Monthly Archives: June 2012

Rami Bar-Niv


I have to make a living… I also happen to like it, rather cannot not play… I happen to be somewhat gifted and can do it pretty well (after intensive practicing), so it was clear to me already as a child that this is what I’d be doing for the rest of my life. My mother, who was my first piano teacher, said that it would help me impress girls…

Already as a child I had a passion for traveling; playing the piano had me travel all over the world. It’s great fun at parties.

You are often sent abroad by the Foreign Ministry to represent Israel in concerts and have  become an ambassador of goodwill for Israel. Can you tell us more about this?

I did many concert tours for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, covering five continents. I gave concerts in Africa, North, Central, and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Some of the places I would probably never think of otherwise, places like Nigeria, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and other small countries and remote islands.

One of the highlights of my Foreign Ministry concerts was the concert I gave in Egypt after the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. I made history by being the first (and perhaps the only) Israeli musician to perform in Egypt. The concert took place in Cairo, May 1982.


Of course my teachers had a great influence on me and that is not just my piano teachers, but also my teachers of theory, composition, chamber music, etc. People like Paul Ben-Haim, William Kroll, Vronsky & Babin, and others. However, my idols, Rubinstein, Horowitz, Richter, and Arrau (Heard them all live) had an even greater influence on me.

You have studied with Mme. Nadia Reisenberg – can you tell us more about this experience?

Miss. Reisenberg, as we used to call her, always stressed the quality of sound. In lessons she used to sit at a 2nd grand piano (the 2 keyboards in a row) and demonstrate. One could not figure out how she produced that magnificent sound… She always taught to save and leave room for more, whether in cresc., dim., or other things. She encouraged looking at the big picture while paying attention to detail.

Can you tell us more about your current publication?

In 1967, I was a young pianist who didn’t wait for a record company to sign me up (that happened later on). I recorded and produced my first LP under my own label AndreA records. Ever since, everything I produced was under this label name: records, cassettes, CDs, videos, and DVDs. Furthermore, it had become also my sheet music publishing label and most of my compositions are published on AndreA; some of my compositions though are published by other publishers. Recently I became an author too… I completed and published a large-scale book about piano fingering:

“The Art of Piano Fingering – Traditional, Advanced, and Innovative”.

The book teaches how to create your own injury-free piano fingering. It offers useful exercises and it also deals with related piano playing techniques, phrasing, and interpretation. The text is illustrated with countless score samples, pictures, and diagrams. More info here:

The book received a great review in “California Music Teacher”:

Earliest memory involving piano playing?

We had one clock for the entire house, a two-room apartment. My mother used to put the clock on top of the upright piano and I was to practice for 1/2 hour. I used to move the clock 5 minutes ahead… they never figured out why that clock was always fast…

Proudest career moment to date …

Every time I am in front of an audience I am proud, and happy, and elated. I played for royalty, presidents, and other heads of states; my proudest moments were when my children played and now when my grandchildren do.

In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a great pianist? Any tips to aspiring pianists?

This could be a topic for another book…

Qualities: Fire, passion, sensitivity, long phrases, seeing and understanding the big picture, paying attention to detail, intelligence, great technique, beautiful sound, and huge range of dynamics.

Tips: Don’t do it… but if you have to, do a lot of sight reading and improvising, believe in yourself and be true to yourself, though don’t reinvent the wheel.

Biggest challenge overcome

I used to know a doctor who wanted to find a way people could live and operate with no sleep…

This is a challenge I didn’t overcome… how to be as good as I am with no practice… Actually I am so fanatic about practicing that my close family makes fun of me. If I practice for a concert at an old age home my spouse says to me: “It’s an old age home, not Carnegie Hall.” Maybe by now I have overcome the need to practice everyday.

Perhaps last word of advice to pianists: Let the music speak for itself, don’t stand in the way…

My bio and more info about myself:

My videos:

My piano camp for adults:


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Milena Antoniewicz

 ‘Most loyal friend’

Music is my most loyal friend, it is the only thing I am 100% sure of. It has never let me down and never left me alone.

By playing the piano I can show all my emotions. I play when I am happy and when I am sad. Playing the piano is also a kind of escape from the world around, from troubles and sometimes from people.


No one in my family is a musician. It was my grandmother’s dream that there will be professional pianist in our family. My parents sent me to music school when I was 7, and they told me that they wanted me to graduate the first level of music education (6 years), and after that, it will be my choice if I want to continue the education.

When I was 10 , I met my second teacher Mrs. Maria Droga.

She not only taught me how to play, but also how to think as a pianist, how to fight stage fright, how to believe in my own capabilities. The three years that we spent together were very important in my life, and made me decide who I want to be in my life.

Another important person in my education as a pianist was prof. Jan Jański, who had been my teacher for 6 years while I was a student of Music Academy In Poznań. He is a true teacher, a wonderful person and  student of amazing prof. Zbigniew Drzewiecki. Hard work based on recording and analyzing my prospers, listening to records of great pianists like Michelangeli Arturo Benedettiego or William Kapell, and choosing the best music pieces for me. But most of all prof. Jański belived in me completely, so I could believe in me as well.

In the meantime I also was a student of Hochschule fuer Musik und Theater in Rostock, Germany, where I was influenced by Matthias Kirschnereit, Stephan Imorde and Karola Theill. Prof Theill showed me alternative methods of playing the piano – how to accompany others and work with singers – that has helped me lots in my career.

I listen to many kinds of music, not only to classical music. I am a fan of Keith Jarrett, whose music, in my opinion, should be known by every pianist.

Earliest memory…

My grandmothers Gross Und Kalmann piano, standing in her living room, and my little concerts for my family as well as first real performance at the age of 8 in the Music School, where I played “Lukrowane Jabłuszka” by Tadeusz Kassern.

My parents discovered my love for the piano because as a child I was always near it. My first steps after coming home were always towards the instrument.

Proudest career moment…

The concert for the 10 pianos and orchestra. I am a president of Multi.Art Society and together with Filharmonia Kaliska we organized the concert for the 1850 years of my home city Kalisz. It was a huge project: first part was a concert for 10 pianos and philharmonic orchestra, second part was for the pianos and a big band. We had seven young composers, who created brand new pieces for the first part, and also special arrangements for jazz standards in the second part.

What was really wonderful about the project was the evolution from first ideas, through management, to final performance. I am very proud that I was part of it, especially that it was my first public performance after my daughter Hania was born a year before.

‘Spectacular tone’

The greatest pianist gets the best and most spectacular tone, and that distinguishes them from the others.

In my opinion, the most important element is musicality, not technique – the technique is only a mean. As I am chamber musician I value ability to partnership and cooperation among musicians. I keep noticing that, music might be better than words in communication.

My advices for young pianists:

The piano is a demanding friend, it doesn’t like long parting. But on the other hand, you cannot practise all day long – you have to live your life, learn your life lessons so you have something to play about!

You need to read a lot, listen to concerts, specially the live ones, and not only piano music. When you play Sschumann, you need to know about his love to Clara Wieck, when you play Beethoven’s sonata you need to listen to his symphony. To all of those who want to learn how to accompany, I recommend a performance with a vocalist – this might be a perfect lesson.


Every possible performance is a challenge. I teach in The Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań and in School of Music in Kalisz and I try to spend as much time with my family and my daughter Hania as possible, and of course I try to perform and learn new pieces.


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Emir Gamsızoğlu

‘Emir Gamsızoğlu started to play the piano at the age of 20 and he was a professional basketball player in the Turkish Basketball League before 20.

He was injured in a game and his interest in music started during his convalescence; after a few hours of trial, he succeeded to play Chopin’s Op.64 C Sharp Minor Waltz hearing it from his mother who is a ballet teacher. Having no education or interest in piano until the age of 20, didn’t stop him to decide to change his career to be a pianist. He was the shortest player in all the basketball teams he played and he is the latest to start playing the piano among professional musicians.’ … (Biog. Excerpt – Emir Gamsızoğlu website)


First it started out of a desperation while I was injured as a basketball player, whilst my mother played Chopin Waltzes in the ballet classes she teaches. I was bored of watching meaningless movies and playing computer games for hours, waiting for my fractured hip bone and thorn tendons to heal.

Then it became something that I lost the sense of time whilst doing it. It felt the same as I was shooting the ball for hours when I was a kid.

Just like Sir Ken Robinson says; an hour practicing the piano felt like five minutes. So I don’t know if it’s proper to call it a motivation but for me it’s a natural thing to play the piano, even though it shouldn’t be because it’s not common to start playing at the age of 20. I think my motivation is just the desire to be in that moment of playing, whether it’s for a big concert or to friends or playing just for myself.


If we’re talking about the pianists, Sviatoslav Richter, my piano teacher Hüseyin Sermet and Andras Schiff are still my inspirations. But I’m mostly inspired by other disciplines in art or even by people’s work in other areas.

NBA legend Larry Bird, a dear friend like clarinetist Chen Halevi, education guru Sir Ken Robinson or even Nikolai Tesla can be a great inspiration for me at times.

Earliest memory…

I took a few piano lessons when I was 4 years old, but basketball was more interesting to me then. I remember how much I loved music but how boring the lessons were. Thinking about the years those boring lessons kept me away from music, today I am more interested in the search for a better music education for the young generation.

Proudest career moment? 

I genuinely don’t like the word career (as what it means today) for arts in general. In fact the real meaning of the word is more likable to me; “course or progress through life”. So I would like to answer your question as the way I understand the word career.

In 2005, when I was a puppy in the concert world, I had the chance to play a chamber music concert with two young and great musicians, clarinetist Chen Halevi and violinist Marina Chiche in Istanbul Music Festival.

In such a short amount of time we clicked together as musicians and human beings, even though all of us were distinctly different people. It was a lovely little tour and beginning of two life long friendships.


As I mentioned before, basketball was my first love in life. I did like toy cars and trucks but not as much as my younger brother or other boys did. All the b-balls I had or b-ball shoes and jerseys were like the icons of my little world’s ritual. Get up early, do push-ups right after waking up, go out to shoot even before having a breakfast and hoop all day. I missed only a few weeks of training in total, during the entire time period I played basketball, from the first day I started at my 5 until I quit at my 22.

Summer holidays were the worst, because my family wanted to take me to the beaches or other countries for vacations while I had no intention to go because I just wanted to play basketball. Then it became more serious, I was doing better and better every year and was getting the best point guard awards and such. Then I had a very bad injury that limited my jumping ability and caused a down fall little by little.

That was the time I found peace in music and practicing piano. I kept playing basketball after the injury until I was 22, when I was accepted to the Istanbul University State Conservatory’s piano department. Since then, basketball has been the greatest fun other than music. Now I live in New York and I’m one of the many suffering Knicks fans.


In today’s music world, almost every pianist has great technique, of course some of them are better than the others but I think it’s very easy to figure out if a very good pianist is also a great musician at the same time. I think everyone can hear if the pianist is talking to the audience with music or not.

My only tip to any musician would be, trying to live a life that would give you the most joy possible, this way you can become not only a great pianist but also a great musician and a person. And technically, I highly recommend improvising.

When people hear the word improvisation, they immediately think of Jazz, but we shouldn’t forget that almost all of the great pianist composers like J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt (the list goes on) were great improvisers. And finally I agree my dear friend Toros Can’s words on your website a hundred percent.

‘Wrong notes’ 

When I was a student I was having hard time balancing the emotional playing and being proper technically and sound wise. Believe it or not, but it is almost the same in playing basketball.You make a great impression on the fans with passionate playing in basketball, too. There is one big difference compared to music though; you can mess it up but still give inspiration to your teammates and the fans in basketball but you don’t have much room for wrong notes in piano playing, but I still keep creating room for my lovely wrong notes.


The more I compose the more I feel far away from the world of competition in music. As much respect as I have for those great pianists who won and are winning the piano competitions all around the world, I think music has nothing competitive in it and these competitions had been ruining the music world and how music and musicians are perceived.Competition is great in sports but not in music.

“Emir has the most unique life story of coming to music by chance at his 20, an age considered too late by all classical music standards. Emir has proved that in every rule there is an exception” – Chen Halevi


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Nico de Villiers


I play the piano out of necessity.  Whichever way I look at it, I would have to say I play the piano because I have to.  Some days it is because I have to prepare for a performance, or I have to prepare repertoire before coaching. Sometimes I have to because there is a bill that needs paying.  But the need that underscores all of these – inspired or practical – is that I play the piano because since I can remember there has been a need from my core to do so.  So I did. And I do.

Playing the piano gives me a way of expressing myself, to be creative, interact with others on a one-to-one basis when playing in a duo or more when playing ensemble works.

Not only does my playing give me a way to connect with others on a musical level, but I am fortunate to at the same time study a wealth of literature and deal with various languages. I enjoy the buzz one gets when on stage and knowing the people are listening, sharing in what you have to say.


I can not choose only one person.  Throughout my life until now there were various people the played different roles in my development.  Some did so knowingly, and others did so without realizing the impression they made.

Three people, though, have directly influenced me in getting where I am now, and I am fortunate that they are all still in my life.

My mother was the one that had the wisdom of suggesting a scene change regarding teachers when I was on the brink of giving up (at the age of 6).

Secondly my piano teacher in South Africa, Johan Cromhout, who inspired me, believed in me and guided me to prepare for scholarship auditions, which eventually gave me the opportunity to study in Scotland.

My third person is American collaborative pianist Martin Katz with whom studied for two years at the University of Michigan.  He not only taught me so much about playing collaboratively with others, but also opened up a world of language and literature to me, which made me fall in love with my field of work all over again.  Martin was also the one that – through his teaching and coaching – made me realize where I would find a niche for myself in which to flourish and bring together all the aspects of my craft.

Without any one of these three people my career would not have been where it is today.

Earliest memory… 

I do not have one specific memory of walking to the piano and trying out some notes.  As language evolved for me, so did piano playing.  I started playing by ear and arranged various songs I heard over the radio and the television.

By the time I was six I played all over the keyboard, with all ten fingers. I made up my own songs, pretending to play various concerts for filled concert halls in our sitting room.  The frustration I then had to endure in learning to read notes needed some guidance and care, which after a little shaky period I eventually found in my piano teacher Johan.

Proudest career moment? 

Are we there yet?  There are various points where I felt pretty chuffed with what I did, but then the next thing came along, the bar raised and the focus is set on the next goal.

Performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC was pretty great and so was walking out on stage at the Barbican in London.

‘Musical family’

I grew up in a musical family. I am the youngest of four and we all took music lessons. Our house must have vibrated when we all got going: I’d be practicing piano, my sister double bass, my one brother guitar, the other one drums. Mom played saxophone.

Music was a general part of my day and I had piano lessons once a week.  I studied privately, going to my teacher’s house for an hour, later on for two hour lessons.  We gradually worked through the various grades of the ABRSM and UNISA (University of South Africa) and I performed at various Eisteddfods and Music Festivals.  These festivals were usually in preparation for grade exams or competitions.

Most important qualities in a great  pianist?

Guts, dedication, curiosity, imagination to name but a few. Every day I am still finding out qualities to add to this list.

The biggest challenge overcome

Each day brings a new challenge. But some milestones would include for instance to know, when playing a piano quintet, how to listen in order to blend, move in and out the texture of the ensemble and be soloistic when appropriate. Another would be to breathe with a singer whilst playing.  It does wonders.

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Inga Kashakashvili

What motivates you to play Piano?

The love of music, it is my life and keeps me going.


Besides my teachers, I was also inspired by several great musicians: H. Neuhaus, S. Richter, G. Gould and V. Horowitz. Those musicians “taught me” a lot about music and pianism. From Neuhaus I learned the most important element that musician has to possess — discipline. Richter is a pianist-philosopher who is able to deliver precisely a composers idea. Glen Gould’s innovations in performance and interpretation are always an inspiration for me. Horowitz’s uniqueness stands out in his remarkable way of portraying the unlimited colors of sound.

Earliest memory involving piano playing?

I grew up in a family of musicians. My mother is a piano teacher and my father is a choreographer. My mother had a large influence on my musical development; she was the one who introduced me to music. Thanks to her, I was surrounded by music from the very beginning. Since childhood, I remember listening Berlioz’s “Fantastic Symphony”, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto, Chopin Etudes and many other beautiful music compositions. It was one little song that inspired me to start playing piano. I loved the song so much that I would sing it over and over. I was only three years old, and of course I didn’t know how to read notes, so I tried to pick up the music by ear. When I sat down to play the song, it came easily. It was joy for me to be able to “perform” my favorite song and share it with my family and friends.

Proudest career moment?

Connecting to the composer’s idea is always the proudest moment of my developing career.

In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a great pianist?

Physical and mental freedom.

Any tips to aspiring concert pianists?

I would say that patience and commitment to music, not to yourself, is the key to success.

The biggest challenge you have overcome (in piano playing)

When I turned fifteen. I had to perform for event dedicated to a famous Georgian Composer.
I was not nervous at all but as soon as I got on stage and started playing I couldn’t feel my legs or hands. Everything became numb and I fainted. It took me almost a year to come back on stage and perform.

“…capturing her tonal beauty and excitement!”

New York Concert Review


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Robin Spielberg


I would say that love of the piano, of its sound, its flexibility, its endless possibilities is what motivates me to play the piano. I am drawn to the piano. I find it to be the most expressive instrument on Earth. On the bench I feel at home, centered, able to express my deepest most truest self. It is a feeling like no other.


In my case, the answer to this question lies not with a particular person, but with a PLACE.  Because of my particular skill set (I can arrange and memorize standards, show tunes and pop songs readily and easily), I was hired to play in piano rooms and hotel lobbies in my 20’s. It was in these rooms, playing for hours at a time as the “wallpaper” or “background music” where I found my own voice as a composer and musician. My days as a steady musician in places like The Grand Hyatt, The Plaza Hotel, The Sheraton Centre etc. lasted for twelve years, so I was honing my skills on-the-job and putting in three-seven hours per day in professional settings that challenged me. There were always new tunes to learn and arrange, and eventually I began composing my own tunes on the job.

Earliest memory…

I remember being a toddler and reaching up to play the keys on the organ we had at home. I took it on as “my job” to pick up by ear, the melodies my mother was singing in the kitchen while washing the dishes.

Proudest career moment? 

I am lucky enough to have several: .Recording my very first CD of all original piano compositions in 1993, playing at Carnegie Hall for the first time was thrilling and exciting. (I debuted at the Weill Recital Hall in March of 1997 and played to a full house), and traveling for a month through rural Montana with Steinway in tow so I could play in small towns that had never had a piano concert before. These were all great things, but I suppose my proudest moments have come “under the radar”, working as a National Artist Spokesperson for The American Music Therapy Association.

Can you tell us more about your work with the American Music Therapy Association?

My daughter was born very prematurely, and music was an integral part of her healing and recovery. I became fascinated with Dr Jane Standley’s work. Dr. Standley has done a tremendous amount of research on the effects of music on the premature infant. This interest grew into a passion and as my daughter recovered, I began to work with AMTA on a few projects. This eventually led to my being a Celebrity Artist Spokesperson for AMTA.  I have witnessed, first-hand, the powerful, transformative power of music in a variety of settings: hospitals, nursing homes, schools. Music therapists do amazing work and being able to facilitate that work through outreach, education and workshops is something I love doing. Music therapy is becoming a “hot” career, and services are, in many cases, insurance reimbursable, because the positive medical effects are indisputable. I love the combination of neurology/psychology/music. I am now in my 4th term as Artist Spokesperson and often give workshops and lectures on the topic of music and wellness while on concert tours.

‘Commitment, passion and patience’

Commitment, passion and patience are all required to be good at this instrument, and draw audiences. I admit I do not have the technique to ever be considered a “great” concert pianist, but my commitment, passion and patience have allowed me to find my own voice and create a musicality that is sometimes lacking in the most proficient of pianists.  My tip to a young pianist would be to live a life that is full and involves things other than the piano. It is this balance and fullness that will enrich one’s playing and perspective.

The biggest challenge overcome

Stage fright!  Ironically, I now lead master classes on overcoming performance anxiety. I used to suffer terribly.


One of the reasons I love the piano so much is that no two people play it or approach it the same way. It is amazing how the “touch” from one pianist to another varies. I love listening to others play and hearing what they can create on the instrument.

A New Kind of Love – review 

“I am in love with Robin’s wonderfully comforting piano artistry, & have been for many years now… we have reviewed many of her CD’s, and listened to her spirit mature most pleasantly!… It only takes a few bars to capture your imagination and bring your dreams to life. Some of her previous efforts covered other artists, but this album features all originals, which is why (I believe) it captured my ears so easily. I was most impressed by the track titled “Seeing You Seeing Me”, which feels like a story about friends I’ve known across the decades. Those listeners who love soft/gentle and clearly expressed talent will agree when I declare this CD MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED”

-Dick Metcalf, Improvijazzation 

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June 12, 2012 · 7:05 pm