Music-Related Book Reviews

One of my favorite things to do is read a good book! Last year, I posted a list of recommended biographies, compiled from my own reading and recommendations from other Music Matters Blog readers. This year, I thought I would share several reviews of music-related books I read last year. I always want to read more books than I end up actually reading, but I would especially like to read more music and/or teaching related books this year. Does anyone have suggestions? What music and/or teaching related books have you read that you would recommend?

Here’s my list from last year:

Talent to Treasure: Building a Profitable Music Teaching Business
Marcia K. Washburn

A second-generation piano teacher with many years of experience, Marcia Washburn sets out to help aspiring music teachers get started on the right foot. Many of the tips and principles she shares are ones that I had to learn the hard way! Although every teacher will have different approaches to the way they run their studio and do their teaching, Marcia’s book is sure to help new teachers think about issues that are all-too-often completely overlooked.

She covers a wide variety of topics, including: evaluating your motive for launching a music teaching business, preparing for the practical side of running a studio, establishing appropriate policies and practices, learning how to communicate effectively, and some of the nuts and bolts of what and how to teach. This is a great starting point for a teacher, and even experienced teachers will probably take away a few new ideas, tips, or insights that will help them become better teachers and business owners. I know I sure did!

Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story
Lang Lang with David Ritz

A fellow piano teacher recommended this autobiography of world famous pianist, Lang Lang, at a music teachers association meeting. It was a quick read, but wow was it fascinating! I had absolutely no idea the kind of dedication and work that lies behind some of the young prodigies that emerge on the world scene. According to Lang Lang, in China it is everything to be Number One. Propelled by his father’s obsessive drive and his mother’s enduring love, that’s the pianist that Lang Lang was destined to be ever since winning his first competition at the age of five: Number One.

As a piano teacher, it was interesting to read of the different personalities of Lang Lang’s teachers and how they impacted him – either positively or negatively. Even in the cruel, critical world of competitive piano playing, Lang Lang blossomed and enjoyed music the most when his teacher, while highly qualified, was encouraging and cared about him as a person. Even though Lang Lang suffered at times because of his father’s indefatigable pressure to be Number One, I appreciated his desire to honor him and reconcile their differences. He also acknowledges that he wouldn’t be who he is today were it not for his father. Lang Lang’s story paints a vivid picture of what it looks like to be wholly devoted to a cause. Even though I love playing the piano, I am mindful that ultimately my cause is Jesus Christ. I am inspired to make my devotion to Him more of a living reality every day.

My Life with the Great Pianists
Franz Mohr with Edith Schaeffer

This book is a natural appeal for pianists, but I think it would be equally inspirational for anyone who is devoted to maximizing their impact in their given field for the glory of Jesus Christ. Some of the finer details about pianos and tuning may be lost on the non-musical reader, but the real message from this concert technician is how one person, by being skillful in their field, can gain an audience with many to make an eternal investment in their lives. I was reminded often of Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” I loved the little anecdotes from Mr. Mohr’s interaction with pianists Horowitz, Rubinstein, Cliburn, Gould, and others, and I came away from the book with an even greater appreciation for the beauty of this instrument – the piano – that occupies so much of my life!

>>You can see a complete list of books I read last year in my Year of Reading in Review post on the Pajama School blog.>>

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