When was in college, working towards a degree in classical music composition, I wrote a vocal/piano piece based on a poem by Emily Dickinson. Here’s the poem:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
I love this poem because it speaks to the power of creative imagination. Yes, a bee and a clover an pollinate a whole meadow, but if we don’t have any bees, we can visualize that meadow and create it in our imaginations.
I’m reminded of this poem today because it’s been almost exactly 10 years since I got the idea to create my KeyboardImprov.com website and take my piano teaching online.
One fine evening, in April 2012 (I forget the exact date), I was sitting in my parked car on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Along with several other New York drivers, I had found a parking spot about 30 minutes before that particular block allowed us to legally leave our cars there without fear of being ticketed. I therefore had a half-hour in which to contemplate my life while the late afternoon transitioned into early evening.
On that day, I began reflecting on the fact that I was 48 years old, and I asked myself what I wanted to be doing in the future. I knew that I didn’t ever want to fully “retire,” but at the same time, I didn’t want to continue being fully dependent on performing music for a living. Even though I had spent 10 years playing Broadway shows, performed annually at Carnegie Hall, and was in-demand as a jazz pianist, I had seen first-hand how fickle the music business can be, and I wanted to create something that was all my own. Something that would help others while keeping me busy as I eventually reached my “golden years.”
While staring out of my car window at the building across East 64th Street, I visualized some sort of internet teaching enterprise, where I could nurture aspiring pianists of all levels of experience and with whatever type of music interested them personally. I knew that I had something unique to offer them, and I also wanted to pass along what I myself had learned from my own piano teachers. The main focus would be on guiding pianists towards attaining improvisational fluency in a fun and inspiring way.
Five weeks later, KeyboardImprov was born. I began writing a blog and nurturing a community of like-minded pianists who loved improvisation. Gradually, what started as an online collection of 35 video/PDF lessons grew to over 375 and I found myself teaching everyone from beginning improvisers to seasoned professionals.
When I was first developing the website, I happened to see a brief excerpt from an interview with Anthony Robbins, the motivational speaker. He said “People vastly overestimate what they’ll accomplish in one year, and vastly underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years.” With this in mind, I told myself that I’d stick with the online teaching for ten years, no matter what, just to see how it went.
Well, 10 years later, it’s been extraordinary! I’m teaching about 50 lessons on Zoom each week, and thousands of pianists have learned from my video course. It’s extremely gratifying to hear how much people enjoy my piano teaching, and how they’ve improved as pianists.
The “official” 10-year anniversary will be in June, and since the book I’m writing is taking longer than expected, I plan on publishing it then, to coincide with the big milestone.
In the meantime, I hope this “KeyboardImprov creation story” inspires you to pursue your own dreams, both musical and otherwise. We all have something unique and special to offer the world, and once we decide to take the plunge and “go for it,” we realize how wonderful the journey can be!
Thanks for being here,
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