Musical Costume Contest


Combine your love of music with your Halloween costume this year! ThePianoMag is hosting a music-themed costume contest. Costume ideas include composers, famous musicians, or anything piano related. Share your photos on our Facebook page or by email to enter our contest. We’ll announce a winner next week to receive an exciting musical prize - $100 to Neil A. Kjos Music Company!

How to enter:

  1. Dress up in a musical costume. Take a picture!
  2. Post your photo to Clavier Companion’s Facebook Page by Monday, November 3rd, 11:59 pm EDT. Make sure to tag Clavier Companion and Neil A. Kjos Music Company.
  3. Not on Facebook? Email your photo instead to
  4. Stay tuned on our Facebook page and blog to find out the best costume winner!

Contest Rules:

 Any content deemed inappropriate by Clavier Companion will be deleted. By submitting photos, readers agree to the images’ use on Clavier Companion’s website and social media. This contest is not affiliated with or sponsored by Facebook.


Behind the Mag: 5 Minutes with Susan Geffen

#1. What drew you to Clavier Companion? Had you worked in publishing before?

I have always been a writer; in addition to my music education, I have a B. A. in journalism. When I was still an undergrad, I submitted an article to The Norman Transcript, the city paper in my college town. Not only did the paper publish the thing, but the managing editor offered me a job! I wrote headlines, covered breaking stories, worked in cut-and-paste layout (that's "cut-and-paste layout" with scissors and glue), wrote obits, proofed copy, rewrote press releases, checked the police name it. I also worked as a movie critic for a small magazine, and, later, as an assistant and publicist for the composer professor who had supervised my graduate work. I've always loved the mix of music and writing.

#2. We receive a lot of questions about the Closer Look/New Music section in the magazine. How does the review process work?

I am pleased that people are asking about the review process. Our process is defined by our purpose: we want to publish substantive writing that enlightens the reader, and we want to be a trusted source for fine writing, fact-based information, and thought-provoking ideas. To that end, I examine hundreds of pieces of music, multiple newly published books, and myriad other materials; I try not to miss much. Most of the materials are submitted to us by authors and publishers, but I also keep an eye out for books and music that I think will be of interest to our readers. I then send selected materials to reviewers, who have the final say as to whether to review.

#3. Last year you covered The Cliburn competition. What was that experience like?

Well, of course the Cliburn was a complete blast! The ultimate assignment for piano junkies.

The Cliburn had asked the Music Critics Association of North America to submit the names of eight critics to cover the finals. Although the Cliburn had invited us, we were never told what to write; we could rave or pan as desired. I truly wanted to be "Our Woman at the Cliburn," so, after each finals program, I sprinted back to my room to file late-night blogs; I wanted our readers to feel as close to the action as possible. Exciting, thrilling, grueling.

#4: What have you been up to lately?

I just returned from LA, where I was a member of the Classical Screening Committee for the 2015 Grammys. Very interesting, very intense, and very hush-hush. Lots of fun, too!


Susan’s Cliburn blogs are still available at For more information about our review process, read Susan’s post, How We Do It: Selecting Music for Review in Clavier Companion.


geffenSusan Geffen is a Managing Editor of Clavier Companion. She is active as an educator, adjudicator, presenter, panelist, critic, and specialist in Recreational Music Making. She recently served on the Classical Screening Committee for the 2015 Grammys.


Lesson Planning

The September/October 2014 issue of Clavier Companion tackled the topic of lesson planning in an article by Craig Sale, Arlene Steffen, and Stephen Hughes. We were delighted to receive the following enthusiastic response from one of readers.

I loved reading your article on "Lesson plans: A teaching essential?" in the September/October magazine. I have been doing lesson plans for my students for 38 years and it has certainly worked for me. I always start with a long term plan in September for each student--written out with goals, etc. and refer to it numerous times during the year. Then I do individual plans for each student each week following a general outline of things to be covered. I compare the plan that we followed for the lesson just completed and write out the plan for the following week. It never takes more than five minutes to write. This way I have a plan that keeps the student and I on a direct path to progress. As the article states, you must be flexible. Lesson plans are my best guide to know how the student is doing from week to week. I have never seen an article of this type in a music magazine so it was wonderful to confirm that lesson plans are very important to a student's learning. Thank you!

~MaryAnn Ganz

We’d love to hear from more of our readers on this topic. Are lessons plans essential to your teaching? Why or why not? Tell us about your process for short and long term planning. Use the comment section below to join the discussion.

Cracking Chopin Arpeggios

I know the last time I promised to report on the book Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning and I do plan do that, but, for the moment I will do it in bits and pieces. Let’s start with some quotes from the chapter entitled “Embrace Difficulties” and put them together with a few other thoughts.

“Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution (italics theirs) leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.”

“Learning always builds on a store of prior knowledge.”

“Elizabeth and Robert Bjork, who coined the phrase ‘desirable difficulties,’ write that difficulties are desirable because ‘they trigger encoding and retrieval processes that support learning, comprehension and remembering. If, however, the learner does not have the background knowledge or skills to respond to them successfully, they become undesirable difficulties.’”

My dear friend, James Sherlock, a young (30) and intensely gifted British pianist/organist/conductor (look him up—you won’t be disappointed) gave me this advice: “Your teacher is someone who is there to be a supportive presence on your journey.” He also said “The people who are unable to learn to play the piano fail because they won’t take an hour or two to solve every problem as it comes up.” (He is also a hard grader.) It was on James’ recommendation that I found my piano teacher.

Read more: Cracking Chopin Arpeggios

ThePianoMag Meets ThePianoGuys!


Have you ever dreamed of playing your instrument on a thousand foot cliff, inside an ice castle, or on the Great Wall of China? ThePianoGuys have done it all, along with most any other feat you can imagine. Their videos typically feature piano and cello performances in spectacular natural settings. If you haven’t seen or heard them yet, watch out—their videos are spreading like wildfire on the internet!


Recently, we had the chance to have an exclusive chat with pianist Jon Schmidt. Schmidt had already been performing his new-age classical style music for twenty years before ThePianoGuys came to life. Their story is an interesting tale—one that might teach musicians a thing or two about creative marketing! We are thrilled to share our conversation with our readers.


piano guys headshot


You started recording videos as part of a marketing campaign for a piano store. How did that lead to becoming a YouTube sensation?


Paul Anderson is honestly the nicest piano store owner on the planet. I first met him in St. George [Utah] when I did a concert at the outdoor amphitheater there. He supplied the piano and we hit it off. I went to his store to practice for the concert. As I was trying to find creative ways to market music, he rolled out the red carpet for me. He had a YouTube channel and wanted to do some unusual marketing for his store.

Read more: ThePianoMag Meets ThePianoGuys!