Piano and Poetry



My students gather together 3 times per year at my Piano and Poetry parties to share pieces and poems. I used to have 1 recital per year, then I tried holding one recital plus one smaller party each year. But my students just weren’t getting enough opportunities to play in front of others, especially if they had to miss one of our gatherings. So I have them every four months now, and I can tell you that having my students perform more often is working out quite well. Every one is getting a little bit calmer, and playing longer and more complicated pieces. It’s so great for them to support each other’s progress three times per year.

For our February party, I polish my silver trays and tea sets, and make tiny tea sandwiches


to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  It’s so much fun for me to use these beautiful pieces we have inherited from my grandmother and my husband’s grandmother and mother. My students bring lots of delicious dishes and we have a feast (after playing, when everyone’s appetites have returned!)

I have to hold back my tears throughout the performances because it is so touching to hear everyone playing so beautifully. It takes a lot of courage for my students to come and play in front of 10-15 people (or more at our May recital) three times per year. I have so much admiration for those who choose to attend. Even those who just read a poem feel vulnerable speaking in front of others, but all who participate challenge themselves to show up and work through their fears.

Our blog friend Nancy is having guests this weekend, and said that she was going to try to practice in front of them. As I wrote in my former post, Music Is A Gift, I hope you will seek out opportunities to play in front of others. You can even play just part of your piece. When you stop, just say, “That’s all I know for now!” Believe me, they will enjoy it. And you will have practiced a valuable skill– playing in public. People LOVE to hear you play the piano. Hearing live music is a great gift, even if there are a few mistakes.

Sergei Rachmaninov said,

Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.

Keep on playing. At least 10 minutes per day!

With love and music, Gaili




12 Replies to “Piano and Poetry”

  1. I bet those are spectacular events, especially if your students know one another and see the progress from time to time. So very nice.

  2. Oops, Gaili I goofed. Thought your comment about singing was directed to me until I scrolled up and realized it was to Aimee. I agree though, singing At Last at Karaoke would be terrifying:-)

  3. Your Valentine piano and poetry is just lovely! A great idea! Inspiring. I may try this. What are your favorite poems? Does each person choose their own or do you have selections from which to choose!

    1. Hi Mary- thank you! This time our spring piano party was a month, later, but I do so love to give a Valentine’s Day tea party! Everyone who wishes to read a poem chooses their own. I love the combination of piano and poetry, because most of us never read poems in our daily lives, and it’s a nice way to make our gathering feel special, and more like a salon than a recital. Some poems are music related, others are not. I will quote a few of my favorite poems here.

      Fist, I love this one because I want my students to let go of their need to play their pieces perfectly, and just enjoy the experience of sharing music together. It’s not easy to do, but they seem to be getting calmer about playing in front of each other, and seem to accept more easily that making mistakes is an inevitable part of the process:

      ‘She Let Go’ by Rev. Safire Rose 

      Without a thought or a word, she let go.
      She let go of fear.
      She let go of judgments.
      She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
      She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
      She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
      Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
      She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
      She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
      She just let go.
      She let go of all the memories that held her back.
      She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
      She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
      She didn’t promise to let go.
      She didn’t journal about it.
      She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
      She made no public announcement.
      She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.
      She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
      She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
      She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
      No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations.
      No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing.
      Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
      There was no effort. There was no struggle.
      It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad.
      It was what it was, and it is just that.
      In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
      A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her.
      And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

      Here’s another fun one:
      The Day the Piano Tuner Came by Martha Clarkson

      It was an event 
in our house that Saturday,

      my daughter wrestling 
the mute “E”, bitter “C”,

      I, wanting no more missing teeth 
in the songs I play

      between dinner and bedtime stories.
      So he came, rumbling 
up the driveway in his VW Squareback

      raised the top of the spinet,
exposed the rows of felt hammers 
waiting like teeth for a dentist.
      His delicate ivory hands 
smoothed the grooves
 out of the tiny felt heads,

      we heard less of the ping – ping
 as he poked, his head 
tilted to one side,

      I’ll bet he turns 
his head the same way 
to a conch shell

      does not hear waves 
but concertos coming to shore

      And here is excerpts from
      Piano Lessons by Billy Collins

      My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back off to the side of the piano
      I sit up straight on the stool.
      He begins by telling me that every key is like a different room
      and I am like a blind man who must learn to walk through all twelve without hitting the furniture…

      even when i am not playing, I think about the piano.
      It is the largest most beautiful object in the house.
      I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
      And late at night I picture it downstairs,
      this hallucination standing on three legs,
      this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.

      Thanks for your comment Mary!

  4. Hello Galli, what a lovely website and spirit evidenced in your teaching and person! I am a late-life student come back to piano lessons after 63 years and retirement. I so resonate to what you and your students say. I’m in search of pianists who love to write poetry because I do, too1 I just set up my website to promote music and poetry, at rhapsodydmb.com (the name of my new piano, “Rhapsody-Arabesque, the duchess of music and bliss.”) I hope we can connect! In music love, Ann Grogan (San Francisco)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *