Play Piano Today With Dr. J

Posts Tagged ‘jeannine jordan organist

Staying the Course

Staying the Course; as it turns out, it does take Rocket Science. Well, it takes an understanding of some of the same issues the rocket scientists go through.

You may be glad to know that during any given moonshot the space vehicle was perfectly on target about 3% of the time. The rest of the time it was adjusting, correcting, refocusing to get to it’s ultimate target.



As a musician this is so encouraging.  Are we the only people who have to keep making adjustments in our practice, our rehearsing,

our performances? No, and that is great news. When you are making adjustments and corrections, that in itself isn’t some weakness or lack of ability, it’s just what it takes to reach the target of great playing.


Stay the Course!

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist


As an organist, it is a thrill to travel the world playing incredible instruments and sharing music with audiences.  On Friday, August 17th in Ried, Austria I will be playing the Schwanthaler organ in a presentation of the world premier of the German versiou of our organ and media event, Bach and Sons.  Part of the Rieder SommerMusik Fest, the Stadtpfarrkirche Sts. Peter and Paul, hosts the event. (To learn more of our event, visit

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist with David Jordan, media artist

Music I will be performing as part of the Bach and Sons event  is the Toccata in d minor, the “St. Anne” Fugue, a trio sonata, and many chorale preludes by JS Bach; a sonata by CPE Bach; a chorale prelude by WF Bach; and other incredible piece

During the event, I narrate the story of the life of JS Bach and his family as related by the women important in the Bach family’s life–Maria Barbara, Catharina Dorothea, and Anna Magdalena Bach, and Sara Levy, a patron of the arts and collector of the music of JS Bach and his sons. It was a wonderful challenge for me to learn the narration of the show in German for this world premier concert.

Jess Smith, former teacher and Executive Director of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, resides in Seal Rock, Oregon where he teaches piano and writes.  It is his thoughts regarding the importance of rhythm in music performances that follow here.

By the time I was studying seriously in New York, a piano teacher named Abby Whiteside  was causing a sensation in the piano teaching world with her first book THE INDISPENSABLES OF PIANO PLAYING.   I was already firmly established in the “old school” of the piano world, but through childhood experience was very much aware that my basic approach was not “fingers” finding keys, but a surging rhythm coming from the entire body which flows through the trunk, the upper arm to the lower arm, and thence out through the fingers.

Abby Whiteside

Whiteside said that “it is the body as a whole which transfers the idea of music into the actual production of music.”2 This connected with my childhood perception of the movements of Cousin Bea’s hands over the keys, my own playing the drums, the bow-arm of the cellist, and the river of tap-flow from the tap dancer.

Whiteside said further that  ”A basic rhythm is the only possible means by which the entire playing mechanism (which consists of the muscles of the arm, the bony structure of the hand, and the fingers) can be brought into full play.  A basic rhythm is the only possible over-all coordinator, for it is not merely the instigator of beautiful musical production, but it is the sole factor that can successfully translate the image in the ear and the emotion which must be at the bottom of all beautiful music into a function of the whole body.”

Abby Whiteside had  discovered, enlarged, and made into a comprehensive Theory of Piano Playing the very impressions that gradually gathered throughout my entire childhood, and eventually became the basis for my turning to a Music Career.    She, too, knew that music making at the piano is not a note-by-note march of the fingers finding appropriate keys, but a surging, compelling, and controlling flow of rhythmic impulse which comes from the entire body.


Jeannine Jordan, concert organist and teacher of piano and organ



A colleague and I were recently discussing how important rhythm is to a musical performance.  His thoughts were so intriguing that I invited him to write an article for my Pro-Motion Music newsletter.   Jess Smith’s article,A Compelling Rhythm, is convincing in its description of why and how music making is not a note-by-note march of the fingers finding appropriate keys, but a surging, compelling, and controlling flow of rhythmic impulse which comes from the entire body.   The article will be quoted in its entirety in this and future blog posts.

Jess Smith, pianist and writer

A Compelling Rhythm by Jess Smith

“I was born into a family of piano players, all of whom played by ear, and quite well.  My father had five sisters, all of whom played.  My mother and her sister both played.  At that time in our history, almost every home had a piano, and they were played.   I was born with a love of piano playing, and my delight was to stand by the piano as these older folks—all related to me—played things that seemed magical to me.

When I was three years old, my favorite piano-visitor was a cousin of my mother’s, who was a tall beautiful girl of 18 when I was 3 years old, and my eye level was just about at keyboard level.  I am told that I used to meet Cousin Bea at the door when she arrived and led her by the hand over to the piano to start what was my delight—watching her long graceful fingers flow like a river over the keys.  So my first discovery of the physical part of piano playing was watching the graceful movement of the hands, propelled by the forearm and upper arm, moving gracefully over the keyboard.  Music was a delight to be heard, but also a visual delight to watch.  The fact that the movements were the result of the rhythms and the movements of the music seen by my 3-year-old eye at keyboard level became the foundation for my infantile perception of the  very substance of music as a living, fluid thing. 

Later, when I was 5 or 6, my parents bought me a miniature drum set, which enabled me to sit by the radio—no television then—and play along with the music I heard.  Rhythm became something akin to food for me, and was my primary love until school became a reality for me.

I started formal lessons when I was seven, with my mother, but when I was nine I was ready to go to a professional teacher in the city.  She taught piano and cello, and in our recitals I was fascinated by the cello as well as the piano, and saw that cellists had a physical delight that the pianists did not—they could draw the bow over the strings and feel a palpable stroke with the arm as they moved through the music  (or as the music flowed through them.)  The music came from the whole body with a cellist, and although I was hooked on the piano, the idea that the upper arm was the primary unit in cello phrasing was obvious.

When I was twelve, I became the accompanist for a tap-dancer, which further enriched the rhythmic capacities I had felt so strongly as a child.  Here again was a thrust of a palpable complex of rhythm from a major part of the body, as the dancer moved around the stage.  Later performances of  Ballet also fed the feeling that music furnishes a powerful force which drives the entire body, and traces movement through the air of the stage in marvelous patterns for the eye.  Who that has seen a great ballet performance has not risen from his seat at the end and walked taller and straighter and with more enthusiasm than before?   Rhythmic flow has transformed him.”

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Jeannine Jordan, concert organist and organ and piano instructor


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  • freeonlinemusiclessons: Hey nice blog. I just picked up you RSS FEEDS. Check out my new website, you’ll like it!
  • bhundley1: I'm interested in your elaborating on the "fingering" aspect of practice. Are you a fan of Czerny, for instance, in terms of building up dexterity wi
  • promotionmusic: Thanks for your response. Congratulations to you on the work you are doing in the piano world.