The Core Elements
of The Well-Balanced Pianist Approach
Helping people make music is the goal of everything we do at The Well-Balanced Pianist. Piano instructors Teresa Dybvig and Susan Nowicki are experienced musicians and performers who will help you bring your own unique artistry to life. No matter what kind of music you love most, we know you want to master the variety of sounds that will allow you to play with vivid musical expression. We know you want your musical message to be clear, and we want to help you remove barriers so your inner artist can emerge.
Opportunities to improve your musicianship are woven throughout lessons, clinics, and workshops in The Well-Balanced Pianist programs. Performers and audience members in our Interpretation classes can delve into a piece of music with one of our master teachers, exploring musical styles through rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic elements. Clinics such as “Tension and resolution in music,” “Using pulse meter, and rhythm as guides to musical expression,” and “Creating a variety of sounds” give you concrete tools for expression.
Everyone can play the piano well. As a bonus, the healthy movements that allow you to play your best will also allow you to play comfortably for your entire life! And healthy technique is for players of every style of music. The Taubman approach to piano technique teaches the most subtle cooperation among the parts of the body you use to play the piano. Therefore, it opens the door to your greatest facility and widest range of sound and volume. These elements are so intertwined with interpretive choices that it can be difficult to know where technique ends and music begins! Of course, in the end that is simple: your technique allows you to make the music you want to make. People are sometimes surprised at how easy it is to make changes in their technique. Of course, you have to concentrate, but remarkable changes can be made without tedious exercises or depriving yourself of music you enjoy.
At The Well-Balanced Pianist, we cultivate a spirit of curiosity and exploration that helps people make the most of new information. With clinics on elements such as “basic movements”, “octaves,” “the thumb,” “blocking,” and “shaping,” piano instructors Teresa Dybvig and Susan Nowicki instruct participants in the fundamental components of playing the piano. These master teachers of the Taubman approach to piano technique also address individual needs during the course of private lessons. Their goal is always to remove technical barriers, and help people play the music they want, the way they want.
Your mindset determines how quickly you learn and progress, how securely you perform, and how much you enjoy playing the piano in private and in performance. An optimal mindset in practice allows you to listen well and objectively assess your playing. An optimal mindset in performance allows you to use your adrenaline to advantage, with trust and courage.
The faculty of The Well-Balanced Pianist brings tools for healthy mindset in practice and performance into every Well-Balanced Pianist lesson and program. At the Well-Balanced Pianist programs, group discussions based on selected readings and inspiring videos help you to find your own optimal mindset for practice and performance.
Fantastic tools are available for musicians these days, and we use a lot of them at The Well-Balanced Pianist. Bill Moore’s Playing Your Best When It Counts series, and Don Greene’s Performance Success offer activities for musicians to improve their mindsets. Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway offers concrete tools for the fearful. Kenny Werner has a lot to say about the journey to achieve one’s own potential in Effortless Mastery. Pema Chödrön’s Start Where You Are gives us tools to experience the moment without judgment.
Pianists may be the athletes of the small muscles, but the greater musculoskeletal system determines whether or not those smaller limbs can move freely. When we use our bodies cooperatively, the body offers stability and flexibility to the small limbs, and brings them where they need to be in order to act most efficiently. Therefore, if we want to play well and comfortably, we athletes of the small muscles must learn cooperative movement from our feet to our head, not just our forearm to fingertips.
All of our faculty can help you with whole-body movement at the piano. Scheduled classes with bodywork experts are included in everyone’s schedule at The Well-Balanced Pianist programs. When at all possible, private sessions are also included, as are Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons, and clinics such as “Feet and seat” and “Walking.” It has been our privilege to work with extraordinary experts at The Well-Balanced Pianist. Aston-patterning practitioner Judy Huston (CO), Feldenkrais instructor Sharon Oliensis (NY and CO), and Alexander Technique instructor Ariel Weiss (PA) have all contributed not only to our well-being, but to the depth and breadth of knowledge all the faculty brings to our work.
In addition to scheduled bodywork with expert instructors, we always try to get some exercise! It keeps us healthy and clears our heads. Depending on the location, we might take a trip to the beach, a walk in the park, or a hike in the hills.
Opportunities to improve your teaching are built into the format of The Well-Balanced Pianist programs. You get to observe how master teachers help their students improve step by step in partner lesson observation. Work in partner groups allows people to learn how to spot problems and solutions, and even to move people’s hands and arms. Teaching demonstrations with neighborhood student volunteers and clinics such as “a beginner’s first lessons,” “teaching elementary students,” “moving people’s hands and arms,” and “the essential elements of piano technique” provide direct guidance in providing a well-balanced, healthy piano education to your students.
We keep up on our reading in music education research, and new research in mastery studies. Books like Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, Ericsson and Poole’s Peak, and Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel give us material to help you coach your students in optimal practice habits.
Our students also have the opportunity to participate in The Well-Balanced Pianist Teacher Training Program. If you are studying with someone on The Well-Balanced Pianist faculty and are interested in participating in Teacher Training, please let your teacher know.
In any given program, you will find a variety of pianists: Piano teachers, classical pianists, jazz pianists, soloists, collaborative pianists, church pianists, dedicated hobbyists, university music majors, high school students, retirees, and all the wonderful pianists in between. Some join us as accomplished pianists, others join us in the beginning of their piano journey.
The Well-Balanced Pianist community provides a stimulating environment where you grow as a musician and form meaningful connections with fellow pianists. Lesson and practice partners, interactive clinics, shared meals, mindset discussions, and group recreation contribute to a supportive community in which participants feel comfortable exploring new solutions.
What brings us together is a shared desire to improve every aspect of our piano activities, including our enjoyment of them. We learn from each other, cheer for each other, and share stories and advice. Spontaneous musical collaborations are frequent and celebrated! Part of the way we foster this special community is to ask people to let go of potentially divisive topics for the short duration of each program and concentrate on what brings us together.
Who we welcome to join us at The Well-Balanced Pianist programs:
The Well-Balanced Pianist welcomes pianists, of high school age and above, to participate in Well-Balanced Pianist programs. We welcome pianists of all levels and area of musical passion. We welcome pianists of any race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental ability and disability, physical condition, ancestry, marital status, citizenship, and political party affiliation.