Benjamin D’Annibale – Piano Teacher

Specializing in Classical Piano
B.M. in Piano Performance
Temple University
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Benjamin D'Annibale HeadshotI teach beginner, intermediate, and advanced piano.  I have been playing for over 12 years, and was self-taught before I began lessons at the age of 12.  I immediately fell in love with the instrument and the classical genre, leading me to receive my Bachelors in Piano Performance from Temple University, where I studied with Mikhail Yanovitsky, Charles Abramovic, Joyce Lindorff (Harpsichord), and Lambert Orkis (Chamber Music).  I have also attended the PianoSummer Institute twice in New Paltz, NY, where I have studied with many accomplished musicians from around the world;  this past summer, I was featured a masterclass there with Alexander Toradze. I have given many performances in and around the Philadelphia area, either as solo recitals or as part of ensembles.

My teaching style tries to instill the basics of technique and posture, making sure that those core elements are never glossed over.  Proper distribution of weight throughout the arms and body is essential to playing more difficult music, and I firmly believe it is important to get those ideas implanted from the beginning. I tailor my teaching to the students’ needs, but always make sure they can play their scales and can think for themselves about music making as much as possible. It is absolutely necessary that the student can be independent and explore musical ideas while they are not with the teacher, and I try to empower my students as much as I can.

When did you begin playing piano, and why?:
I began playing at the age of 11, but I started with the trumpet at the beginning of the 6th grade. The piano in my house at the time was a massive player piano from 1907, and was so out of tune that C actually sounded as a Bb. Because trumpets are tuned to Bb major, this actually proved to be helpful – whenever I played my trumpet melodies on the piano, they would be at the same pitch. This helped my musical ear, and by the end of the school year I was reading through my father’s old piano books and taught myself to play. The following year I begged my parents for piano lessons because I realized that I loved classical piano music and wanted to play the great works by Beethoven and Chopin which my ears were devouring. 

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
To me, the goal is not to have one specific idea of what being a musician means. Being open to different kinds of projects and utilizing your skills as a musician are essential to growth outside of one’s comfort zone. Performing and teaching are always the goals, while constantly expanding my horizons and challenging my ideas. 

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?:
When the idea of slow practice really clicked for me. I realized it was not about just slowing the piece down, but expanding the piece’s space in time – like zooming in on a canvas, and filling in the details of a painting. That was probably by single biggest epiphany about learning how to practice.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
When I got to the University level, it was a large shock for me considering that I had never known any other classical pianists while growing up. At one of my first lessons with my new teacher, I was having difficulty playing a piece how I wanted and complained that the piano was making it difficult. He told me that a thoughtful musician can make any piano sing, no matter how inadequate.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
That would have to be when I began learning the Harpsichord over the past year. I went in thinking, like many other pianists, that it was a less dynamic version of a piano. There is no way to sustain sound since the strings are plucked instead of struck with hammers. Over the first few months I was very humbled to realize that it presented its own set of unique challenges, and through rethinking my technique, I improved the efficiency of how I approached my pieces on piano. 

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
I would count a recital I did in January of 2015 featuring music by Maurice Ravel as my biggest achievement. One of my favorite composers, the concert featured his Piano Sonatine, Piano Concerto, and Piano Trio. All were very difficult pieces, but in particular the Trio (piano + violin + cello) featured a massively difficult part for piano. I could quite possibly say that it is my favorite piece of all time – when I first heard it, I knew immediately that I needed to form a group to perform it as soon as possible. In addition, it is by far the most difficult piece I have ever performed, and when I ended the concert with the trio I knew that I had accomplished something with my partners that we would never forget. 

Favorite thing about teaching?:
That moment of magic when something you as a teacher have known to be true for a long time clicks with your student, and you can remember the moment it clicked for yourself.  Passing that knowledge down and empowering the student to be independent is what teaching music is all about.  

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
Music can be as carefree or as difficult as you want it to be. However, if you take the time, energy, and patience to study an instrument (or many) intensely and understand the ins and outs, it becomes easier over time to be easygoing about music. 

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
A continuous project for me is the musical partnership I have with my best friend, who is also a pianist. We have performed two concerts with works for either two piano or one piano, four-hands. We are working on three concerts in the upcoming year, one of which involves music only for five pianos by American composers, and another of which has some works commissioned and composed specifically for us to play.