Brian Ganz

Brian Ganz won the appreciation of all piano participants at the SAA Conference in 2006 in Minneapolis. Brian was the masterclass clinician for the 2006 Conference and presented a lecture recital on the Preludes of Chopin.

Without attempting to be too “cute,” I think I can say that the enthusiasm engendered by Brian was a “prelude” to SAA’s inviting Brian to serve on the Honorary Board of our Association. Likewise, the editing of the Préludes of Chopin (published in 2005) was the first stage of a major project in Brian’s professional career. He is presently in the throes of recording all the works of Chopin for the Maestoso label; the Préludes are recorded and in 2008 he will record all the Waltzes. With publishers G. Schirmer, Inc. and Hal Leonard Publishing he will continue to edit other Chopin works for the new Schirmer Performance editions.

Performing the works of Chopin is a major professional project at the moment, but when asked about his present projects, Brian stated that his first project is his 10-year-old son, who is obviously a very special part of his life. At the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Brian carries out his teaching life. At St. Mary’s his students are often non-music majors, who, in his words, deserve the same commitment as the music majors. Every student is a “flower in his garden.” His love of teaching, so obvious to the piano participants in Minneapolis, continues at his home in Annapolis, when he is not performing.

Music education today is marked by a wider variety of influences; namely, jazz, ragtime and improvisation. His favourite recording these days is Conversations with Bill Evans, performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Bill Evans has a recording called Conversations with Myself. Brian recalled attending the session at the 2006 SAA Conference given by Brian Chung in which he described the value of improvisation.

Those who watched Brian teach in Minneapolis may recall how he encouraged the students to appreciate the language of music. In order to “get into the mind of the composer” he led the student to gain insights related to the chord structure behind the melody. “What can the student observe with excitement, with a ! (exclamation mark)?” He wants the student to learn to appreciate the preferences of the composer: a particular chord that Chopin loved, for example.

One trend in present day music education about which he is less positive is the prevalence of the keyboard. When a pianist plays the acoustic piano, there is a connection between the key and the musician; there is “so much soul.” That interaction is important. In addition, the key of the electronic piano does not “give,” so there is greater impact on the muscles, which can lead to unwanted tension.

Coming to the 2006 Conference was by no means Brian’s first contact with the Suzuki world. In previous years before becoming a teacher, Brian was an active accompanist, particularly in the Washington, D.C. area, and did accompany for Suzuki programs. He was also at Suzuki Festivals in Ithaca with Sandy Reuning.

As a young aspiring pianist Brian went from considering whether he would follow the traditional trajectory of the solo “hot shot” career to considering music as a path of personal growth. He admires so many people in the Suzuki world and sees Dr. Suzuki’s approach as a “beautiful way to educate the whole person in a very respectful manner.” He loves the word love in the title, Nurtured by Love, and added that he said “yes” to our invitation to be on our Honorary Board because as educators we have not hesitated to use the word love in our music vocabulary.

In concluding, Brian reiterated his enthusiasm for our organization, encouraging us to continue our great work: “It is a great honour to be on your Honorary Board.” The honour is ours: to be cognizant of such support from musicians on the world stage is affirmation of the work of Suzuki teachers.