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6 minutes reading time (1163 words)

Remembering Jane Bastien

jane-bastien


Editor's note: These are longer versions of the articles from the May/June 2018 print version of Clavier Companion.


Becoming Friends with Jane

by Keith Porter-Snell

I met Jane Smisor Bastien in the Spring of 1993, at the Joanna Hodges International Piano Competition and Conference, in Palm Desert, California. Jane was teaching masterclasses, and I was judging. Our daily schedules were similar, so it was arranged that we would travel together to and from the contest: in a big, pink limousine with a red velvet interior. We discovered quickly that we had very similar priorities in piano teaching. Jane always had each of her piano students take both a private lesson as well as a group lesson every week. I also taught this way. We also connected because we both taught the multi-key approach.Hers, of course, was written down in her methods — methods which, up to then, I had not used. I had discovered my preference for the multi-key approach early on in teaching, and adapted whatever materials I was using at the time. Meeting Jane, and discovering that she had published it, was life changing for me.

At the contest, I heard a number of excellent students who were clearly taught by the same teacher. It turned out that they were Jane's.  So, we also bonded because I gave her students all the prizes! I did not know they were hers until after the contest. Jane never said anything, nor gave a hint before the contest was over, that she had students competing. She was always honest. 

In the months that followed our first meeting, Jane and I remained frequently in touch. I would visit her in La Jolla, enjoying her beautiful home, but especially her fantastic piano teaching studio. Jane came up to my home in the Bay Area and gave masterclasses to my students.

I knew that the four Piano Literature books edited by Jane and Jim were not only excellent collections of music, but also quite rightly popular with teachers. I suggested to Jane that we make CDs to go with the Literature books, and she really liked the idea. We both agreed that Diane Hidy should be the recoding artist.

As Diane's performances were meant to reflect the editing in the books, it seemed only right that we work with Jane prior to recording, going over every detail of Diane's performances. It was an exhilarating experience working with Jane. Imagine it: just the three of us — Jane, Diane, and me — alone in Jane's studio. Three people with a profound passion for teaching, who were also experienced concert artists, whittling away at the finer points of the Burgmüller "Arabesque", or the "Spinning Song" by Elmenreich. I knew by now that Jane was a great teacher, but during this collaboration, I came to understand the extraordinary depth of both her musicianship and pianism.The success of the sessions was due to the equal footing the three of us were on, and our mutual respect.Each of us had something to bring to the party, and we were delighted and energized by learning from each other.And, even while working seriously and industriously, there was an abundance of joy and laughter. Everything about Jane was abundance: form the abundance of piano students, to the abundance of rose bushes in her garden.Nothing was ever done by halves. But at the same time, Jane was the least pretentious person I've ever met. Always fearlessly her authentic self. 

My mother, Carol Snell Cyr, who was also a piano teacher, had met Jane a couple of years before I did. I remember her saying to me, "The thing about Jane is that she makes everyone feel that they are genuinely her friend." 


Keith Porter-Snell is a pianist, piano teacher, and writer of educational music for piano students. As a performer, he specialises in piano music written for the left hand alone. Keith teaches beginning through advanced students, and has given more than 500 workshops to piano teachers throughout the US and abroad, and has more than 150 titles published by the Kjos Music Company. He teaches piano at Bath Spa University, and is Visiting Artist Faculty at the New Mexico School of Music. He has also taught at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.


Remembering Jane Bastien, with love.

by Henry Doskey

It must have been 1959 in New Orleans when William Gillock sent me to Jane Smisor at Newcomb College Preparatory Department. I had been with Bill for about three years, and I think he felt I needed a more detailed kind of teaching than he wanted to do. Jane was just out of college then and seemed not much older than I. She was dating Jim Bastien then, too, and of course later became Jane Bastien. Their two-piano team was just getting started (he was teaching at Southeastern Louisiana University) and their romance took off from there.

She was a different teacher from Gillock. His soft-spoken and gentle style gave way to her energetic, exacting approach. She would jump up and down, racing around the studio; her array of colored pencils at the ready. She covered my scores with directions of all sorts and made me do Plaidy exercises. And she wouldn't stand for anything but the best possible playing.

I also had a few lessons with Jim Bastien on her recommendation, and it was he who suggested that I go to Southern Methodist University, presumably to study with Georgy Sandor, who had been his teacher there. As it turned out, I went to S.M.U. but Sandor had gone to Michigan.

In later years, I reconnected with Jane. She and Jim married, had their cute little girls, and ultimately moved to La Jolla, California. I visited her there in the 1980s. She came to East Carolina to do a well-attended, informative, and interesting workshop around that time, and stayed with us.

We always shared our yearly news in Christmas cards; because she was so busy, and had probably a monster card list, hers were always later than anyone else's, sometimes arriving in mid-January. They were always newsy, and full of the thousand things that she was doing. That was until last Christmas, when her card was signed with a simple "Love, Jane".

That's how I'll remember her – with love.


Award-winning pianist Henry Doskey holds the Doctor of Music in Performance from Indiana University, where he studied with Sidney Foster, Jorge Bolet, and Menahem Pressler. (He is the only graduate student in IU's history to have served as teaching assistant to both Foster and Pressler.) In 1993 William Gillock named him "the authoritative interpreter" of his works, which resulted in the six-CD "Complete Gillock" series for Green Mill Recordings; he has recorded three other CD's for them (www.greenmillrecordings.com). He retired from a distinguished career at East Carolina University in 2010 and now devotes himself to performances, masterclasses, workshops, and writing. 

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May/June 2018: Questions and Answers
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