Yvonne Balgenorth – Piano Teacher

Piano Teacher
Interlochen Arts Academy
Classical

piano, music lessons, piano teacher, classical musicI am a classical pianist who graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy. Throughout my life I have actively performed, collaborated, and recorded with musicians of all walks of life – be they hobbyists, professional colleagues, or renowned musicians, such as Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Eighth Blackbird. Even while presently working within the field of cognitive neurology, I have continued actively cultivating my relationship with music. Provided my interest in how we are able to understand musical structures and derive meaning from such, the development of a student’s ability to consciously listen and interpret music are central to my instructive practice. As a teacher, I strive to work with the student to not only improve their formal technical abilities and understanding of foundational concepts, but to also enhance their overall musicianship and relationship with the art itself.

 

When did you begin playing Piano, and why?
I started studying piano at the age of four. When I was born, my parents recognized music as an important skill they wanted me to have and decided upon me learning the piano. As soon as I could stand on my own I embraced creating the sound of music and haven’t stopped since.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
While piano is my primary instrument, I did study classical violin for six years. As a violinist, in addition to my solo repertoire, I played within numerous orchestras and chamber ensembles.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
As a musician, I am driven by the communicative potential of sound and the impact it can have on oneself or another listener. While playing, I strive to animate the network that exists between the notes on the page, my personal background and emotions, the experiences of the audience, and the history and ideas behind the work as I translate it to the present. Through music, I ultimately aim to create an authentic space for expressing myself and relating with the listener.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember while developing my musicality as a child, I was working to grasp the concept of phrasing: an instructor told me to consider the intrinsic direction or motion each given note had within the greater context of the piece; thinking ahead was essential to effectively beading the notes together on the page. That idea flipped a switch for me internally and allowed me to recognize the ways in which these smaller units contributed to building logically sound, musical sequences.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Every note is significant. Analogous to language, every note has its function in how a listener understands and experiences the piece. Paying close attention to how you play and approach each note and considering the impact alternative variations may have on one’s experience, are critical to thoughtfully sculpting the broader picture.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
I remember when I started performing, I had a challenging time feeling fully comfortable sharing my music with others. For me, playing felt too intimate and I was overly concerned with what the audience would think of my performance. What I grew to learn was that it’s important to just relax and remain yourself in the moment. By letting go of that fear and allowing myself to become vulnerable in the face of my audience, I began to notice as people became increasingly eager to listen to what it was that I was ready to share.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
My biggest musical achievement was finding a way to continue my relationship with music, despite my career in neuroscience. Over the past few years, I have actively worked to build in time to practice, collaborate, and perform, and have even found ways to synthesize my interests, be it  playing music for patients or investigating how we are able to understand and derive meaning from music. Having developed ways to continue nourishing my creative pursuits amid the busyness of life is something that I’m especially proud of.

Favorite thing about teaching?
I find teaching to be a collaborative process: I learn just as much from my students as they may from me; the novel perspectives they introduce to me, their variations in conceptualizing music and expression, never cease to impress me. I love observing their new-found confidence as they have just understood a given concept — watching them grow in their practice is what motivates me to continue teaching. To be able to pass along such a skill they may have for life, a skill that can serve them beyond just their artistic endeavors, is the most rewarding experience.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
It’s not about the number of hours you practice, but how you practice. Learning how to actively listen, remain focused on the task, and sustain being cognizant of your bodily and mental experiences while playing are all important to learning an instrument. Practicing should be an active, mindful process. As they say: practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it does make permanent.