Rami Bar-Niv Concert Pianist Music Mastery

Concert Pianist Music Mastery

What does it take to be a Concert Pianist, Master Teacher & Author? You are about to find out!

Listen to Glory St. Germain and Special Guest Rami Bar-Niv (who is all of the above), share his "music mastery secrets" on the important lessons that Piano Teachers need to know.

From Piano Camps for Teachers, to creative compositions and a life filled with a concert career, don't miss this amazing interview with the one and only Rami Bar-Niv. 

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Rami Bar-Niv - UMT Interview

Rami Bar-Niv Concert Pianist Music Mastery

Rami Bar-Niv is a graduate of the Tel Aviv Academy of Music and NY's Mannes College of Music. He is a Concert Pianist, Master Teacher & Author. His worldwide concert career spans 60 years... and counting.

Rami Bar-Niv is one of Israel's most acclaimed and sought after pianists. He travels extensively and has become an international citizen, concertizing all over the world.

Rami graduated with honors from the Rubin Academy of Music, and was the recipient of many prizes and scholarships. He won the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Competition and was awarded a scholarship to further his studies in the United States.

After graduating from Mannes College of Music in New York, where he studied with the renowned Mme. Nadia Reisenberg, he won numerous competitions and embarked on a highly successful concert career.

Rami Bar-Niv Concert Pianist Music Mastery

Rami Bar-Niv is Glory St. Germain's Special Guest on the Ultimate Music Interview Series.

Glory: Well, hello, and welcome to our very special Ultimate Music interview today. We are talking about the importance of piano teachers playing themselves. Sometimes we get so caught up in just teaching that we don't come back and play ourselves, and taking lessons to really improve our own skill sets, and I'm excited to introduce you to our special guest. My name is Glory St. Germain from Ultimate Music Theory, and my special guest today is Rami Bar-Niv. Now Rami Bar-Niv is a concert pianist, a world-class concert pianist, composer, master teacher, and he's also an author, and we're going to hear a little bit about all of that today. So, welcome Rami.

Rami: Thank you, thank you, Glory. Thank you for having me.

Glory: Yes, it's such a delight. Can you share with us your beginnings? How did you get started with your playing?

Rami: Oh, ho, beginning. That was many years ago, you know?

Glory: Yes.

Rami: I was five years old when my parents, my father was a violin player, my mother was a pianist, and they started my older brother on the piano. Well, it lasted one day, and the next day he proclaimed that piano was for girls. And he stopped, so there it was. I was next in line, and that's when I started my journey. My mother was my first teacher for the first seven years, and afterwards. Well, during those seven years she tried to give me to other teachers, but they gave me back to her.

Glory: Oh, my goodness.

Rami: So, that's the beginning.

Glory: That's the beginning. And thank goodness that there was such a wonderful beginning, and of course, taking lessons from your mother, that is so precious, too. How did you get started, then, with creating your program, your teaching? How did you get started with your teaching?

Rami: Teaching I started, actually, when I was 12 or 13.

Glory: Wow.

Rami: There was some young girls who wanted lessons, and they knew me, so I started teaching. I was also started performing, and I also started playing for ballet classes, for dance.

Glory: Wow.

Rami: Everything was about age 12, 13. And, well, I don't do ballet classes nowadays, but I do concerts and teach.

Glory: Yes. That is so wonderful. I will ask our audience just to type in the chat box if we have piano teachers on our call today, just to go ahead and put in the chat box piano teacher, because what you really have inspired me, Rami, is that when we teach, we need to continue learning, and so many times we just kind of have a part where we're so busy teaching that maybe we don't continue with our own learning and our own professional development. And even though we sometimes struggle with things, we don't often have the time to go find those resources. So could you tell me about how and maybe why you even created your piano fingering book? I mean, the book is called, The Art of Piano Fingering, and it is an art, because that can be very tricky.

Rami: Well, your question is more than just that, but you're asking me now about the book. All right, the book is an easier question. For years, I've been giving classes, meeting with other pianists, and teachers, and students, and I always felt that a very important subject to discuss was piano playing technique, and within that, fingering. That, and with all my studies and everything, I realized that there was never made a real study of the subject in an academic way, or in any way that's conclusive, that really goes from A to Z. And I was dreaming of doing something like that for many years, and then while concertizing and teaching, and meeting other people and pianists, et cetera, et cetera, and one day I just sat down and started doing it.
Took about three years. Some time during this period I stopped concertizing, I stopped doing other things because otherwise, it wouldn't move. And I finally came out with the book, it was in 2012. And since then the book has been already translated into four other languages or five other languages: Chinese, Russian, German, Hebrew. Oh yeah, and the English, the original. So that's it, and I think it's included everything that one needs to know, and it goes very slowly and very simple from the very beginning to the most advanced. And, what can I tell you? A number, a number, a nice number of thousand books have been sold.

Glory: Wow.

Rami Bar-Niv Concert Pianist Music Mastery

Rami: So it means that people are really benefiting from it, and it's still going on.

Glory: Yeah. Well, congratulations on that. And for our listeners, if you are interested in Rami's book, you can just put a little note in the chat box, piano fingering, we'll make sure to follow up with you and send you that link. The Art of Piano Fingering is available on Amazon, as well, so just put a little chat in there, piano fingering. I think you, and we're really grateful. I speak from the community of piano teachers that do really look for that kind of knowledge and assistance, and it is such a study. And even the fact that it took you years to write the book, realizes how in-depth it is to actually understand. And not only fingering but everyone. When we're teaching we have students with different abilities and different hands, right? You might have large hands or small hands, or have trouble stretching, even reaching an octave sometimes, and others can easily a tenth and play we ease.
So I think it's really, really helpful for teachers to read the book so that can help them as individual educators, but also so they can help their students. And so thank you for doing that, Rami, because it really is taking it to the next generation of students and teachers so they can learn from your research and your writings. So thank you for that.

Rami: It's true that it took me three years to write it, but it took me many more years to collect the material and to think about it. And you also mentioned technique, not just fingering, and yes, my book really talks because you can't just separate fingering from everything else. So my book talks about technique, my book talks about musicality, my book talks about interpretation, phrasing, breathing. And there's a lot in there because it all ties together to make up, to make music in the end.

Glory: Yes. Well, that's wonderful. Now you are, in addition to an author, you are also a composer. Could you tell me about your compositions and perhaps, how that got started for you?

Rami: As a child I liked to compose, and I even had my father, who had a beautiful handwriting, he was a composer himself. Never studied really properly music, but composed it. Composed a whole violin concerto, he composed other pieces for orchestra, and he had a beautiful handwriting, like Anna Magdalena Bach.

Glory: Oh, yes.

Rami: He had this calligraphic, beautiful handwriting for music, so he copied some of my stuff, and I still have that notebook, my notebook. But there's nothing there to write home about, it was just a kid trying things here and there, studying also things, never finished. And then I left it. I concentrated on my concert career, on playing piano, and only much later in life, who knows, I may have been 40 or 50, and now I'm 55. That's a joke.
I started composing later in life. I all of a sudden felt the need ... Well, I wrote some songs, I wrote some music for theater, and then I said, "Okay, so let's do something independently." And then one song I made into a piano piece, that's my Toccata that I dedicated to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. And there's a whole story behind it, because I sent it to them, and they invited me, and I went to Egypt. And I played in Cairo as the first and only Israeli to actually give a concert in Cairo.
And from there on I said, okay, so let's compose more. So another piece, another piece. And then for more than just piano, other instruments with piano, and then some orchestrations and some orchestra, and voice. My Song Cycle is really, I think, one of my most important pieces. And the thing is, the great thing, the thing that I'm happy about, what can I say, is that my music is being performed. And not only by me, but by other performers, other singers, orchestras, pianists, other instrumentalists, and that's, of course. And another thing is that the sheet music also sells, so all these things are things I didn't really plan on, but I just felt like I wanted, I needed to do that, and follow it up, and they're doing well.

Glory: Yes. And when you sit down to do your composing, how do you, where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you start with just an idea, or a melody? How do you begin the process? Because not everyone is able to just say, "Oh, I can compose." There's something that's holding them back. So I always like to know, what is it that inspires you to write your music?

Rami: It's a complex question, perhaps, what inspires me. When someone gives me poems and say "Choose and write songs", that's easy, because that's inspiration. I got poems, I read a couple of hundred of them. I chose seven out of them. So that brought me to actually writing my songs, and I'm talking about the songs because it'll answer your question in a way. I decided to write seven songs in the cycle, and I chose the poems for them. Then I started writing, and I was thinking to myself, how can I make seven songs not in any kind of uniform, not in any kind of a stamp. I wanted every song to be individual. Of course there were things to connect them all, but so what I did, is I approached each song from a different angle. One song I just thought up the melody in my head, and that was what was leading. Another song I started with some harmonies to lead me, as a compliment, and I built the rest on that.
Another song, I thought of the rhythm and I built from there. Another song I sat at the piano, and what people say, call, improvise. Kind of looked for it on the piano, because nowadays, a lot of people just sit at the piano and either call it competition or compose from there. And I didn't necessarily do it all from the piano. So I attacked things from different angles. Another one I just took the words and thought, ha, what's going to be fitting these words? So I hope that answers your question in a way of how to start composing, because there are very, and I'm sure there are many other ways to start, to get the initial inspiration.

Glory: Yes. I really appreciated what you said, because it kind of came from, if you are reading a poem or have an idea. I liked that you said sometimes it came from the rhythmic, the rhythmic aspect that you felt that it had something, and that would get the composition started. Or the melody, or that there's different things that will help you begin the process, and then it kind of evolves from there. One of the comments, I'm looking down, and I should mention to our listeners, if you have a question that you would like to ask Rami, please put it in the chat box and we'll try to get to them, as well. One of the questions, I'm just scrolling down here, Christopher. Oh, he said, "Working from different starting points, I like that." That's a great comment, thank you Christopher.

Rami: That's not a comment, that's a compliment.

Glory: That is a great compliment, yes. Sarah Campbell is with us, she said, "Fascinating stuff." Thank you, Sarah. Christopher also asked, "Are many of your compositions published? I'd love to see them. Where can I find them?"

Rami: Yes. I am realistic, so if I do something, I do it all the way to the end. And all my compositions are published, and they can be found on Amazon. You just have to type my name correctly. And they can be obtained from me, too. And also on Sheet Music Plus, and perhaps some other sites, but I can't remember now.

Glory: Yes. And I also wanted to mention that you can also go to YouTube, because Rami and I were listening to one of your pieces yesterday when we chatted just before our interview for today. We were listening to a little bit of the Chopin Polonaise, I think you were at a concert performing that. So if you want to see him in the concert setting, you can also go to YouTube, right? And you can also-

Rami: Right. Absolutely. And that particular Chopin Polonaise was not a real live concert, it was a live recording for a TV station in California.

Glory: Oh, okay. Well, that's wonderful.

Rami: But I do have other recordings live in concerts.

Glory: Yes, and it's so wonderful too. I mean, I think you are a rare gem, Rami, because not, you really are, and I mean that with all sincerity. There are very few that are an author and a master class teacher, and a composer, and a concert performer. That is a very, I mean, that is your life's work. And to be able to share that and inspire others, it really does say you can do all of these things, but you just need to, number one, take the steps, and of course, have dedication and a desire to achieve those, and just keep moving forward, because I think it's very important to do that.
Can you tell me about your traveling? I know you travel a lot in your teaching, and also you're not only teaching private students, but you're also doing piano camps. So can we talk a little bit about your piano camps?

Rami Bar-Niv Concert Pianist Music Mastery

Rami: Okay. When the internet started I was actually one of the pioneers on the internet, on email. And in 1996 I got on, and I discovered the world I didn't know existed. I mean, the easy way and the fast way of communicating with people, but most people at that time still didn't have email, or sites, or you know, not to mention all the huge companies of today. What we are on, and other companies, they did not exist in 1996. But email was already very much in use, and I was one of the first, and I discovered contact became easier and faster for concert management, which was easy. I could manage by myself easily, and for teaching. I was invited to teach at a camp that I did for about 10 years, and after that I decided to do my own thing and started my own camp.
I looked for a place, I had friends, by then, traveling all over the world I had friends all over the world, many, many, everywhere. And sometimes in the big cities, in big places, and sometimes in small unknown, or less known places, and I started my camp in Utica, upstate New York where I had many friends and I came back every year for a concert, too. And that's it. I started, and ever since been doing it, and only growing because other places heard of it and asked me to do them.
So right now I have my camps in Utica, and, oh, oh. Those camps are ... I don't know if you mentioned it, for adult players. They are for piano teachers. At least 50% of my camp is piano teachers, and the others are piano players of all levels. I could take a total beginner, and as a matter of fact, and then I would tie them up with a teacher in their, at home. Because now you have contacts with everybody all over. And of course, experienced pianists are my camp is, too, so any level piano teachers. And by now I have the two in upstate New York in October and in June, and I started the tradition of San Francisco camp. Last year was in April, this year it's this month, last week of this month I'll be in San Francisco.
And there should be one coming up, also, in Vancouver Island the third week of June. So that's about it. And now some people come to camp and then want more lessons at home. Some people are crazy.

Glory: So these piano camps are also for, they're for teachers to come and learn, as well as if you're an adult learner, an adult student, but primarily you could also be a music teacher that wants to simply learn more and improve her craft. Is that correct?

Rami: Exactly. Music teachers come to improve their playing, their technique, their understanding, their note reading, their sight reading. Everything that's connected with playing and teaching, because you teach what you can do, basically, basically. We discuss everything-

Glory: I do want to mention that if you are interested in learning more about the locations and the dates, just type the words piano camp in the chat, and then we'll make sure that you get the link. So just type in piano camp and we'll send you the link to Rami's upcoming piano camp locations and the dates, so you can check it out and get registered. You may want to come to the one up in Canada land, which is in Vancouver Island, that's where I'm looking at heading. So piano camp is the word to throw in the chat box.

Rami: Yeah, it's like somebody comes to camp, in this case it was Debbie [Baines 00:24:13] from Vancouver Island, and she said, "Oh, I want to run one at my home." And that's how it goes. Or the San Francisco came out, J.J. Hollingsworth came to camp back East, and says, "Wow. I have the place." And she's got at home a concert stage, and she runs camps on it, and I'll be playing a concert there, too, at the end of this, 24. March 24th I'll be doing a concert. It's called the Forte House in San Francisco.
Anyway, and people who don't have enough from camp invite me to come to their homes, host me, and take lessons like two days, three days, four days, five days a week, and also some people invite me to simply teach the students, like in private lessons, just for a few days, or in a class of both. And add to that, I go around also doing teachers presentations for the various teacher organizations. That's it, yeah. I keep busy.

Glory: Yeah, oh my goodness. You certainly do keep busy. So do you have any tips that you'd like to share with us as piano teachers? What tips could you share that maybe would help us in our profession?

Rami: I thought of this in general, and the tips that, if there are tips, that I want to share is like this. First, I'll tell you what I studied when I was 15 at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. And I won't remember everything, but other than the piano lessons and the practicing, I had classes for harmony, theory, solfege, counterpoint, psychology, pedagogy, methodology, chanting of the Torah, okay, that you can skip. Or literature of music, history of music, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. So what I want to say is, educate yourself. Learn, learn, learn from all aspects, and then, of course, outside music, too. Museums, books, concerts, concerts, go to live concerts.
And now the actual teaching or whatever you decide to do, teach, teach and compose, teach and teach theory, teach whatever you decide to do, so my own idea is just, don't look to the sides. Don't compare with anyone else's success or otherwise, just believe in yourself, do your own thing.

Glory: Yeah.

Rami: And don't forget to take care of yourself. Take care of your health. Do all kind of whatever sports, yoga, meditation, whatever it is. Live life to its fullest.

Glory: Yes. Oh, those are wonderful words of advice, thank you. Kind of got a little tear in heart right now, just thinking of being aware of all of those things, and certainly reading and continuing to explore all those aspects that you mentioned, it's very heartwarming, and thank you for that. What is now coming next for you? Do you have anything else that you want to do? You're a concert pianist, you're a master teacher, you've written compositions, you've performed all over the world. What's coming next in your professional agenda?

Rami: Oh, what's coming next? Well, I'll just spit it out. I'm writing my autobiography.

Glory: Wow. Congratulations.

Rami: Yeah. Thank you. So actually, after my book about piano fingering and its success my fingers were itching, and I thought, you know, I should write a book about piano playing technique, because I talk about it a lot. And I do know what I want to offer and what I want to say, but it's so complex, it's so inclusive, it's so big, that, and I'm a little on the lazy side, and then, oh. You're laughing, but...

Glory: You're on the lazy side?

Rami: I can be lazy, and it's my favorite thing to be lazy. But the other choice, the other thing that started bugging me is my life story. And unfortunately, it's not all the way through a happy story. So I mean, there's all kind of ups and downs, and then it was between these two and I said, "Nah, I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it." And February a year ago, I started writing my autobiography. So that's where I'm at.

Glory: Yes. Well, and you know, I think that sometimes the hardest part often is starting. Once we got the car started then we're on the road, and at least we're moving it forward. I can't wait to read your autobiography. I'm sure it's going to be an adventure filled with inspiration and lots of good stories, so I'm glad that you're writing it. I look forward to seeing that out in maybe a year or two when you've written it all.

Rami: Yeah.

Glory: Is there anything, in wrapping things up today, is there anything that you wanted to add or share before we sign off to our wonderful piano teachers that have joined us here today?

Rami: I don't know, because my memory, I better rush with my autobiography because my memory is going. Not for music, though, but otherwise. No, are there any questions, maybe, from anyone? Oh, and I wanted to say, your hair is gorgeous, and can you lend me some?

Glory: That's funny. Well, I think we've had a really wonderful interview today, Rami. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of information and your inspiration. And we know that we can grab the Art of Piano Fingering on Amazon. We can check out Rami's performances on YouTube, and you can also get the information about the piano camp, and I highly recommend it, because it is an opportunity for you, for your own professional development, and just to get the spark, you know, what lights you up, what gets you excited about learning? And Rami certainly has provided us with all of these tools so we can certainly take advantage of all of that. I'm looking forward to the piano camp. I'm going to try to do the one that's up in Canada, in Vancouver Island, so I'm excited to learn more about that one.

Rami Bar-Niv Concert Pianist Music Mastery

Thank you so much for joining me today, Rami, and wishing you all the best in your writing of your autobiography, and also your continued concert performances. I know you said you've got a four-week tour coming up, so that's going to be very exciting. Master classes, I think you said you were heading to San Francisco. That's going to be a week-long piano camp, so hopefully you've got your passport ready, because you're going to be on the road.

Rami: Well, thank you very much, Glory, for having me.

Glory: Absolutely.

Rami: I'm heading first for the East Coast, concert, teaching, classes, teachers presentation, and then to the West Coast, so pretty much the same. And yes, thanks again. Thank you.

Glory: Okay. Thank you. I look forward to meeting you in person, and I'll hopefully see you in Vancouver Island. Thank you, Rami.

Rami: Me, too. Me, too.

Glory: Thank you. Bye, now.

Rami: Bye.

Rami Bar-Niv Concert Pianist Music Mastery

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