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On Piano, Jennifer Snow Gives Students a New Perspective on Performing

December 15th, 2009 · 90 Comments

One in a series of UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music faculty profiles written by students in a Fall 2009 course (Ethnomusicology 188, Lecture 3) that focused on music journalism

Professor Jennifer Snow, far left, working with students (photo: Jeehai Song)

Professor Jennifer Snow, far left, working with students (photo: Jeehai Song)

By Jeehai Song

?Teachers who inspire know that teaching is like cultivating a garden,
and those who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers.?

— Author Unknown

A pianist isn’t lonely if collaborating with other musicians. ?Collaborative Piano? is a term used to denote a pianist who works with one or more instrumentalists, singers, dancers, or other artists. The term also describes a professional field. UCLA professor Jennifer Snow specializes in teaching collaborative piano and solo performing. Both, she says, are important to a student?s future.

?This is what really motivates me,? Snow says. ?My core is I believe that I am responsible for what happens to my students when they graduate in their preparation for entering community.?

Piano students face long odds in becoming successful professional pianists. A career as a solo performer is especially difficult. Even graduating summa cum laude won?t guarantee that a student becomes a star like Lang Lang.

?We are not there to tell somebody they can?t do that, but we are there to also say to them, ?Okay, pursue your dream but also develop things as you go along ? plan B or Plan A ? so that you are aware of what it really means to be a successful musician,? Snow says. ?And that is cultural change in higher education.?

Compared to the expansion of commercial music, classical music today has receded. Major labels in classical music have downsized drastically. Acoustic piano sales have diminished. The number of children learning the piano has decreased. Classical music majors are fewer. How is it possible for a piano major to get a job, not to mention becoming a concert pianist? Being a concert pianist is a remote dream of most piano students, even though majoring in piano performance requires a curriculum that is geared to producing professional pianists. But all of a sudden, one has to face reality upon graduation.

?What started to happen,? Snow says, ?and this is still going on, is we look at our students and a lot of curriculum at higher education is preparing them for reality that does not exist.?

The dream was too dreamy. Professor Snow reassessed the practicalities of being a professional musician.

?Wait a minute. What does it really mean to be a successful musician?? Snow asks. ?Does it mean successful in the community? Then, what kind of skills do we need? What kind of experience do we need? Of course, you have to be the best pianist you can be. But there is no record company at the end of the master?s degree asking you, ?Hey, sign up!? Right? I mean, the reality is you have to be an entrepreneur. You have to be multi-faceted.?

By experience, professor Snow learned to take this multi-faceted entrepreneurial approach. After university graduation as a piano major, she took a year off of study as a staff pianist at a Shakespeare festival. She knew she wanted to go back to school but was unsure what specialization she wanted because she loved both pedagogy and collaborative piano. She researched the job market to teach at the university level.

?Almost every job at the universities was talking lots of pedagogy and teaching experience,” she says. “And if you study education or pedagogy, you are still doing all the things as a solo pianist and chamber concert. More than just a solo piano, I could be playing as much and more than piano chamber.?

On weekends, Snow performs and tours ? even on occasion to Canada, where she has lived.

These are three spheres of professor Snow?s life in piano.

First, she?s a teacher ? a professional choice that Snow?s parents seem to have influenced. Her mother was a mathematician who taught at university. Her father was an optometrist. Both went to church and both did lots of social work. Snow enjoys working with young people.

?I think it is very important to have a professionalism where a teacher is constantly learning,” Snow says. “I learn everything from them. I think most teachers feel that way. Teaching side is also developing new curriculum thinking that how you can make changes and higher education that will better serve students be more fruitful and better serve community.?

Secondly, Snow is a performing artist. Her career as a collaborative pianist ? performing chamber music with other musicians and orchestras throughout Canada, the United States and Europe ? began as soon as she graduated with a doctorate degree from Northwestern University. Snow is married to trumpeter Jens Lindemann of The Canadian Brass, who is also a UCLA faculty member.

Snow performs with Philip Smith of the New York Philharmonic, James Thompson of the Atlanta Symphony, Mark Gould of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, soloists Alain Trudel, John Griffiths, Jeremy Brown, and members of such orchestras as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, NAC Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, Orchestra London and the Millar Brass Ensemble of Chicago.

A diverse and active recitalist, Snow is heard frequently on CBC radio and has recorded for Marquis, Amberola and Phoenix Records. She has also played for the Showtime Network, TVOntario, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra series, Kilburn Artist series, Banff Centre concerts, Ottawa Chamber Music festival, Stratford Festival, and ABC Television.

The third sphere of Snow?s career: She connects her professional work to her community.

?I do not want to be locked in ivory tower,? she says. ?I want to be engaged with affecting music as a essential aspect of human development. How do we help to propel that mission as an agent of music for the community in that level??

Snow is a member in the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators’ Association, for whom she presented workshops and participated in panels throughout Canada, the United States and England. She is a senior examiner for Canada’s Royal Conservatory. She spends every summer in Banff, Alberta as a recording artist.

Ask a random student about professor Snow, and one theme comes up: ?She?s energetic.?

Says Snow: ?We have a responsibility to have fun and enjoy life with a positive attitude. We all know that a relationship is about giving. If you are teacher who has negative energy or unhappiness and anger about something, there is a feeling that you give that people pick up.?

The year 2008 was Snow?s 25th of teaching at the university level. She has taught since age 16 (when she tutored neighbors), and now sees it as one of her favorite missions.

While helping to develop the graduate program in piano pedagogy at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto (she was teaching piano and chamber music), an opportunity arose to develop curriculum.

?I loved it ? it was great,? she says. ?I felt it is my life mission to get music to more people in community higher education.?

Snow was called “the teacher of teachers.”

?You can give them the tools to teach better,? she says. ?They teach 40-50 students each. They can do greater impact on change. So I call it the revolution evolution. I also say, ?Join my evolution revolution.? It is sort of an organic growth of change.?

I was curious if former students are still in contact with her.

?I have a relationship everywhere I teach,? Snow says. ?I consider the measure of my teaching is how you are helping them successful.?

During the interview, students kept knocking the door. Her teaching extends to the students beyond a piano major.

?How do you deal with all different students?? I asked her.

?I call them a Rubik?s Cube,? she says. ?Each one comes to the door with a different kind of thing. You have to figure out how we are going to get them to achieve. The more grounded you are as a person and the more open you are in positive energy, the more students can blossom like a flower.?

How we get a career like hers?

?I got a great piece of advice,? Snow says. ?Take every opportunity! You may think you may see opportunity that?s not going anywhere. It seems a small opportunity when they come way. But it opens up the huge opportunity after all.? Adds Snow: ?That openness as a teacher helps each student to become more successful.?

Tags: Faculty

90 responses so far ↓

  • Scorlibz // Mar 18, 2014 at 3:42 am

    This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  • maxinica // Mar 29, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    i love professor Snow, like everybody knows him. Cheers

  • Bellathoms // May 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    This article is very amazing and it is my very first visit to this blog. I agree with what the article is saying. Really waiting to hear from you soon.

  • Montreal Dentiste // May 6, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    This article is very amazing and it is my very first visit to this blog. I agree with what the article is saying. Really waiting to hear from you soon.

  • akarpasakbumi // May 9, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Is classical music was only reserved for those “rich” anyway?
    I hear this kind of music for the high degree.

  • el.inspetor // May 11, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Music is something very important for the kids development. l

  • jhonipantau // May 28, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Happy to see your blog as it is just what I’ve looking for and excited to read all the posts.I am very much interested on the topic.I want to visit the site for other interesting topics.

  • roseshop // May 28, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Music has been such an influential part of my life! We play classical music in our greenhouse at our flowers shops. We think it helps our flowers growth process!

  • onlinetutorhelp // Jun 10, 2014 at 3:28 am

    Music is most essential for increase the concentration level for the students.For their study material like math they should visit

  • abdul qadir // Jun 16, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Music has been such an influential part of my life! it is perfect

  • algebratutorial // Jul 16, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Great writing. No Music no life.

  • melody // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:57 am

    This is a good article.
    Thank you for your information.

  • Bankjob // Jul 28, 2014 at 2:44 am

    I’m a student of Piano class. I’m working for improvement. Thanks Jennifer for sharing the information.

  • husmen123 // Jul 31, 2014 at 1:26 am

    love it 🙂

  • tanmayruidas // Aug 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Anyone nailed the fact that professionalism throughout is key.Good publish! I’ve learned so much being a guitar teacher as a result of the students progress. Thanks for revealing this!

  • makeaninstrument // Aug 9, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    love it much 😀

  • Helpful Study Music // Aug 15, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    This is an amazing blog for anyone who wants to know about the topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you. You definitely put a new spin on things. Good perspective, appreciate it!

  • jhon // Aug 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Jake?We hear what you mean, especially when what could be an Andean flute enters the music a little less than two minutes in. Thanks for sharing that.

  • dion // Aug 23, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    This is such a wonderful combination of musicians. A great motivation for all of us! I am playing the guitar since high school, im now 30. My 5 year old boy is having guitar lessons too 🙂 He is a natural!
    My main profession is author though, music is my main passion! Have a look at my book in your spare time ! Greetings to all!

  • songmusic // Sep 1, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Music has been such an influential part of my life

  • Jay Fisher // Sep 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Really good article. I wonder if they prefer to play by ear or from sheetmusic. Anyone know this?

  • Hakan Altay // Sep 27, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Music has been such an influential part of my life,

    thank you.


  • vinodsaini // Sep 29, 2014 at 12:26 am

    I was surfing and found this blog which provide really interesting and useful information.

  • allison // Sep 30, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Guys just sharing, I’ve found this interesting! They are having a famous pianists week!

  • soundshark // Oct 13, 2014 at 1:30 am

    Snow is a good teacher and a great influence. Thanks for sharing.

  • custom beats // Oct 26, 2014 at 7:41 am

    That is great advice. “Take every opportunity. You may think you may see opportunity that?s not going anywhere. It seems a small opportunity when they come way. But it opens up the huge opportunity after all.” That is so true about nearly every aspect of life.

    Playing the piano has changed my life and lead to all kinds of creativity and other instruments. Now I’m mostly focused on making beats, but I never forget my roots. Music makes the world better and is a tremendous outlet for kids.

  • AaronSpelling // Jan 20, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    What an inspiring blog. Career possibilities are limited now days but it pays to always be creative.

  • john09 // Jan 21, 2015 at 12:26 am

    nice post

  • canadaguitarfreak // Mar 17, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Excellent topic, I am a crazy music fan and i am really happy to read your blog I have a small music store. I have bookmarked your site. I will come again tomorrow to rad another article. Keep updating. Thanks buddy.

  • Jackaftercleaning // Mar 19, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    After a long work day, I tend to relax with some classical music. Keep up the good work, we need more people the piano, not that electronic music which drives me nuts at times.

  • Bacore // Apr 12, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    I agree completely with the method applied methods Prof. Jennifer Snow

  • Hot-Selfie // Aug 21, 2015 at 8:13 am

    I think this is a great piece by Professor Snow. Being open to things allows us to work together and learn better.

  • dhebyaoet // Oct 8, 2015 at 3:25 am

    nice post, thanks….

  • davee // Feb 25, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    I agree with what Jennifer is saying and her methods are great.Every Individual is different and we all have our own methods of learning.
    Love to hear from you soon.
    Last year i got stucked somewhere in uphills due to heavy snowfall but i was accompanied by many musicians so didn’t got bored because they taught me different genere of music and time pass by $ by time snow blowers were called from

    Due to them i got to learn different music..Thanks for recreating the memories.

  • Kimberly Taylor Music // Apr 7, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    You are such a great teacher to recognize that the key to success is following through with students. A lot of people I know will talk about how they wish they had taken lessons but didn’t know how to practice and so didn’t stick with it. You are obviously giving them the skills to feel they can do more and pursue this to whatever end they desire.

  • // May 28, 2016 at 5:51 am

    This is a wonderful set of musicians. Its a great motivation for all of us!And the blog is perfect for anyone who wants to know about this topic. Keep posting. Great!

  • blazzzinglight // Jun 21, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    This article is exceptionally astounding and it is my first visit to this website. I concur with what the article is stating. Truly holding

  • icelyle // Jul 18, 2016 at 3:46 am

    I enjoy the way and style of it all. I see style and skills of the one the famous black American musician

  • greathassan // Dec 1, 2016 at 9:22 am

    That’s a very resourceful website. Amazing work. I recently got addicted to music. Learning piano, and also learning classical music such

  • AtulHost // Aug 11, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Thanks for sharing this update. This is what really motivates me.