Singer/Artist Sets Out to Climb Piano Mountain: The first steps

Let me introduce myself. My name is Shauna Holiman, I now live in a suburb north of New York City after residing for twenty-five years in Manhattan. I am a musician and artist whose collaborative work, Piano As Art, was featured in the January/February 2014 issue of Clavier Companion magazine. I am a classically trained singer (B. Mus. University of Colorado at Boulder with graduate work in opera at Boston Conservatory of Music under John Moriarty—both a LONG time ago) and an amateur cellist; I have studied cello for more than twelve years as an adult. (I hate to admit it, but I never fell in love with playing the cello as I thought I would. That is a story for another time.) I took piano as a child, and have taken lessons off and on as an adult, but I have never achieved a real level of comfort, something that has irritated me my whole life. Achieving that mastery is on my “bucket list.” The Piano As Art project inspired me to get going, and two months ago I started taking piano lessons again. I was delighted to have this opportunity to share my journey with you.

The first step was to find a teacher. Fortunately, I know many fine musicians who could provide recommendations. But I was also curious—what if I didn’t know anybody, and didn’t know anything about music or playing the piano and wanted to find a teacher? How would I go about it and what would be the pitfalls? It would be nice, I thought, to not have to commute into the city for my lessons. So, I did what I figured any modern, childless person with no connection to local schools would do: I got on the Internet and Googled piano teachers near my town. I was surprised there were so few teachers around and that fact should have made me realize immediately that this was probably not a good way to look. But, this was an experiment and I pushed on. (Perhaps piano teachers should rethink this and tend to their online presences?) There was one teacher who had what looked like, on paper, good credentials. I prepared a Bach Two-Part Invention (a comfortable level of repertoire for me) and made an appointment.

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Behind the mag: 5 minutes with Trevor Roberson

#1. As the graphic designer, your role at the magazine is very important. Can you give us a glimpse into your creative process?

First of all, the people at Clavier Companion magazine comprise one of the most rewarding and collaborative groups I have ever worked with. People pull out these kinds of compliments quickly, but I can truly say that the staff members of Clavier Companion have an exceptional amount of professionalism and collaborative support for one another. They are also willing to extend me creative license as a designer, and they have a holistic grasp of deadlines and their respective demands. In short, they make all of this a whole lot of fun!

I have a philosophy about magazine design that hearkens back to the days of Johnny Carson—I loved to sit and listen to his monologues. His approach was very creative, and he was very adept at improvisation. It makes me think about my design; I present a visual offering to the readers that is an attempt to express and convey the essential message of the writers and their stories.  

But how do I know I have succeeded in expressing the appropriate message? This is where I believe it is a greater and more important task that designers do not present materials with a “monologue-istic” approach. I try to approach each design with a “dialogue-istic” mind set. I try not to “talk at” the readers. The mindset of listening to the readers is a lost art with younger designers. I trust and take direction from the Editor, who knows the “soul” purpose of the publication; the sales director, who knows the advertisers and the target audience; and the readers through their comments and letters to the editor. It is important to listen to all of these sources and find a suitable design path.


#2. Confession time! What is it like to work with piano teachers? 

Read more: Behind the mag: 5 minutes with Trevor Roberson

Why Teaching Creativity Matters

Why Teaching Creativity MattersIn 2006, I was asked by my publisher to attend a national music education conference to help market my new jazz piano method. Lacking sales experience, I somewhat nervously asked anyone who happened to pass by the exhibit booth, "Are you interested in teaching improvisation to your students?"  Since most piano teachers are inherently friendly, I was relieved when most of them agreed to take a polite first look at my books.  A few, however, surprised me by reacting indignantly with the likes of, “Why, certainly not!" before proceeding down the aisle (and inevitable extinction) to peruse the latest editions of Fur Elise.


A Balanced Teaching Philosophy

There’s nothing wrong with teaching what we’ve come to call classical music. It develops great technique, increases music appreciation, and develops an awareness of our musical roots.

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Behind the mag: 5 minutes with Steve Betts

1. Tell us your Clavier Companion story. How did you get involved?

I became aware of the Managing Editor position and communicated with Pete Jutras, Clavier Companion's Editor-in-Chief. The search process involved a few steps, including an interview and the editing of a sample article. After the search concluded, I was offered the job. 
2. Can you give us a behind-the-scenes look at the magazine process? How long does it take to produce an issue from start to finish?
I work primarily with the content in our three sections: Learning and Teaching, Repertoire, and Perspectives. I receive drafts of the articles and then work with the Associate Editors and authors towards a final version. This involves editing, and often some discussion with the authors. I also help secure musical examples, photos, photo captions, and reprint permissions. Once the final version is settled, there are still many layers of proofing before the magazine goes to press.  Readers might be surprised at how long this process takes -- we often select content over a year in advance, and preparation for a print issue begins over three months before date of that issue.
3. We know that Managing Editor is just one of the many hats you wear in your professional life. Can you share more about your teaching?
In addition to my work with Clavier Companion, I'm also a professor and Associate Dean at California Baptist University. I teach applied piano, music theory, and direct one of the school's women's choirs. I'm also organist at Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California. I have four non-college piano students: one in Riverside and three brothers who live in Kansas City whom I teach via Skype.
4. Would you be willing to share something fun that our readers may not know about you? 
I enjoy playing racquetball and baking. The racquetball helps makes up for the weight gain caused by the baking (or at least some of it).
Steve Betts for The Piano MagazineSteve Betts is Professor of Music and Associate Dean of the Shelby and Ferne Collinsworth School of Music at California Baptist University in Riverside, CA. He serves as a managing editor for Clavier Companion and is a contributing author to the Frances Clark Library for Piano Students.

The Golandsky Institute helps musicians reach their highest potential

Golandsky Institute Taubman Approach

The Golandsky Institute is the preeminent center for the teaching of the Taubman Approach. Its mission is to instruct musicians in the skills that enable them to realize their highest potential as performing artists. It also teaches them how to overcome technical limitations and recover from playing-related injuries. It provides training for teachers in the diagnostic tools necessary to teach healthful skills to musicians of all levels. Through educational programs, professional collaborations, continued research and multi-media publications, the Golandsky Institute seeks to raise the awareness of the musical community and the public at large to the problems musicians face and the solutions available to them.


Upcoming Events:

March 23MTNA National Conference | John Bloomfield: Setting the Stage for Success

April 11NYC Spring Workshop | Edna Golandsky, Mary Moran, Robert Durso, John Bloomfield

May 31Philadelphia Teacher Training Workshop | Edna Golandsky, Mary Moran, Robert Durso, John Bloomfield

June 5Portland International Piano Summer Festival | Edna Golandsky: The Taubman Approach

July 12-20Summer Symposium and International Piano Festival | All faculty


What keeps you coming to the Golandsky Institute Summer Symposium year after year?

Golandsky Institute on ThePianoMag blogThe density of learning!  I get more help with my playing in that one week than during any other time.  There’s something about having an incredibly intense chunk of time devoted to every facet of playing that seems to really elevate my pianism year after year.  Beyond that, it's always great to spend time with my colleagues!” ~Megan Coiley, Washington DC metro area


The discussion of new information. The symposium is like an exploration of all that has been newly discovered and theorized throughout the year. The friendships are also very important to me.” ~Justin Jacobs, NYC

Read more: The Golandsky Institute helps musicians reach their highest potential