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

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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