her duet partner, Bob, came through my door last fall I didn't know anything about the rest of her life.

After judging a scholarship audition in Berkeley last Sunday, I made plans to meet Shanti and her husband, Lachu at their Indian restaurant Ajanta.  Bob (her friend and duet partner) joined us for the most amazing dining experiences of my life.

I'm a busy working mother. I don't get to eat out very often. If I do, it's usually a sandwich snagged at a neighborhood restaurant with a friend to break up my long days of working at home.

This was something else entirely.

We ate from the "tasting menu" at Lachu's suggestion. (When you're dining with the chef/owner you take their advice!) 

Though everything was delicious, the most memorable morsels were the Tandoori Scallops, the Lamb Rib Chops - the best meat dish I've ever eaten, the Tandoori Portobello Mushrooms and the spectacular Kulfi which is a dessert is hard to describe. The best I can do is  "Superior to ice cream and more complex than any sweet you've ever eaten."

I came home with a few tasty bites that we couldn't quite finish.

My daughter, Evie, ate a bite of the Eggplant I'd brought home and immediately threw her arms around me.

"Mom," she said, " I LOVE your job!"

(She'd gotten a tour of the Astrophysics Lab at Stanford University a week earlier because the mother of one of my students is a brilliant scientist there.)

The inside of Shanti's Spice Box. I bet you can smell the heavenly aromas from wherever you are.

I came home with two other special treats. The Ajanta Cookbook which will allow us to make all of the dishes they make in the restaurant. It's beautiful, clear and inspiring.


And almost more wonderful, Shanti's Spice Box. This splendidly designed collection (which won a design award and I can see why) contains each of the spices needed to cook everything in the book. They are carefully packaged in the proportions you'll need to do your cooking. The aroma of the spices themselves made me remember how valued spices were when they first became a part of trading. They're almost magical. Certainly powerful and desirable.

For me, one of the greatest joys of my job is meeting and working with such fascinating people. 

Last Sunday's feast was pure unexpected pleasure.

I never knew teaching could taste so good.