General Music Topics for ALL with Jen Tillson (Piano Class)

Week 28:  A very warm hello to you all!  Hope this finds you all having a good week and enjoying the change of seasons (says the woman who adores all things Fall!).  As the Piano Class participants know from the recent focus of the ‘Listening’ segments of our email correspondence classes, we have been exploring the works of George Gershwin via Jim Brickman’s latest piano album that was just released.  I will provide the youtube link for the entire album, which we have been walking through slowly these past weeks in the Piano Class, below for all to enjoy.  Since we have been listening to and learning trivia of some of George Gershwin’s best known songs, I thought it high time we turn the focus to the life of the man himself:  George Gershwin.  George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist who lived from 1895-1937 and while he only lived a mere 38 years, he made a large and lasting impact on the American music scene!  His compositions ranged from popular music of the time to the classical music of the early 20th Century.  While he is perhaps best known and referenced for his contributions to the Popular Music/Broadway theater world, his Classical works shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten!  His standout orchestral works include the popular orchestral jazz work “Rhapsody in Blue”, as well as the orchestral work “An American in Paris”- yes, used in the famous (and a personal favorite of mine!) film with the same title starring Gene Kelly during the elaborate dance sequence!  Other classical works of his include one Concerto, 3 solo Piano Preludes and two Operas– one of which is the famous “Porgy and Bess”, which is widely considered one of the most important American Operas of the 20th Century!  George is also well known for his compositions and music scores for Broadway musicals the most well known including “Oh, Kay” (1926), “Funny Face” (1927), “Girl Crazy” (1930) and his music also included in the more recent “Crazy for You” (1992) and “An American in Paris” (2015-2016).  Additionally, he composed film scores for a small handful of films in the 1930s- one of which being the film “Shall We Dance”- starring the famous duo Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers!  Speaking of duos, George and his brother Ira worked together to write many songs used for Broadway theater of that day, with Ira functioning as the lyricist and George the musical composer!  George’s life however was cut short in 1937 at age 38 from a malignant brain tumor.  Let’s check out a couple video links to explore more about the life of George Gershwin.  First a brief additional biographical video:   I also found this video of interesting facts from the life of George Gershwin to be worth the watch:   As promised, here is the link to the recently released album from pianist Jim Brickman which prompted our focus on the life of George Gershwin- “Jim Brickman’s Songbook Collection: The Music of George Gershwin” that was just released at the end of last month (August).  Enjoy:    BONUS VIDEO: As always, here is your weekly virtual gig from the amazing centenarian, Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro- from his Facebook live gig from September 12th:

Week 27:  Greetings SRC participants and friends!  Hope this email finds you all doing well.  This week, I’d love to start us on a new topic/focus that we will come back to from time to time.  A while back, I ran across this Piano Podcast (my Piano Class participants may remember my affinity for podcasts!) that focuses quite a few episodes on the adult learner.  This podcast is called ‘ The Piano Superhuman Podcast’ and the host is a huge advocate for adult learning, believing that adults CAN learn piano successfully at any age!  He mentions in several of his podcast episodes about how frequently adults come up to him, as a pianist/piano teacher himself, and comment to him how they’ve always wished they could play piano but feel that they’ve ‘missed the boat’ having not had piano lessons as a child.  Not so, friends!  In my book, curiosity, persistence and desire go a long, long way.  Piano Class Students will recognize many of his philosophies and encouragements as hopefully similar to my own from our classes!  Let’s occasionally explore some of his episodes here on our webpage!  I am particularly fond of his interview episodes- especially where he interviews beginner students who are older adults just starting out on their Piano Journeys.  For this week:  let’s take a listen to his interview with Sharon- a 67 year old beginner Piano student who, like so many of you, decided to take up Piano lessons shortly after retirement.  They discuss her mindset/motivation when it comes to learning piano, the benefit of playing scales, piano fingering (finger numbers), and exercises she uses to limber up her hands/fingers.  I love how she also talks about Chords a bit- Primary Chords especially (1, 4, 5!) and chord spelling– just like we have! Piano Class friends: towards the end of the episode she discusses how she faces the problem of putting her hands together in a piece and what practice strategy she uses to help- as we know the ‘hands together’ struggle is a common issue for many!Podcast episode: this episode a listen, especially my Piano Class friends!  Although you could also find this episode in your Podcast App if you have an iPhone/ipad (like I showed some of you after our Lizst podcast Class months ago), for ease of access I will share with you the podcast website –not the direct link that wants to take you to the Podcast App, which may get confusing to open.  Once you click the link above, you can listen to this, roughly half hour, podcast episode by clicking the black Play button to the right of the little picture, below the blue episode title.  Let’s give this podcast a listen on occasion and may it encourage you that there are many, many older adults who are beginner piano students who are with you on the journey to learning piano.  BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is your weekly Hank Shapiro virtual gig from Saturday, August 29th:

Week 26:  A very warm greeting to all SRC participants & friends.  Hope this finds you all doing well!  This week, we are going to have a quick ‘crash course’ introduction to the field of organology.  No, not the study of pipe organs!  But don’t be intimidated by that fancy sounding word- organology is the study of musical instruments and their classifications.  As we have been exploring instruments in the Keyboard Family, I have slowly been introducing some musical classification terms to you- defining and explaining them as we have gone along.  Today, let’s contrast the Western Orchestral Classification of instruments with another instrument classification system called the Hornbostel-Sachs.  The vast majority of us are probably the most familiar with the Western classification system that groups together the various instruments we can find in today’s orchestra into families- the String family, the Brass family, the Woodwinds family and the Percussion family.  This grouping and classification system is focused primarily on the material the instruments are made of and their physical attributes.  This system works well for the European instruments found in today’s modern orchestra- but leaves out Non-European world instruments.  Around the 1960s, two men created another system of classification that is able to include world instruments and that classifies instruments according  to the nature of how the sound is produced. This classification system (named after these two men) is called the Hornbostel-Sachs System and is widely used by ethnomusicologists and organologists to classify instruments from any culture worldwide.  The five broad categories in this classification system based on the science of how the sound is produced are:  Aerophones, Idiophones, Membranophones, Chordophones and Electrophones.  Respectively and according to their sound productions material, these instruments produce sound by: an air column (Aerophones; blowing air through or around instrument), the body of the instrument itself (Idiophones; most percussion instruments), by striking a membrane or skin (Membranophones; drums), vibrations produced through strings (Chordophones- includes the piano) and instruments where the sound is produced electronically (Electrophones; the digital keyboard and Therimins!).  Using this broad classification system better enables ethnomusicologists around the world to have a stronger ability to classify instruments discovered in indigenous cultures globally.  Since we have been studying instruments found in the Keyboard Family of instruments- it was only appropriate that we take a look at the Musical Instrument Classification system in general- especially the Hornbostel-Sachs System.  For a good summation/introductory video on this classification system, please give this video a listen: week: we’ll have another study/video related to College Music students – sure to be an interesting video!)Bonus Video:As always, here is another Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual gig—as of Sept 13th he is now 100 years young! This video is from his Facebook live-streamed concert on August 22:

Week 25:  A very warm hello to you all!  Hope this finds you doing well!  This week let’s continue our study of instruments that can be found in the broad category of Keyboard Instruments.  Remember, ‘keyboard instruments’ are defined as a musical instrument that is played using a row of levers which are pressed by the fingers.  This week’s new Keyboard Instrument also falls within the subcategory of a Chordophone instrument, as the sound is produced by the vibrating of a string(s).  The piano is also considered a Chordophone Instrument, as well as the harpsichord and clavichord.  This week let’s take a look and listen to an instrument that is closely related in structure and sound to a Hurdy-Gurdy, the Swedish bowed string instrument- the Nyckelharpa.  The Nyckelharpa is also termed the ‘key fiddle’ and is considered to be a Stringed Keyboard Instrument, as the often 3 rows of keys are attached to tangents which, when the key is pressed, serve as frets to change the pitch of the string.  This is quite an old traditional Swedish instrument- church paintings of the Nyckelharpa going back to the 14th and 15th century.  The Nyckelharpa was also first mentioned in a written musical score around the year 1620!  Changes to the instrument around the year 1930, made the instrument a chromatic instrument (able to play half steps) and made it playable with a straight bow -making the instrument more ‘violin-like’ and helping to re-popularize it in the mid-20th Century.  The Swedish Nyckelharpa is typically played with a strap around the neck and stabilized by the right arm. This unique and ‘old-world’ sounding instrument can be found in folk music scenes- namely the Folk Music scene in Sweden.  Let’s take a listen to a little demonstration video I was able to find:  What do you think?  Very haunting and a beautiful sound to it, right?  Let’s also now take a listen to a couple performances that include the Nyckelharpa ‘keyed fiddle’ – in the first video, accompanied by guitar:  1.  2.  An interesting interpretation of Bach’s famous Toccata & Fugue     It is my hope that at this point in our survey of Instruments that can be considered Keyboard Instruments, that you are realizing just how broad and varied the instruments within this category can be!  Bonus Video: As always, here is your weekly Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual concert – Sidenote:  He turns 100 on September 13h! Here is his Facebook Live virtual gig from August 15th:

Week 24:  Greetings SRC participants and friends.  I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s ‘tribute to college students’ concert.  While we certainly do have more instruments in the Keyboard Family to survey, this week I thought I would return to a fun theme that we began in Week 19- “Weird, Wacky and Bizarre Instruments.”  In Week 19 we looked at the strange world of the Theremin.  This week I would like to focus the spotlight on an instrument that seems surreal and also can elicit the question of “Why on earth….?” (To which the answer is usually “Because they CAN”).  Let’s look at a GIANT of a stringed instrument this week–the Octobass.  The large and very rare Octobass was first built in 1850 by the French luthier (a craftsperson who builds and repairs string instruments) Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.  Vuillaume created the octobass to add an extreme low end ‘rumble’ to any given orchestra.  The octobass is a bowed string instrument that has 3 strings and is essentially a much larger version of the double bass that can be found in any orchestra.  In fact, where the average double bass stands at about 6′ 7″ the octobass is just about two times that height at an average of 11′ 5″.  Due to the extreme height of this instrument, the performer stands on a special platform and pulls on a system of levers connected to a mechanism that pulls down the strings on a fret to change the pitch of the string.  There are only 7 known octobass instruments in the WORLD- two of which are 2 of the 3 surviving original instruments that Vuillaume himself created.  The only professional orchestra to own an octobass is the Montreal Symphony Orchestra-the instrument also being the octobass with the lowest range.  The Montreal octobass has a range that extends to MORE than an octave lower than the lowest note found on a double bass.  To put that into context, the lowest note on this octobass is the low A (A0) that is the A below four C’s to the left of middle C!!!  In fact, some of the lowest notes on this octobass go beyond the frequency of notes that a human ear can hear- yet we would be able to feel the vibrations. Strange, right?!  Now for some videos:  let’s look at this excellent introductory video on the Octobass- done by the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona:  For some performance videos featuring the Octobass in all of its low rumbling glory –1.  Amazing Grace:  featuring a double bass and an octobass (for side by side comparison)   2.  Ave Verum performed by a quartet from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra:    What do you think?  A strange LOW instrument that (when performed with skill and care) creates an amazing low end rumble!  Bonus Video:  Good news!  It looks as if Hank Shapiro’s missing gig from July 25 has been uploaded and added to youtube!  Here again is your weekly Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual gig from July 25:

Week 23:  A warm greeting to all SRC participants and friends!  Hope this finds everyone doing well!  This week, I would love to share with you another special concert experience!  To honor all of the College Students across our country who are beginning their semesters so very differently this year, I would love for you to ‘step into their shoes’ (namely the ‘shoes’ of Music Majors), and experience a College Recital.  Since I am an alum of Ithaca College’s School of Music (go Bombers!), this week I would love to share with you an Ithaca College Music School Faculty Showcase Recital that was recorded live back in 2012 and put up on their livestream archive page via their website.  Settle in with a good cup of tea (or even put this on in the background while you are doing housework or making dinner) and let me share with you a “staple” of the experience of a College Music Student – Recital attendance!  Sidenote:  Did you know, at least at my College, all music students were required to attend a certain amount of Recitals and Concerts each semester. I believe the number was around 15 or 20 a semester?  We had a little card that had to get hole punched with a special hole punch at each Recital or Concert and yes, by each semester’s end you could see exhausted looking Music Students in back rows, quietly nodding off during performances, just trying to meet the semester’s required #. Haha, oh memories!  Before I share with you the web link for our concert today, let me give you a little background about one of the selections on the program.  First of all, you can download the Recital program via the link directly above the video box on the website and I would recommend you do so, in order to follow along!  All selections in the program feature the piano utilized as either a solo instrument or as part of a duet, trio or ensemble.  The first selection on your program is Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 12 in Ab Major, composed around the year 1801.  This work for solo piano consists of 4 sections (movements) and takes approx. 20 minutes to perform. This piece opens with a slow First movement in “Theme and Variation” format- a repeating musical idea/melody that gets ‘varied’ and altered throughout the section.  Listen to see if you can hear the repeating melodies, changed slightly with each repetition in various ways.  The Third movement includes a “Funeral March”–see if you can hear it!  This Piano Sonata by Beethoven was greatly admired by Frédéric Chopin, who later repeated the structure of this Beethoven Sonata in his own Piano Sonata in Bb minor composed in 1840.   Your pianist in this video is Piano Professor at IC, Charis Dimaras– who taught at the College when I attended and though I never had him as a teacher, I always loved his performance style and the emotion he shows when playing.  Other selections in this Recital include the Piano along with duets/trios/ensembles featuring instruments such as the French Horn, Tuba, Violin, a Jazz ensemble and the Percussion Instrument, the Vibraphone.  Here is the web link to this Ithaca College 2012 Faculty Showcase Recital :   Hope you enjoy this concert, don’t forget to download the Concert Program pdf to follow along and Piano Students:  pay attention to the different ways the Piano is featured in each selection in the program — as a solo instrument, as an accompanying instrument, as a member of an ensemble….etc.And yes,to my Piano Class friends, this Recital DOES take place in what I have mentioned before was my favorite Recital Hall on my campus- beautiful Hockett Hall!  Enjoy some top level performances by some extremely talented Music Professors, as we all think of and send our best wishes to all College Students beginning their semesters at this time. 
Bonus Video:  As always, here is your weekly Hank Shapiro virtual gig, this time from his live streamed event on August 8th:

Week 22:  A very warm hello to you all!  I hope this week finds you all doing well!  I do hope you all enjoyed the Broadway concert last week- I’m still rewatching parts of that video!  This week, let’s resume our study of instruments found in the broad category of Keyboard Instruments.  This week let’s take a look at another instrument that falls into the subgroup of an instrument that is a Keyboard Instrument that is also an Idiophone Instrument.  Other past Idiophone Keyboard Instruments we have studied include the Dulcitone, the Carillon and the Celesta.  Idiophone instruments are any instruments that create sound primarily by the vibration of the instrument itself- without the use of air, strings or membranes.  This week let’s take a look at the Toy Piano!  Also known as a kinderklavier (child’s keyboard), toy pianos are ‘small piano-like musical instruments’ that come in many shapes and various sizes- from “scale models of upright or grand pianos to toys which only resemble pianos in that they also have keys.”  Most toy pianos use hammers that hit round metal rods to produce sound- compared to strings in a regular piano.  The first toy pianos were produced in the mid 19th Century and were typically modeled off of an upright piano.  A typical range of a toy piano can consist from anywhere between barely one octave to as much as a three octave range.  While originally made and thought of as a child’s toy, the toy piano has been used in classical and contemporary musical contexts.  The most famous composition dedicated for toy piano is from 1948, John Cage’s  (yes, the same man of prepared piano/’the silent piece’ fame) piece “Suite for Toy Piano”.  Possibly the most famous pop culture reference for the toy piano is found in the Peanuts comics/animated movies when Shroeder uses a toy piano to play his beloved Beethoven pieces.  Let’s look at some video clips of performances on toy pianos:  1.  Here is the John Cage “Suite for Toy Piano”…probably not your ‘cup of tea’ but let’s just remember how experimental John Cage truly was to 20th Century music:  Suite for Toy Piano:  I also found this impressive video (I’ll let it speak for itself), being played on a toy piano modeled off of a grand piano:  MY personal favorite comes from a musical duo (husband and wife actually) that I have loved for a long long time (and yes, I even do own one of those t-shirts they plug at the end of the video) “Pomplamoose” – Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn.  They are best known for their creative covers of famous songs, although they have produced and written original music throughout the years also.  In this video, Jack Conte uses a toy piano to add to the arrangement of this song (as well as an accordian –which we have also studied!).  You’ll probably recognize the tune–listen and watch for when the toy piano is used in the arrangement of “Mister Sandman”:  For more information on toy pianos, you can check out:
***BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is another Hank Shapiro virtual gig- from his live streamed concert on August 1st:  ( FYI:  It appears that his July 25th gig must have had trouble uploading the video to YouTube as July 25 is not available) 

Week 21:  Greetings SRC friends!  Hope this finds you all doing well.  This week, I’d like to take a break from our survey of instruments to bring you something extra special.  Those participating in our “Homebound” Emailed Piano Classes will know that for the past few weeks in our Listening Segment of class, we have been appreciating Broadway Piano arrangements- for fun and to bring a little joy and hope in a world where theater has been put on a temporary pause.  Well, to cap off our Broadway Piano Listening- I’d love to share with you a FULL LENGTH Broadway concert of sorts.  At the end of March, Broadway genius Stephen Sondheim celebrated his 90th birthday.  To celebrate, at the end of this past April, the Broadwaycom Youtube channel put together a virtual birthday celebration concert with some of the great Broadway vocalists sending in clips of them performing exclusively Sondheim songs!  Let’s cap off our Broadway Piano listening by celebrating Stephen Sondheim.  But first a little background and some tidbit facts about Stephen Sondheim.  Did you know Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy?!  He also had the privilege, when he was in his late teens/early 20s, of being mentored in the area of songwriting for Musicals by the late Oscar Hammerstein.  As a Musical Theater composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim has received 8 Tony Awards, 8 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer Prize!  While MY favorite Sondheim work is hands down “Into the Woods” (genius and so fun!), other best known works of his include “Company”, “A Little Night Music”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “Follies”, “Sweeney Todd” and “Sunday in the Park with George”.  Sondheim’s musical composition style is HIGHLY complex, sometimes criticized as too ‘cerebral’, and he stands as one of the most important figures in 20th Century Musical Theater.  Stephen Sondheim is praised as having “reinvented the American Musical” and for having “music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity.”  On a personal note, I stand in awe of Sondheim, consider him a songwriting GENIUS and still to this day remember where I was and the thrill of listening to my first Sondheim musical.  On to the concert–I’d recommend setting aside a good 2 hours for this virtual concert–perhaps even watching this Youtube video through your television or desktop/laptop.  Settle in and enjoy a concert of Sondheim ‘best of’ songs–it’s a good way to familiarize yourself with his works AND to hear from some of the great Broadway vocalists!  And yes, Bernadette Peters and Meryl Streep even make appearances!  Here is the concert. Piano students please take note especially to the opening Piano Prologue in the concert–played by another Musical Theater composer, Steve Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked)  Stephen Sondheim 90th Birthday Virtual Concert: ….  Piano Students see your class emails for a short list of my favorite selections in this concert along with the ‘time stamp’ they occur).  ***BONUS VIDEO:  As always, here is another virtual gig from Hank Shapiro–  from his live-streamed concert July 18th.  

Week 20:  A very warm hello to all SRC participants and friends.  Hope this finds you all doing well and staying healthy and positive.  Today, as we resume our focus on Instruments of the Keyboard family, let’s turn our attention to the Dulcitone.  The Dulcitone is very similar to the Celesta, which we looked at during Week 8.  Both instruments can be classified as “Struck Idiophone Instruments”- meaning that it is a musical instrument that creates sound primarily by the vibration of the instrument itself- in this case being made to vibrate by being struck. (Compared to other Idiophone Instruments which could be plucked, shaken or use friction to create sound)The Dulcitone was created in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1860s (compared to the Celesta in 1886) by a man named Thomas Machell.  A good description/definition of a Dulcitone could be: “a keyboard instrument in which sound is produced by a range of tuning forks, which vibrate when struck by felt-covered hammers activated by the keyboard”.  (  The Dulcitone, while looking very similar to an upright piano or the Celesta, is noted for being lightweight and portable.  Unlike the strings of a piano, the Dulcitone was fairly resistant to going out of tune due to the tuning fork mechanism.  However the Dulcitone was very limited by its low volume, being too quiet to be heard over a full orchestra- any Dulcitone parts often being substituted for a glockenspiel.  Let’s take a listen to some videos about the Dulcitone!  For a bit more education, let’s take a listen to this man as he speaks more on the actual mechanism of the Dulcitone Instrument:   For some Dulcitone performances, check out these two videos :  And for a bit of a longer listening video, this video:       BONUS VIDEO:  As always, please enjoy this Henry Hank Shapiro virtual gig from his July 11th live stream:

Week 19:  Hello to all Piano Class Students and SRC friends!  I hope this finds you all well!This week, I thought we’d take a slight pause on our survey of instruments in the Keyboard Family to introduce a new little side study that we may bring back on occasion of weird, wacky and bizarre instruments!  Instruments that you more than likely have never heard of but may find utterly fascinating or at the very least will make great anecdotal trivia for your next FaceTime or Zoom conversation with friends and family! The first oddball instrument we will look at is actually an instrument you play by NOT touching it! (seriously!)It is also an instrument that is notoriously extremely difficult to master and just barely 100 years old!  Welcome to the weird and delightfully strange world of the Theremin!  Believe it or not, my first introduction to this instrument was not during my college years, but strangely enough through sitcom TV a few years back.  Actually–exactly this clip—   The Theremin is one of the pioneer electronic instruments (often credited with being THE first electronic instrument–but not quite) and was invented by a young Russian physicist named Leon Theremin in 1920 and patented in 1928.  A typical Theremin consists of a box with 2 metal antennas which create an electromagnetic field.  The player stands in front of the instrument and moves their hands in the proximity of the 2 antenna, which forms a capacitor between their hands and the antennas.  The upright vertical antenna controls the pitch and when the hand approaches the antenna, the pitch gets higher.  Move the right hand away from the antenna and the pitch gets lower.  The left loop antenna controls the volume and thus the left hand controls dynamics (how loud or self) and articulation.  The sound of the Theremin is most often associated with eerie situations.  It’s  “other worldly” sound was used especially in the spooky movies of the 1950s–one notable film being “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.  For more information see:  &.  for some videos.  First, some short Theremin performances sure to blow your minds: &. you thought learning to play the piano was difficult!  Haha, anyone want to try to give this one a shot!  Wow. But now for the main video I’d like you to check out that features a full demonstration and exploration of the Theremin with a Theremin master (Carolina Eyck) and the same man from our Carillon video a few weeks back.  So fascinating: fun and bizarre, right?  Enjoy learning about the Theremin (what a great conversation starter you now have- “an instrument you play without touching it”) and while next week we will resume our survey of Keyboard Instruments, we may on occasion keep looking at some of the most bizarre instruments out there.  Bonus Video:  As always, here is another Hank Shapiro virtual gig- this one from the 4th of July:

Week 18:  Greetings SRC friends!  Hope this finds you all doing well.  This week, as we continue our study on instruments in the Keyboard family, let’s turn our attention to the accordion.The accordion is yet another Keyboard Instrument that can be classified as an “Aerophone Instrument”- and even more specifically, a “Free Reed Aerophone”- a musical instrument that produces sound as air flows past a vibrating reed in a frame and air pressure being generated by breath or by bellows.  ( ). Accordions are roughly believed to have been invented in Berlin, Germany around the year 1822.  Accordions get their name from the 19th Century German word “Akkord”- a musical chord, a ‘concert of sounds’.  Accordions can be described as “a boxed shaped musical instrument of the bellows driven free reed Aerophone type, often colloquially described as a “squeeze box”.  This instrument is played by expanding or compressing the bellows while pressing keys or buttons.  The player would normally play the melody of a song on the buttons or keys of the right hand manual with the accompaniment bass or pre-set chord buttons or keys on the left hand manual.  The accordion is a popular “people’s instrument” in traditional and folk music around the world- some notable countries being Australia, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.  In Europe and North America the accordion is prominent in the traditional music of Cajun and Zydeco music- as well as traditional folk music and some jazz stylings.  In Pop Culture of the United States, the accordion is most frequently associated with The Lawrence Welk Show as well as played by the popular parody singer “Weird Al” Yankovic.  For more information, see’s look at some videos.  Here is a very thorough video on how the actual mechanism of the accordion works:    For another interesting video to watch, here is a gal who is learning to play the accordion and her discovery and learning process is fun to watch: some accordion performances, see: and.**BONUS VIDEO:  Now for your weekly Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro concert, here is his online virtual gig from June 27th:

Week 17:  A very warm hello to you all!  Hope everyone is safe, happy and healthy.  This week let’s continue our study of instruments in the Keyboard family- this time we turn our attention to a very old, very rare instrument- the Regal.  A regal is a small, late-medieval portable organ furnished with beating reeds and having two bellows.  While this interesting little portable instrument enjoyed the height of its popularity during the Renaissance, because of the ravages of time and wars, very few antique regals have survived!  Historians have documented larger versions of this table top instrument being played at court banquets and sometimes in place of an organ in smaller to mid sized churches of the day.  A smaller version came to be termed a Bible Regal, because it could be separated into smaller sections and folded like a book – though these smaller Bible Regals were not exactly known for their good sound quality!  The Regal may be considered the ‘ancestor’ of the harmonium, concertina and accordion, all other instruments we may eventually highlight!  Let’s see this little portable instrument for ourselves.  Here is a very short video simply demonstrating how a regal is played:   For a longer look at the playing of a regal, I was able to find this longer video of the playing of a regal in what was obviously more of a presentation/performance setting:   I hope you enjoyed your little trip to the Renaissance time period and this fascinating little portable instrument.  ***BONUS VIDEO:  And now for your weekly Henry Shapiro virtual gig- this one from June 20th:

Week 16:  Greetings to my SRC friends- both Piano Class members and all SRC participants!  Hope this finds you well. After taking a slight detour last week, let’s resume our survey of other instruments within the broad category of Keyboard Instruments. This week, let’s turn our attention to an instrument often associated with summertime and summer carnivals…..the calliope!The calliope, like the claviola, melodica and pipe organ we have been studying recently, falls within the classification of an Aerophone instrument.  While we may look at this instrument classification system in depth at a later time, for now the basic working definition of an Aerophones Instrument is “any class of musical instrument in which a vibrating mass of air produces the initial sound, without the use of strings and without the vibration of the instrument itself adding considerably to the sound.”  But let’s take a closer look at the Calliope!  The calliope, also known as the ‘steam organ’, is “a musical instrument that produces sound by sending a gas, originally steam, or, more recently compressed air, through large whistles- originally locomotive whistles.”  The Calliope can be a very loud instrument, often heard for miles around!  During the steam age, the calliope was particularly found on riverboats and in traveling circuses.  The Calliope can be played by a player at a keyboard or mechanically, similarly to a music box or a player piano.  Most calliopes disappeared by mid 20th Century, along with the dying out of the steam age, and a limited number of calliopes have survived in any kind of a ‘playable sense’.  Definitely worth learning about though and an important instrument within our history!For more information, please see:’s take a listen to a few clips I was able to find.  This clip allows you to really see the person playing the keyboard itself:  Steam Calliope:   This clip features a calliope that was made in Newark, NJ (wow) in 1920 for traveling circuses and uses compressed air instead of steam:  Now for a quick look at some SteamBoat Calliopes: 1.  This is a calliope on board the Delta Queen riverboat from 2006:  while this clip, #2. From the steamboat American Queen located in Minnesota from 2016:  Hope you enjoyed learning about the calliope- an instrument that is linked to summertime nostalgic fun!***BONUS VIDEO***:  And now for your weekly dose of Hank Shapiro, his virtual gig from June 13th:

Week 15:  A very warm hello to my Piano Class friends, as well as any and all SRC participants.  This week we take a break from our study of instruments in the broad category of Keyboard Instruments, so that I can bring your attention to a pianist who passed away recently that I would like to honor and pay tribute to.  Lyle Mays was a contemporary jazz pianist and composer who was perhaps best known for being a core and founding member of the contemporary/fusion/world jazz group- Pat Metheny Group.  Lyle Mays passed away this February, “after a long illness”, but I only recently learned of his death.  It is important for me personally to bring his genius to the light and share his music with you since, while I actually didn’t until recently know of  his name, the Pat Metheny group makes up a HUGE and significant part of my ‘musical memories’ growing up as my dad loved(s) the Pat Metheny Group!      While you can learn more about the life of Lyle Mays here ( ) and also learn more about the eleven Grammy award winning Pat Metheny Group here ( ), I would like this week to simply share with you some highlights about the life of the brilliant jazz pianist, Lyle Mays.  First let’s begin by listening in as this man pays tribute to Lyle Mays:    Lyle Mays was a phenomenal jazz pianist and genius in his collaborating and composing skills that we can see on display during his time in the Pat Metheny Group.  I’d like to share with you a few videos that showcase Lyle Mays skill.  1.  “Ozark”- what a song!  This song always blew me away in terms of his skill, yes, but more so the exuberance and joy that can be heard ‘inside’ the pianist’s skill  (Lyle Mays) : Here is an old clip-not the greatest quality, but a good example.  Ozark:   2.  “Better Days Ahead”. – here is a live concert from 1989 of the Pat Metheny Group -with Lyle Mays’ piano solo coming in about a minute into the song :   3.  “Proof- a song that is key in highlighting his amazing SKILL LEVEL when it come to jazz piano:  4. “Letter from Home”- we end with a song that shows his collaborating skill in a song that more highlights jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, but I share this last song with you because of its sheet beauty- what a melody!  Enjoy this last song !   Hope you enjoyed learning about jazz pianist Lyle Mays as we honored his life and music together.  *Bonus Video:  As always, here is another Hank Shapiro live ‘virtual gig’ from June 6th:

Week 14:  Greetings SRC friends!  I hope this finds you doing well!In continuing our look at other instruments that fall into the category of ‘Keyboard Instruments’, we move on to another instrument that is similar to the melodica- the Claviola.  Unlike the melodica, the Claviola is worn like an accordian and doesn’t have near the appeal or popularity that the melodica enjoys.  In fact, the Claviola isn’t even being produced anymore- the Claviola was only produced for only a matter of mere months back in the mid 1990s before being discontinued!  (Resource for slightly more information:  )Let’s take a brief look into this ‘unpopular’, but still very interesting little instrument!Here is a brief introductory video that really breaks down the basics of the Claviola : watching the above introductory video about the Claviola, please enjoy a couple songs played on the Claviola.1.  Claviola & Piano- Theme from 2001 film “Spirited Away”:
2.  Claviola- the catchy, often covered, 1938 French song “Boum!”:************************************************BONUS VIDEO:  As always, please enjoy another ‘virtual gig’ from Hank Shapiro- from his May 30th live stream

Week 13:  A warm greeting to all of my SRC friends and participants.  I hope this finds you well!  This week, in our studies of other instruments that fall into the broad category of “Keyboard Instruments”, we move on to take a look at what can be quite an amusing little keyboard instrument – the Melodica.  (SIDENOTE:  It is my hope that at this point you are realizing just how varied and vast the world of “Keyboard Instruments can be!).  The Melodica ” has a musical keyboard on top, and is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece that fits into a hole in the side of the instrument. Pressing a key opens a hole, allowing air to flow through a reed. The keyboard usually covers two or three octaves. Melodicas are small, light, and portable. They are popular in music education, especially in Asia.”( For more information, see: ).  Here is a short educational video that will introduce you to the basics of the Melodica from a man who has used this instrument in an album of his.  He does a good job of showing you the basics on both WHAT it is and HOW to play it.  Here is his video here:    Interesting, right?   And now for a little section I’d like to call “Fun with Melodicas”.  Remember how I called it an “amusing little instrument” above?  This may be primarily because of the Musical Comedy group “The Melodica Men”.  Their videos began ‘going viral’ about 4 years ago and their hysterical little arrangements of well known songs played on melodicas began showing up everywhere online – from Facebook to Youtube!  They even made it on “America’s Got Talent”!  While you can check out their entire Youtube channel, here are a few of my favorites.  
   William Tell Overture-  The Melodica Men:
  The Flight of the Bumblebee- The Melodica Men:
1812 Overture- The Melodica Men:
STAR WARS MEDLEY- The Melodica Men:
************************************************************************************BONUS VIDEO: And now for your weekly Henry Shapiro virtual gig, this link is from May 23:     

Week 12:  A very big hello to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants!  Hope this finds all doing well!This week we will continue our “Compare and Contrast” focus by choosing yet another instrument to learn about that is also in the overarching category of Keyboard Instruments.  After spending the past three weeks learning all about the Pipe Organ, this week we move on and turn our attention to the fascinating world of the Carillon!  Brace yourself for an amazing journey!    According to Wikipedia the Carillon is “a musical instrument typically housed in the bell tower of a church or municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to produce a melody, or together to play a chord. A traditional manual carillon is played by striking a keyboard—the stick-like keys of which are called batons—with the fists, and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires connected to metal clappers which strike the bells.”  (     This week we are going to specifically take an exploration in learning about the Carillon located atop the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago–which consists of a whopping 72 bells!!  To learn more about this instrument, feel free to check out this website: week’s video takes you on a COMPLETE exploration and is so very interesting I watched it twice!  It is approx a half hour long though, so make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and settle in to watch a truly fascinating video on the Carillon:  Carillon Video:
Bonus Video:  And now for your weekly Hank Shapiro virtual gig!  This week we pick up with his live-streaming performance from May 16.  Enjoy:

“Week 11:  A very big hello to all and all my best to you and your families during this time!This week, let’s cap off our focus on the Pipe Organ.  I hope you’ve been finding this peek into other instruments in the Keyboard Family both enlightening and educational as you compare and contrast these instruments with the keyboards/pianos you’ve become familiar with.  (Next week we are on to yet another Keyboard Instrument—very excited to share this next!)  In concluding with Pipe Organs, I thought it would be fun to finish off with what I’d like to call the “Hall of Fame” for Pipe Organs.  Let’s look at some historic & renowned Pipe Organs based on categories:     Oldest:  It is generally agreed upon that the world’s oldest playable pipe organ is located in the Basilica of Valère in SionSwitzerland. Built around 1435, most of the case is original, but only 12 pipes are original, as the rest have been replaced during restorations.         **Video for Oldest Pipe Organ: (based on # of Pipes):  The largest pipe organ ever built, based on number of pipes, is the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ in Atlantic City, New Jersey, built by the Midmer-Losh Organ Company between 1929 and 1932. The organ contains seven manuals, 449 ranks, 337 registers, and 33,114 pipes. It weighs approximately 150 tons.      **Videos for Atlantic City Organ:  & (based on physical mass):  The largest pipe organ in the world, based on number of ranks and physical mass weight, is the Wanamaker Grand Court Organat Philadelphia‘s John Wanamaker department store (now operated by Macy’s). It ranks second in the world based on number of pipes. It is the largest fully operational musical instrument in the world, with six manuals, 464 ranks, 401 registers, and 28,750 pipes; it weighs 287 tons.    **Video for Philadelphia Organ: just for fun and giggles, here is a very old video clip I found. (Haha, validity of claim unverified)Smallest Organ:
****BONUS VIDEO:  And now, here is your weekly dose of Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual gigs.                May 9th:

Week 10:  Greeting SRC friends!  Hope this finds you doing well- staying happy and healthy and hope-filled.In continuing with our broad topic of exploring other instruments in Keyboard Family, we are spending some time right now exploring the pipe organ.  Last week we had an introduction video that taught an explained the basics of the pipe organ.  This  week, I’d like to focus in on one historic organ that I have had the pleasure to see (and hear!) a handful of times when I visit my favorite art museum in Rochester, NY.  The Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY houses a beautiful Italian Baroque organ with a very interesting back story.  And since it is an organ that I am particularly familiar with and fond of, I thought I would share its history with you all in our focus on the organ!Here is an excellent video explaining its details/make up and history:
For more information, feel free to see the Museum’s website here: because I promised, here is a video I took at EXACTLY this time last year when I was up in the Rochester area for vacation and managed to schedule my art museum visit for the same day of the week that they schedule special demonstrations/lectures on this organ.  Here is my own personal video, that I just uploaded to youtube last night, of a demonstration on this organ.

Next week, I would like to ‘cap off’ our focus on the organ by sharing with you a handful of video clips of other famous historic organs.  The week after, buckle your seatbelts, because we will continue to explore a couple other instruments also in the Keyboard family.
BONUS VIDEO:  Here is your weekly dose of Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual gigs that he has been publishing both on Facebook live and Youtube.  Since we are still playing “catch up” in posting them all, here is his live gig from May 2:

Week 9: Hello to all- hope this finds you well!  In continuing with our exploration of learning about of a few other instruments also in the broad category of Keyboard Instruments.It’s my hope that learning about other keyboard instruments and how they compare to the modern piano helps to broaden your understanding and appreciation for the instrument that you are learning!  Last week, we learned all about the fascinating little celesta (which is highlighted in Nutcracker and Harry Potter movie theme).This week, I’d like to begin a 2 week highlight on the pipe organ.I found this excellent video on “The King of Instruments:  The History, Science and Music of the Pipe Organ” minutes long, but very well done and a great introductory crash course in the organ.Seriously worth your time- I found several new trivia points about the organ that I had never heard before!!While you are watching, be thinking of what aspects of the organ are similar to the piano and then what aspects are VASTLY different to piano.  Next week to wrap up our highlight on the pipe organ, I will upload some personal videos (surprise!) to my youtube account in order to share with you highlights of one organ in particular.  I would also like to highlight a couple other instruments in the keyboard family for us to learn about – so buckle your seatbelts and get ready for a very interesting “compare and contrast” ride to supplement our piano studies.  BONUS VIDEO:  And now for your weekly dose of Henry (Hank) Shapiro’s “Live at 5” Saturday Facebook Live gig.Again, while some of you may be tuning in live through your own Facebook accounts by this point, I will continue posting his gig videos here for easy access and for those who may not have Facebook.Since I’m “catching up” on posting old gigs, here is his half hour program from Saturday, April 25th.Enjoy:

Week 8:
A very big hello to my Piano Class members and all SRC participants in general.  This week, in keeping with our theme of exploring the background and history of the modern piano, I’d like to share with you a short video that “sums up” the History of the Modern Piano quite nicely:  
“A Brief History of the Piano”:
To stay with our theme for a bit longer, since we have explored other keyboard instruments that were precursors to the modern Piano as we know it, I thought it might be interesting to explore other instruments that are in the general category of  Keyboard Instruments.Today, I bring to you another short video of a keyboard instruments that I am almost POSITIVE you have heard before but am nearly certain you most likely have never learned about! (have I peaked your interest yet?)Introducing the Celesta!  Check out this short video for a brief introduction to this keyboard instruments:  The Celesta:
BONUS VIDEO:  And now for your weekly dose of a Henry (Hank) Shapiro concert.  Since I was a tad “late to the game”, we are a touch behind in posting his weekly online gigs that he has been doing since this all began.  Though I know some of you are now tuning in and watching some of his live gigs (and past gigs), I will continue posting his live gig videos that are put up on Youtube for those who may not have Facebook or simply for easy access.  Feel free to share with loved ones or friends who may also enjoy a “virtual concert”Henry Shapiro live April 18th gig:

Week 7:
Hello and all the bet to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants in general- this week’s General Music/Piano videos are a continuation of our theme of the history of keyboard instruments through the years:  The Background, History and Development of the Modern Piano.  Last week we finished the 2 part video series introducing us to the older keyboard instruments:  clavichord, harpsichord and the fortepiano of Mozart and mid-Beethoven era.  I’m hoping you found these videos as educational and utterly fascinating as I did!    This week, as I promised last week, I’d like to zero in a bit more on the Clavichord and the Harpsichord.Next week, we will most likely sum up our theme with a bit of a summation video as well as introducing you to a completely different keyboard instrument!But for now, please enjoy a spotlight video on the Clavicord:
                As well as a spotlight video focused on the Harpsichord: wait there’s more….. 🙂      WEEK 7:  BONUS VIDEO:  So did everyone enjoy last week’s Hank Shapiro “concert” video?  Well, technically the video I shared was from one of his first “online facebook live” gigs back in late March.  I’d like to share yet another of his LiveStreamed virtual gigs that are also being put up on Youtube.  Has anyone else on Facebook been tuning in to hear him Saturdays “Live at 5”?  What fun!   Here is his virtual gig from March 28th:
Oh and his “gigs” have been getting news coverage (both TV & radio evidently)!Here’s a clip  for your interest: safe, stay healthy, be well friends!

Week 6: 

Hello again to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants in general- this week’s General Music/Piano videos are a continuation of last week’s theme: The Background, History and Development of the Modern Piano.  In continuing to look at keyboard instruments that came before the modern piano as we know it, let’s continue by making sure that we finish Part 2 of our video series that we began last week.Pt 2:  – Highlights the piano of Mozart’s age/mid Beethoven era compared to our modern age piano.To supplement our Part 2 video, here is another video that focuses on showing and teaching you about the fortepiano of Mozart’s age:
Next time, we will continue our focus on keyboard instruments through the years by going back and focusing a bit more on the clavichord and harpsichord.  But wait….there’s more this week….
BONUS VIDEO- Week 6:This week I have a special bonus video treat that was simply too good to wait.  Just a handful of days ago, thanks to Judy and David Greenberg* from our Monday Piano Class, I discovered that the talented piano man Hank Shapiro is STILL at it.  For those of you on facebook (and I believe it is still ‘viewable’ through the web link even if you are not on facebook), Henry (Hank) Shapiro is on facebook and has been doing Facebook Live ‘gigs’ every Saturday at 5pm for weeks now!  I tuned in and what a treat to have a little half hour concert!  His page can be viewed here:’d encourage you to scroll back and view past Saturday ‘gig videos’ that he has been live streaming these past few weeks.BUT I did the work FOR you and I realized that a previous viewer has already posted one of his live gigs up on youtube for others to enjoy.  Hank Shapiro Live (Saturday, March 21):! 🙂 *Special thanks to Judy & David Greenberg for dropping a line to let me (and therefore ‘us’) know about this! *

Week 5:

Hello to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants in general- this week’s General Music/Piano video kicks off a new theme to our website videos:  The Background, History and Development of the Modern Piano.  I thought it would be interesting to use this time and resource of a website forum to learn more together about how the modern piano came to be and the journey of precursor keyboard instruments before the piano as we know it.  This week, please enjoy Part 1 of a 2 part series on precursor keyboard instruments: the clavichord, the harpsichord and an early “mid-Beethoven” version of the piano.  I found this VERY interesting and the presentation to be a good mix of technical detail, anecdotal trivia and artistic demonstration on each instrument.  You know those old sayings about how we can’t really move forward, until we look back at where we have been?Haha, let’s do the same with the piano for a time!  Journey with me, won’t you?

Week 4:

Hello to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants in general- this week’s General Music/Piano video come to you ‘hot off the presses’ (well, at least newly received to my email!) from Joshua Velez, the young man who graced us with his amazing piano skills at our SRC concert last year.  Just last night, I received an update email from him and at the end he shared some videos he thought that I would enjoy.  This video is his performance of Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major.  This work was composed between 1929-1931 and this video includes the last 2 movements of this 3 movement work.  It premiered on Jan 14, 1932 and is heavily influenced by jazz.                     
Originally composed for piano and orchestra, this version has reduced the orchestra part down to another piano arrangement – performed by the older man to Joshua’ s left- 2 pianos!  The video begins with Mvmt 2: Adagio Asia (very slow) and showcases an absolutely stunningly beautiful long legato phrase of a melody line (which Joshua fills with emotion and skilled nuances!)The last movement (3rd movement), which in the video begins at 8min. 49 sec, is “Presto” (quick tempo) and is filled with extremely difficult passagework!!  By the end, I guarantee your jaw will drop and you will be left stunned!  Thought you would enjoy seeing & hearing a piano piece from this young man who was kind enough to participate in our first ever SRC concert!  Enjoy and feel free to share!    

Week 3:

Hello to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants in general- this week’s video is a continuation Part 2 video of feeling the beat/time signatures with my friend’s brother, Mr. Gessler.  Please see last week’s video first before watching this week’s.  Try participating along with Mr. Gessler- clapping, chanting.  To my Piano Classes please take EXTRA note of the rhythmic chanting that Mr. Gessler is using – this is called “Takadimi System” – which I may have teased you about in earlier classes.  We are going to try learning this together this month (don’t worry a simplified version!).  Oh and the “students video calling in with questions at the end” -I’ll let you in on a secret—-those are his younger sisters pretending to be students!  Ha!  I got a kick out of that!Enjoy- and hope you get an extra giggle or two over his ‘teacher humor’ (former teachers!).

Week 2

Hello to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants in general—I wanted to share with you a video Music Class on Time Signatures ( ‘feeling the beat’) that the brother of a friend of mine recorded for his class.  Very interesting- a good explanation of time signature and feeling the beat of a song, with good examples to practice with.  Enjoy and try to participate along:  

Week 1:   

“Hello to my Piano Classes and all SRC participants in general—I wanted to share with you a podcast web link (scroll down and beneath the large picture press the smaller play button beside the description to listen). This is more background behind John Cage’s famous “silent piece” that we learned about together a while back in our Piano Classes. Please listen and learn and even participate in the “silent experiment” towards the end. I would encourage you at this time to use the “silence” in the participation section to meditate, practice deep breathing and calming of your body and mind and/or pray for our current global crisis. Peace to you all and my love at this time- Jen Tillson”

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