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#1423207 - 04/24/10 09:53 AM Who is John Thompson?
JR_YC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 24
Loc: Rochester Hills, MI
Can anyone provide biographical information on John Thompson. I've been learning from his method books and wanted to learn more about him. Google and Wikipedia didn't lead me to any information. Thanks in advance!

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#1423338 - 04/24/10 01:24 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: JR_YC]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
JR YC,

You are so right, it's hard to find John W. Thompson, music publisher. This is all that I could find today.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080328210717AAHK6g6

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#1423351 - 04/24/10 01:36 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: JR_YC]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
GREAT QUESTION!!

Nobody seems to know much -- or if they do, the information is hard to find.

And when we get done with him, we can start on John Schaum. smile

Your post made me look for info about Schaum (whose books I used after the first two of JT) -- and it seems there's a little more on him, although not much. BUT, what I did find (and I'm kicking myself a little) is that he was born and died in Milwaukee, where I lived for a few years, during his lifetime. I'd guess he was living there there too at the time. I never knew he was a Milwaukee person.

I would have looked him up. smile
_________________________
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1423353 - 04/24/10 01:43 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Mark_C]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Did you see the link to the method books evaluation by Frances Clark Center?

I noticed it when I googled John Thompson, but I don't have time now to go back and find it. Breakfast and coffee is calling my name at 10:30 AM!

France Clark is a valuable resource in the music education field....so I'm be interested if anyone finds that info and posts here.

Also: about Schaum - they are still in business in Wisconsin, and the 3rd generation Schaum is now holding forth in the business. They have a email newsletter, too. Not defunct at all.

Betty

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#1423359 - 04/24/10 01:50 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Betty Patnude]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Nice to hear Schaum is still running!
BTW.....I didn't mean that I thought they were defunct; I was just talking about the original Schaum person. I see that he passed away in 1988.
And not only that.....he lived in the suburb where I had friends and hung out a lot (like every day), and had gone to the college in whose music department I hung out even more.

I was right there, and so was he. smile
_________________________
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1423389 - 04/24/10 02:40 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Mark_C]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
And, somehow you missed meeting!

John, his son, Wesley, and Wesley's son, and Jeff Schaum (now Vice-President) have been the mainstays of the company.

Are you familiar with what Schaum publishes? I use a few of their selections and I think one of their best contributions is the "Finger Power" exercises/technique series.

An advantage to Schaum is that their materials are a little less highly priced then the bigger music publishing companies. Their interest seems to be music education through late elementary - early intermediate instruction and supplemental materials.

It troubles me a little bit to not find resources on the internet to some of the old timers in music publishing. There are a great many of them who live on in our memories.

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#1492689 - 08/10/10 02:19 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Betty Patnude]
Mirela Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/10
Posts: 65
Loc: Bucharest, Romania
In case anyone is still interested in JT:
Apparently there's a dissertation on him "John Sylvanus Thompson : pianist, pedagogue, composer by Cameron Shawn Dibble,published in 1992.

Does anyone know what's the exact procedure if one wanted to read such a dissertation?

Here's the abstract:
To the knowledge of the author, there are no biographies of John Thompson in existence, except the short background sketches given, for example, in the 1927 Duo-Art Catalog, published by the Aeolian Company, and the profiles of Thompson printed in his published music. Primary research was undertaken to interview relatives, former childhood acquaintances, and former students of John Thompson. A major effort in this regard was a journey by car to his birthplace in order to locate people who might have known him. Other destinations on this trip were New York City and Yonkers, New York to interview former students. One source led to another and so on. Later destinations on the automobile journey (in which the author was accompanied by his father) were Lyme, New Hampshire, where Thomspon's niece lives, and Cincinnati, and the location of the Willis Music Company, which still publishes a large number of Thomspon's most famous music books. The complete trip by car was accomplished in seven days due to unavoidable time constraints. Because of the fame of the Thompson piano teaching materials, a certain mystique about Thompson seemed to exist in the author's mind and perhaps also in the perception of the public at large. John Thompson was a name without an identity. From the author's research, sufficient information about Thompson's early life was obtianed to provide evidence of an early performing career, which some might have supposed did not or could not exist. Also, Thompson's asthma condition was discovered, and this difficulty certainly affected career decisions throughout his life. The most significant discovery by the author was that Thompson appeared to have chosen teaching as a career early in life. He evidently devoted a great deal of thought to the processes of teaching and learning how to play the piano. He devised the philosophy that teaching the elements of piano technique, which are used by the concert pianist, could be applied to the child by the use of miniature forms and interesting, original melodic pieces. Thompson enlarged this idea to include reducing the melodies of many famous masterpieces, including other musical media (opera, symphonies, etc.) to the ability and capability of a small hand. This "genius" (a word used by several people) of Thompson's, may explain why his compositions were and are some of the most influential piano instruction materials in existence during the twentieth century.
Notes
Abstract -- Table of contents -- Acknowledgments -- Early years (1889-1917) -- Kansas City's celebrity (1917-1951) -- Personal characteristics and semi-retirement (1951-1963) -- Pedagogue -- Composer -- Summary -- Appendix A John Thompson's brothers James and Frank -- Appendix B facsimile of two recital programs in Berlin -- Appendix C-1 selected Kansas City reviews of John Thompson -- Appendix C-2 brief sketch of Kansas City's musical history -- Appendix D Thompson and the Indianapolis conservatory -- Appendix E-1 the reproducing piano rolls: a short history -- Appendix E-2 facsimiles of Thompson's pages in the 1927 duo-art catalogue -- Appendix E-3 Thompson entries in the catalog of the reproducing piano roll collection (international piano archives at Maryland) -- Appendix E-4 Thompson enries[sic] in the classical reproducing piano roll: a catalogue-index by Larry Sitsky -- Appendix F background of John Thompson's interviewed students -- Appendix G Wiktor Labunski joins the conservatory -- Appendix H Thompson's and Labunski's collaboration on a piano technique film -- Appendix J interview with William D. Morning about camera club -- Appendix K known home addresses of John Thompson -- Appendix L Thompson heirloom bible -- Appendix M John Thompson letters to Mary Clarke Miley -- Appendix N John Thompson letters to Jack, Jr. -- Appendix P John Thompson advertising notice -- Appendix Q John Thompson works known to be published by Schroeder and Gunther -- Appendix R facsimile of Schroeder and Gunther list of Thompson publications -- Appendix S letter of C. Leslie Thompson to Mrs. Jeff Snyder -- Appendix T letter of C. Leslie Thompson to Thompson family "The Thompson Lineage" -- Sources consulted -- Vita.

source: http://laurel.lso.missouri.edu/record=b2365482&searchscope=3
_________________________
Piano teacher in Romania
Learning something new every day smile

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#1492897 - 08/10/10 06:40 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Mirela]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4441
Loc: San Jose, CA
You might contact the school by letter or e-mail. It is possible that you might be able to order a print copy from the archive (I would imagine it would cost money), since it would be a long trip for you to visit the university library in person. Or they might be able to 'print' the microfiche to PDF.

In some circumstances, an inter-library loan might be arranged. Libraries like to accommodate researchers, if they can.

What could it hurt to ask?

Thanks for reprinting the abstract--- even that much information is more than I knew before.
_________________________
Clef


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#1493029 - 08/10/10 09:20 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Jeff Clef]
JR_YC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 24
Loc: Rochester Hills, MI
Wow Thanks Mirela. I'm going to try to dig up the dissertaion. If I find it I'll pass it along. BTW, I'm in Michigan and this makes me feel like its a "small world".

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#1493221 - 08/11/10 05:37 AM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: JR_YC]
Mirela Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/10
Posts: 65
Loc: Bucharest, Romania
JR_YC that would be fantastic.

I mean even if you just get to see it and give us a larger summary or just the "juicy details".

I've also found a photo of the man, from a Hal Leonard/Willis Music Company product catalogue.

John Thompson by nmirela, on Flickr

and the dates and places of birt/death
8th of March 1889 Williamstown, Pennsylvania - 1st of March 1963 Tucson, Arizona.


Edited by Mirela (08/11/10 05:39 AM)
_________________________
Piano teacher in Romania
Learning something new every day smile

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#1493291 - 08/11/10 08:44 AM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Mirela]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I had no idea that dissertation existed. It looks fascinating. I have a copy on order!
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1493397 - 08/11/10 11:21 AM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Kreisler]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
One of my avocations is genealogy, so I did some quick research. Here is a bit I learned; perhaps not what you wanted to know! smile

On the 1900 census, he is living with his parents, James C and Emma J Thompson. He has a younger sister, Alma E. His grandparents John and Margaret Hall are also living with him. (and a servant.) John's father was born in PA of Scottish parents. His mother was born in Wales. HIs father is employed as a "merchant goods & groceries."

Living next door is Walter and Ellen Thompson - perhaps John's uncle?

On the 1900 census, John's occupation is "student." On the 1910 census it is "none" (despite already traveling abroad as a musician.)

On his 1913 passport application is this info:
Age 24, 5'8" tall, gray eyes, large nose, small mouth, round chin, brown hair, long face....
He is planning to return "within two years" and he follows the occupation of music.

On his 1909 passport application:
Age 20. Same info as above, except his nose is "Grecian." He plans to return to the US within five years. He is a "musician."

He is living in Williamstown (Dauphin Co) PA on both applications.

The abstract posted earlier mentions his early decision to teach, but all I can find is that he is travelling abroad as a musician - presumably as a concert pianist? - from age 20-25.


The name "John Thompson" is so common, it is a tough name to research. If I find anything else of interest, I'll post it.


Edited by Lollipop (08/11/10 12:51 PM)
Edit Reason: type for height
_________________________
piano teacher

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#1493432 - 08/11/10 12:20 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
On the 1920 census, he is indeed living in Kansas City, MO, working as a "teacher, music school." He is married to Loretta, (about 1915) and has a son John S., Jr. On the 1930 census (same place), his son is listed as John James, and he has added another son, Charles Leslie. His occupation there is listed as teacher, piano.
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#1493445 - 08/11/10 12:42 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Mirela Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/10
Posts: 65
Loc: Bucharest, Romania
Originally Posted By: Lollipop
Here is a bit I learned; perhaps not what you wanted to know! smile


On the contrary, the things you found are absolutely fascinating. They give him more shape and substance as a human being.

For quite a lot of time I think most of us perceived him as the "Betty Crocker" of piano methods.

Would any of his sons be still alive? It's doubtful but not impossible. I have a great aunt born in 1909 that is still alive and well smile


Edited by Mirela (08/11/10 12:44 PM)
_________________________
Piano teacher in Romania
Learning something new every day smile

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#1493450 - 08/11/10 12:48 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
Tucson Daily Citizen, Saturday evening, March 2, 1963. Page 6.

Thompson Funeral Tuesday

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Arizona Mortuary Chapel for Dr. John Thompson, 74, who died yesterday in St. Mary's Hospital after a lengthy illness.

Dr. Thompson was a prolific writer of piano lesson texts and music for the piano. He also composed a five-movement score for piano, "Arizona Suite," which had its premiere here by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra on March 15, 1960.

The musician, who had lived in Tucson since 1957, was director emeritus of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, which he headed for 25 years. He and his wife lived at 7033 N. Via Pisa, Casas Adobes Estates.

Dr. Thompson wrote some 80 instruction books and 300 to 400 pieces of piano music. His books were published in French and Spanish. His texts had distribution through Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

A native of Williamstown, Pa., Dr. Thompson began his career in music at the age of 5. He was taken out of high school by his parents and sent to Philadelphia to the Leefson-Hille Conservatory. Later, he studied composition at the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded a doctor of music degree at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Tex., for his contributions to music study.

Dr. Thompson twice toured Europe as a concert pianist, a career which was interrupted in London when World War I broke out. Upon his return to the United States, he became director of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music.

Dr. Thompson is survived by his wife, Mrs. Dora M. Thompson; two sons, John J. of St. Petersburg, Fla, and Dr. C. Leslie of Kansas City, Mo., seven grandchildren, and one sister, Mrs. Walter Betts of Kansas City, Mo.

Funeral arrangements are being made by the Arizona Mortuary. The Rev. Robert Lenhard will officiate at services.
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#1493470 - 08/11/10 01:13 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
Excerpt of an article concerning probate of his will, Tucson Daily Citizen, Thursday Evening, July 4, 1963, p 14.:

Dr. John Thompson, a composer and music educator who died here March 1 at the age of 74, left an estate valued at $864,738 - a large share of it in musical copyrights.

The musical copyrights of Thompson, a prolific writer of piano lesson texts and music for the piano, is estimated to be worth $374,477, according to an appraisal and inventory reported filed in Superior Court. Others assets consist of real estate, stocks, bonds, and cash.

....

In his lifetime, Thompson wrote some 80 instruction books and 300 to 400 pieces of music for piano.
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#1493478 - 08/11/10 01:24 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
carey Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6469
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Lollipop -

The obit says it all !!! Thanks for seeking this out. thumb

I grew up on Thompson method books - but knew absolutely nothing about the man himself.

Quite franktly, I'm amazed to find out that he headed the Kansas City Conservatory of Music for 25 years. I started doctoral studies there in the mid 70s - and we never heard anything about Thompson's past involvement with the institution !! I was also surprised to learn that Thompson eventually settled here in Arizona for health reasons.
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#1493490 - 08/11/10 01:35 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: carey]
Mirela Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/10
Posts: 65
Loc: Bucharest, Romania
Lollipop you are amazing!

It's like you're digging in a treasure chest... Keep dishing out, if there's still more smile
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Piano teacher in Romania
Learning something new every day smile

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#1493521 - 08/11/10 02:15 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Mirela]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
I don't know if anyone else noticed that his wife in 1920 and 1930 was named Loretta, and his wife in the obit is Dora. I am thinking they are NOT the same person, but I don't know if he was a widower or was divorced.
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#1493536 - 08/11/10 02:31 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
"Big Red"
The Piano Adventures Teacher SUMMER 2006 NO. 8
http://pianoadventures.com/newsletter/2006_pdf/PA8_pg15_BigRed.pdf

(If the pdf link doesn't work, search "john thompson" "kansas city conservatory" - about the 6th hit down.)

Although his fame now rests solely on his creation of The Modern Piano Course, John Thompson was a performer, composer, and transcriber. His earliest music training was in Philadelphia. He toured for some time in the United States and Europe as a concert pianist, but his health suffered. He then began his long career as a teacher, first in Philadelphia and Indianapolis before joining the faculty of the Kansas City Conservatory of Music in 1918. From 1930 to 1939 he was Director of that school.....
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#1493543 - 08/11/10 02:38 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
And another

http://europa.iwu.edu/argus/pdf/19381011v045i05.pdf

This is the newsletter from Illinois Wesleyan, from Oct 11, 1938. On page five (upper left corner) is an article about John Thompson coming to give a lecture (sounds like a publisher's showcase!) and has a photo of him.
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#1495319 - 08/13/10 04:23 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Mirela Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/10
Posts: 65
Loc: Bucharest, Romania
So, Lollipop, any news about the two names for his wife/wives?
_________________________
Piano teacher in Romania
Learning something new every day smile

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#1495557 - 08/13/10 10:56 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Mirela]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
No. Haven't learned anything else except that I believe both sons are deceased.
Presuming I found the right records, John James died 30 Jul 1988 in St. Petersburg, Florida. C. Leslie died Jul 1987 at Shawnee Mission, Kansas. At least that's my best guess.

There are lots of Thompsons out there, including lots of Doras and Lorettas.

I am really surprised, searching the Kansas City Conservatory pages - not a single mention of John Thompson. Seems like there ought to be at least a "John Thompson piano scholarship" or something!
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#1495576 - 08/13/10 11:35 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Lollipop]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
You might contact John McIntyre - he's been on the keyboard faculty at UMKC the longest; perhaps he would know something?

I think the rest of the faculty are relatively new. It's quite a different place since the last time I was there (back in the mid 90's.)
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1495717 - 08/14/10 08:04 AM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: Kreisler]
Mirela Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/10
Posts: 65
Loc: Bucharest, Romania
Apparently the UMKC did have a short note about JT on their website on the 2006-2008 version of it.

On the first reply to this thread Betty gave a link to a Yahoo answers page.
The original question on yahoo contained a link to that page. The only problem was the link was broken. I finally realized why. It had a typo and it read conVervatory.umkc.edu... instead of conservatory and it had incorporated the full stop of the sentence as a final dot in the url.

Still, with all these mistakes corrected the page I hit on the UMKC was an error one. But, with the wayback machine I could find the text contents of it. (they last archived the site on nov. 2nd 2007. The page was presumably still online by say... summer 2008 as the yahoo question is "2 years old", but I guess the archive bot went again to the UMKC's site after they had just upgraded it, leaving out the JT page)

Here's the text:

John S. Thompson, Director
Conservatory of Music of Kansas City
1930-1939

For thousands of people who taught or studied piano in the 1930s and later, the name of John Thompson brings immediately to mind the shiny red covers of his "Teaching Little Fingers to Play;" his six-volume series, "Modern Piano Course;" and his three-volume series, "Adult Piano Course." Using his own original compositions, simplified transcriptions of familiar classics, and actual works by famous composers, Thompson crafted a graded series of piano pieces that allowed students to begin with an introduction to the keyboard and music reading and to progress to a fairly sophisticated performance level. These publications had a profound influence on the teaching of piano and made Thompson one of the most respected and sought-after pedagogues in the nation.

Thompson's early studies were at the Leefson-Hille Conservatory in Philadelphia and at the University of Pennsylvania. Touring the United States and Europe as a concert pianist, he built a solid reputation as an outstanding musician and performer. Before coming to the Conservatory, he taught in Philadelphia and in Indianapolis. In 1918, he joined the piano department of the Conservatory at age 29, and by 1926, he was serving as a member of the Conservatory's administrative board. When the Conservatory's previous president and director retired in 1930, Thompson became the acting director. Later he was officially appointed to the position of director, a post he held until 1939.

In addition to his teaching, administrative, and performance roles, Thompson was an active composer and transcriber. His performance of his transcription of Fritz Kreisler's "Liebesfreude" may be heard at: http://www.kunstderfuge.com/piano-rolls.htm (use Edit-Find to search the webpage for the name "Thompson").

This was actually my starting point in finding all the information I had on Thompson, starting with his birth year (they said he was 29 in 1918), but somehow I missed putting it up too when I found the dissertation abstract, that seemed more interesting.
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Piano teacher in Romania
Learning something new every day smile

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#1736874 - 08/19/11 11:36 PM Re: Who is John Thompson? [Re: JR_YC]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
I had no idea he worked in KC or was connected with the conservatory (I obviously didn't attend).
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