Piano Faculty

John Arcaro

Assistant Professor, Piano
jarcaro@berklee.edu | 617 747-8104

"How to inspire a student—or whether I'm even supposed to inspire—is always a mystery. Sometimes I just play for them and that gets them excited. I also try to go hear my students perform, and go out of my way to give them positive feedback, because we're all our own harshest critics."

Ed Bedner

Professor, Piano
ebedner@berklee.edu | 617 747-8113

"As a private piano instructor, my emphasis is teaching the classical repertoire of all periods; piano technique, including tone production; and how to overcome tension and other physical problems common to pianists. Some students come with nonmedical problems of strain and pain. These students can benefit from our work on tone production to develop more freedom and control of the playing mechanism, and from repertoire carefully selected to avoid strain while gradually developing more strength."  

Leonardo Blanco

Assistant Professor, Piano
lblanco@berklee.edu | 617 747-3097

"I have seen the excitement on my students' faces when they consciously recognize elements from Africa, Latin America, or the Balkans in the music of other cultures. It can give them the awareness of the transformative power of music and its ability to transport a person to the other side of the world. I also hope to teach my students how to incorporate multicultural elements into their own music. Diverse ethnicity creates endless possibilities."

Joanne Brackeen

Professor, Piano
jbrackeen@berklee.edu | 617 747-8345

"I always ask my students what their favorite piano players are and what their goals are. The school has goals for them, too, but almost everyone has some personal goals. Use the visualization of what's inside you and let that bloom. That provides everything."

Frank Carlberg

Assistant Professor, Piano
fcarlberg@berklee.edu | 617 747-8202

"What you get as a student at Berklee is a wide variety of options matching your interests with a faculty member's interests. Because of the size of the program, you're also going to run into other students who have similar interests as you, no matter what your interests are. As teachers, sometimes we like to think of ourselves as doing the most important job, but I do think that the interaction between students is just as important. I would even say that it might be the best thing that the school has to offer."

Robert Christopherson

Associate Professor, Piano
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online

"From my own background as a performer, I've learned how to prepare for a concert, how to choose the right musicians, how to choose the order of songs, and how to deal with the nerves factor. I've also had a lot of experience with other, less obvious aspects of performance, such as promotion, warming up, and memorization. I draw on this experience in my teaching."

Jeff Covell

Professor, Piano
jcovell@berklee.edu | 617 747-8149

"When I was a student, I was fortunate to have had some excellent teachers with very different approaches. Some were very good at organizing and presenting material in a way that was effective. Others were more spontaneous and conceptual, and taught more by way of example. I try to bring this same mix to my own students, in an environment of support than emphasizes diligence, creativity, and personal identity. I want them to know what I think their priorities are in terms of their being successful—as musicians and as artists—and I hope to give them some idea of how to nurture their own creative spark."

Suzanne Davis

Associate Professor, Piano
sdavis@berklee.edu | 617 747-8258

"I encourage students to find their own style, but not to be afraid of imitation as a learning tool. One way I learned was by listening to the artists I really like, transcribing, and playing the transcriptions. And that was very valuable. As a learning tool, it's okay to learn someone else's solo and play it."

Jennifer Elowsky-Fox

Professor, Piano

"I've been doing yoga for about ten years, and my yoga informs my piano playing in terms of feeling balanced. When you're trying a yoga pose that's too difficult, you have to back up until you find a version of that pose that you can do well. The same is true with piano playing; if you're trying something that is just too difficult, you can pound away all day long and it's not going to work. You have to back up a little bit, find a version that is comfortable, master that, and then take it to the next level. You want to sound good right now, even if it's just one measure, one note; go from there, and build on that."

Laszlo Gardony

Professor, Piano
lgardony@berklee.edu | 617 747-8187

"I teach students ways of practicing in which inspiration and analysis mutually support each other. My aim is to teach them an appreciation of both intuition and analysis so there is no conflict between the two. Instead, they mutually enhance each other. I want to see my students grow more inspired as well as more knowledgeable. I always emphasize having fun while learning, enjoying the process. I encourage my students to always practice in a musical way, never approaching music mechanically or viewing it as a mere skill."

Tony Germain

Assistant Chair, Piano
rgermain@berklee.edu | 617 747-8189

"Here at Berklee, I'm giving back to something that has given me everything. I often describe Berklee as a musical Fantasy Island. I just don't know where else I'd be happy."

Kevin Harris

Assistant Professor, Piano

"My own musical roots were watered in Lexington, Kentucky. There, the black gospel experience was my first and most important music education, forming firm roots that I would later confidently plant into the important traditions of swing and Afro-Carribean-based music. I realize that each student at Berklee also brings a very special history of their own, and I have the opportunity to mold, water, and inspire that talent so that their roots may also grow strong."

Steve Heck

Assistant Professor, Piano
gheck@berklee.edu | 617 747-8451

"I bring in my experiences from outside the school because I want to prepare my students for what’s out there. I want them to know what to expect. When you’re in school it can be kind of mesmerizing, then you’re out and all of a sudden it’s, 'Gee, this is the real world.' I’ll tell them, for instance, that they should know how to do a certain thing in their chords because someday they might be out on a gig and someone might ask, 'Can you play this open voicing?' or say, 'I want this for my recording and that’s the sound I’m looking for.' I want my students to be ready for anything and everything out there."

Russell Hoffmann

Associate Professor, Piano
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online
rhoffmann@berklee.edu | 617 747-8432

"Playing the piano has got such a physical component to it. Understanding the gestures, the body motion, the language of each style—then incorporating an intellectual knowledge of the music along with the sound—it all works together. There’s no substitute for just getting in there, experiencing it, and playing, playing, playing."

Steven Hunt

Instructor, Piano
shunt@berklee.edu | 617 747-8482

"We musicians have our good days and our bad days. One moment we're learning something new and flying high, and the next moment we feel like a complete failure. As musicians, we're very happy to be doing what we do, but usually we're never satisfied. When I finally master a concept or a song, I hardly ever give myself a pat on the back, because by that time I've found five or six other things I want to do but can't. I see those same ups and downs with my students. They'll be elated when they learn something new one week and then really bummed the next week thinking they are not making the progress they want. Believe me, I know it's frustrating, but it's very normal for all musicians at all levels to have these seemingly extreme ups and downs."

 

Matt Jenson

Assistant Professor, Piano
mjenson@berklee.edu | 617 747-2835

"Any artist out there, whether they're formally trained or not, needs to go out there and learn to play like the people they're inspired by. You've got to study, develop some ability and technique, but then the great artists come out and say, 'I'm going to put it together in my own way.' And that's new, that's exciting."

Douglas Johnson

Associate Professor, Piano
djohnson1@berklee.edu | 617 747-8582

"Whether it's in private piano lessons, labs, or keyboard classes, I want my students to come away with a solid technical foundation. Good technique is important, not just for fluency but also to avoid getting hurt. Good technique, by definition, is efficient motion. It comes not just from the fingers, but also the shoulders and all the way down to the feet. The old Russian saying, 'You play the piano from your feet,' is really true. It would be absurd to believe you can lift a 60-pound suitcase with just your fingers. It's equally absurd to think you play piano with just your fingers."

David Limina

Assistant Professor, Piano
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online
dlimina@berklee.edu | 617 747-8436

"I like to stress practical skills like playing the right thing for the right situation, and I also teach different styles because being able to cover a wide range of styles will make you marketable as a player. I stress playing with good time, good phrasing, and not overplaying. One of the biggest lessons I give them from my own real-life experience is that a gig usually isn't about highlighting yourself; it's more about functioning in an ensemble and playing your part. They have to learn how to play in a band, and Berklee's a great place to do that."

Nando Michelin

Assistant Professor, Piano
nmichelin@berklee.edu | 617 747-2887

"I take an individual approach to each student. And if I ask my students to use a certain sound to write a song, I tell them, 'Wherever the song takes you, go with it. I'd rather you tell me you wrote a song that has nothing to do with what I gave you, and it sounds great, than tell me you threw away ten songs because you wanted to do one like I asked you to do.' If my students understand that the music comes first all the time, then they get to that point at which they always are trying to break down barriers and let the music take over.'"

Yoko Miwa

Assistant Professor, Piano
ymiwa@berklee.edu | 617 747-6251

"I strive to help develop the technique of my students, so they have the ability to play what they are hearing in their head, while at the same time helping to develop their vocabulary, hearing, and awareness. I try to encourage my students to be more than prepared, so they can be focused on communicating and interacting with the other musicians they are playing with. If you have to use all your concentration to be able to make all the chord changes, or play a specific rhythm, or play a unison line, then you're going to miss out on all of that communication and interaction that is essential for group playing."

John Mulroy

Assistant Professor, Piano
jmulroy@berklee.edu | 617 747-8311

"As a teacher, I always demonstrate the pieces we're working on, and even record my playing in class so students can listen and give a critique. Of course, I have them do the same. I ask them to listen for a singing tone, crisp articulations, dynamic shading, a steady flow—in other words, a musical representation of the piece."

Vadim Neselovskyi

Assistant Professor, Piano

"This is not a music school for children. If you came to Berklee you obviously already have something that you want to do, and I'm curious about it. What I really enjoy about all my students is how different they are. I'm teaching the full day, and I get to teach Mozart, and then I get to talk about bebop, and then I get to talk about indie pop tunes. We cover the full body of music."

Neil Olmstead

Professor, Piano
nolmstead@berklee.edu | 617 747-8301

"Musical ideas are nothing without technical ability. I often tell my students 'we play the piano with our entire body, not just our fingers and ears.' Our skeletal, muscular, and tendon structures work together and respond to each other in accord with the laws of nature as we play, regardless of whether it is jazz or classical music. I strive to help the pianist organize how the body moves, from the fingertip to the feet on the floor. This frees up the physical motions for greater facility, more beautiful tone, and deeper expression. It is a joyful moment when a student suddenly discovers how a motion in the forearm or torso will open up the sound or result in a new improvisational idea generated from deep in the subconscious."

Ross Ramsay

Associate Professor, Piano
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online
rramsay@berklee.edu | 617 747-2824

"Our students run the gamut from a 17-year-old right out of high school who's played in rock bands to someone who already has a master's degree in music and is a tremendous player in one style and comes here to learn another. It's the most extreme place I think that you can teach because of the variety of styles and the variety of students. I had a student who was 65 from Japan who just retired and decided that he wanted to come back to school and learn music."

Tim Ray

Associate Professor, Piano
tray@berklee.edu | 617 747-6028

"One of the things I try to communicate to my students is the idea that when you're in school, you try to absorb as much as you can in terms of music and styles and just open yourself up to as broad a spectrum as you can. Because you never know when an opportunity will come along that's going to take your career in a different direction. That's what happened to me. When I was in college, I thought, 'I'll just be a jazz piano player,' and then all these other things came up. The next thing I know, I'm doing all these great things, traveling all over the world, playing with all these incredible musicians, but not necessarily playing jazz all the time. So I try to open myself up to all these different opportunities."

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