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Barbara's Piano Journey


Read about how Barbara rekindled her love for the piano in her late 20’s, after purchasing a studio piano and having it delivered to her 5th floor apartment in Manhattan. Study Piano online with Christie Peery now.


The conversation below has been paraphrased and edited for clarity.


Q: Let’s go way back to the beginning. How did you find the piano in the first place?

Listening to Liberace play piano on television when I was in grade school!  He was the first professional pianist I’d ever heard. He was melodramatic, extreme, but deeply in love with the music.

Q: How did you take your young admiration for Liberace, and find your way to playing yourself?


I grew up in NYC and  lived in an apartment building.The mother of one of my best friends had a baby grand piano in her apartment and played beautifully.  She noticed my interest in her playing, taught me some simple songs, and encouraged my parents to buy a piano and find me a teacher.


Q: What did your parents do with that information?


Though my parents were not musical, my Mother was kind enough to buy me a spinet and I began lessons when I was around 10 years old.


Q: Was it love at first practice?


My first piano teacher was very harsh.  Though I did learn the basics, I really had no knowledge of how to practice and probably practiced my mistakes over and over.  My parents, not understanding that practice time was necessary, were not supportive. My Dad ridiculed classical music.  My brother was jealous of my progress and would continually disrupt my practice sessions.  All of those things influenced my decision to  end my lessons after about 1 and a half years.


Q: Was your life free of music at that point?


No. In the 6th grade, I scored sufficiently high enough on a qualifying exam to be in the “music class,” and played French horn in both junior and senior high schools orchestras.  Sadly, I  was too shy to audition for my college orchestra.  Throughout my school years I was exposed to classical music; had friends and teachers who loved it.  And, needless to say, I heard brilliant classical pianists in the New York concert halls.  But I was not playing piano.


Q: Seeing your talent with the piano now, I assume you returned to the instrument. When did that happen?


In my late 20’s while still living in NYC,  I decided to buy a piano and have it delivered to my  5th floor apartment.  Over the next 10 years, sporadically, I had lessons with 3 different teachers.  


Q: Did you see improvement in your playing?


Practicing piano in an apartment building was nearly impossible. Despite playing with the “soft” pedal down, I was always aware that my playing could annoy the neighbors. Though I practiced as much as I could, I never felt I was doing justice to the pieces I was learning.   Now, after working with Christie Peery, I have come to understand that those pieces far above my technical level, and I just felt defeated and disappointed. Also, as I’ve come to realize, the teachers didn’t really expect much from me, because I was not going to be a professional musician or piano teacher.  They just passed me along.   Through all that, I loved learning the music, practicing, being totally absorbed in the process.  

Q: It sounds like you “hit a wall” in your playing, which happens to most musicians. How did you overcome it?

In my mid 30’s, I moved to a very small town in South Dakota, married,  raised a family and worked as a care coordinator for chronically mentally ill patients at a VA hospital. I did purchase a Steinway 1098 studio piano from a retired teacher. Lesson opportunities were very limited here. About 6 years ago,  a musician friend suggest ArtistWorks. Not wanting to again be disappointed, I did not follow up on his suggestion.  


Q: Did you take him up on that suggestion?


Not at first!  But he wouldn’t leave it alone. Every time he saw me he would bring it up again saying,  “It’s less than 60 dollars for three months, that’s your total investment, and if you don’t like it, you can just quit!”.  The rest is history.  


Q: Was that all it took to get you to sign up?


No.  I went online and explored the site, listened to a sample of Christie’s playing and her video lessons.  I liked the idea of certifying, playing to master a piece.  I could also tell that she had a gift  for explaining concepts, and I felt I could learn much from her.


Q: Had you been studying online before?


Periodically, I’d view lessons on Youtube.  But I found the lessons either oversimplified or way too technical.  There was no context, I had no clue how what they were teaching fit into a larger picture, or curriculum. It just didn’t work for me.  


Q: You said that you found ArtistWorks years ago, when was that?


I just began my 6th year studying piano with Christie Peery.


Q: What’s been the biggest difference in your playing from learning on ArtistWorks?


I finally enjoy hearing myself play! I’ve seen improvement in my playing. I am able to bring out the character of a piece. Christie’s method of practice has been invaluable to me.  It’s gone from learning individual notes, to actually creating music. I’ve had to work hard. Being certified in a given level is one of  the rewards for the work. I love being able to select the pieces from the Royal Conservatory series that resonate with me, vs. the teacher selecting them. I enjoy learning the various styles of music, from Baroque to modern and now have 2 favorite jazz composers from those books - Martha Mier and Christopher Norton.  


Q: How have you used Video Exchanges with Christie Peery to improve your playing?


I upload all my lessons.  Christie has an amazing ear and when I’ve not mastered  a technical or musical element she identifies that immediately.  She will either give feedback via a video and clearly explain how to achieve that mastery or refer me back to her video lesson that does the same thing.   She doesn’t just pass me along.  I’m very grateful for that.  It’s so important that I get feedback on strengths and weaknesses. I started lessons from the very beginning Habits and very glad I did.  I had so much to learn.  


Q: I can see you’re deeply committed to your playing, what motivates you to keep practicing?


I’ve thought about quitting many times. But I’m 75 years old now, and realize this is my last chance to learn to play piano, so I persist. I’ve put in many hours of practice and it would be a shame to throw it all away.  When I get frustrated, I refer to Christie’s practice charts and  slow down. I just want to keep playing as long as can.  I can now practice anytime I want to; have no concern about bothering neighbors, and my husband loves to listen.  Christie’s method is progressive, so as long as I practice, I feel I can improve.  


Q: Do you feel like you get a lot of value out of ArtistWorks?


Absolutely.  There are many fine pianists out there, but they are not always excellent teachers. Christie is both. I’m always recommending  AW to others.  My husband is considering violin lessons in future.  :) The cost couldn’t be more reasonable.   I wish everyone could learn about the opportunities on ArtistWorks.


Congratulations to Barbara for being our first instructor nominated student highlight! Study online alongside Barbara here.

Explore other student spotlight features:

Teko in the Ukulele School

Rico in the Mandolin School

Graham in the Blues Guitar School



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