Faculty Spotlight: Jeffrey Lavner

This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.

How long have you been at Colburn?
I first started at Colburn in 1981. I left for some years in the middle there, from around 1990 until I came back in 1999. We used to be in an old warehouse on the USC campus.

How have you seen Colburn change over the years?
The improvements to the facilities have been amazing. They are truly world-class now!

The funny thing that hasn’t changed is the level of the students. Some of the most accomplished students to date actually came through in those timeframes, in the early to mid-’80s. There was a big influx of immigration in the early ’80s—we got so many great students coming into LA, in addition to our existing student population.

How did you get started teaching?
I was getting my master’s in piano performance at USC with Danny Pollack. I was on a teaching assistantship there and got hired to teach at what was called the USC Community School at the time before it was the Colburn School. I actually started teaching privately when I was an undergrad.

What do you love about teaching?
We get to deal with music all day. It’s always fun, and always special to talk about music. It’s great to see students in person! We get committed students and parents at Colburn. We’ve always had fantastic students, and it’s really something special to see the level of kids that are coming through. Really, they’re like sponges, absorbing everything the school has to offer.

You teach in the Conservatory, Community School, and Music Academy. What’s it like having students across those three units?
I like it because they’re just such different personalities, and such different levels of musicianship. The Conservatory is at an incredible level. Anyone that gets accepted there is already an exceptional musician, but to just see the whole range of student development throughout the entire school is amazing.

The Academy is Conservatory-in-training, so they’re kids that are getting to that level. And the Community School is everything. It’s a little bit of that level. You still get some of the incredibly talented kids, but then you get a lot of kids that are playing for fun too, for the pure joy of music.

It keeps the day interesting. I’m not teaching the same type of student all day, so it’s always a lot of variety, which is just great for the teacher and student! You don’t get bored, and every student brings something different to the table. One of the great things to see is the professional levels students attain after leaving here. It makes me very proud to see that so many of my students have become top-notch professionals in the world with CDs and tours all over the globe, making their mark in the field.

It’s very funny because I have some of their practice tapes from when they were 12 years old, and they weren’t so famous then. I stumble across them all the time downstairs. “Oh, I forgot I had this tape.” They were cassette tapes back then.

What are your students working towards right now?
In this environment, it’s always a challenge. Last year we did a lot of online competitions because that was the only way to go. This year, it’s a little bit of a mix. I have one young man that just recorded From the Top for a broadcast in the next couple of weeks. He’s getting ready to play a concerto with orchestra, the Saint-Saëns Concerto. Hopefully, it goes on as a live performance.

And then we still have a lot of smaller things we work toward, like the Bach Festival and the contemporary competitions that are out there. I like to give my students performance goals.

At Colburn, the Friday Night Recitals are a great performance opportunity for kids that are ready. That’s the immediate first goal for most kids. I’ll say, “Okay, you’re going to play on a Friday Night Recital in three weeks.” It’s amazing how much more they practice getting ready for that because those are always special events.

So, competitions, concertos, and Friday Night Recitals are really the goals to keep everyone motivated. Music itself is enough to get everyone motivated, just to play for fun. External ones don’t hurt and get their focus going at an ever-higher level.

What’s your philosophy behind teaching?
It’s different for every level. For the younger ones, it’s really to try and keep it fun, but with definite expectations—at the same time, to give them a solid background so that if they choose to excel in music, they have all the tools. That usually means a good physical approach, a good technique, reading literacy, etc. But it should be really fun at an early age.

By the time you’re in high school, it’s a different world. There are the kids that might be music majors, and the kids that are going to be doctors, or lawyers, or whatever else they’re striving for. I prepare everyone as if they might be a music major, even if they’re telling me, “Oh no, I’m going to be an engineer.” You never know. I have gotten many emails from students late in December suddenly informing me they want to be a music major!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I also used to teach jazz piano at Colburn, and I’m proud of the fact that I have about a half dozen students out there that are pretty world-famous right now. We have a great jazz program at Colburn now with Lee Secard directing it, and Liz Kinnon teaching jazz piano. I love all music and playing the piano, so being at Colburn is about as special as it can get.


Central to the Colburn School’s commitment to providing equitable access to excellence, students in Mr. Lavner’s studio are generously offered scholarship support funded by our community of donors through their annual and endowment gifts. Such scholarships include the Herbert Zipper Scholarship program which offers highly motivated, deserving students the opportunity to engage in comprehensive music education at Colburn. Herbert Zipper Scholars receive instruction in music theory, private lessons, and ensemble participation, among many other academic and performance opportunities. The School would also like to show special appreciation for donors who offer students support through other avenues, such as instrument donations. Donors who give the gift of an instrument equip students with the resources they need to become thriving artists with access to the highest quality music education.

Colburn Piano Seminar

June 20–July 2, 2022
For advanced pianists (no age minimum)

During this two-week seminar, piano students will receive expert instruction from Colburn’s talented faculty as well as many renowned guest artists. Participants will play in a weekly studio class, receive two private lessons each week, and take part in master classes, which include a Q&A with the artist.

Highlights of the program include two days of intimate master classes by renowned conductor James Conlon and a live competition with the chance to win up to $1,000 in prize money.

Program subject to change based on enrollment.

Audition Requirements

Video submission of two contrasting pieces

  • Pieces must be recorded and uploaded separately, so two video files should be included with your application.
  • Please name the files with composer and title of work (example: Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G Minor).
  • Your submissions must be in video format only. Audio-only submissions will not be accepted.

Interest Form

Be the first to know when the Piano Seminar application goes live.

  • Please enter a number.

Faculty and Guest Artists

  • Fabio Bidini
    Fabio Bidini, Colburn School
    Private Lessons
  • HyeJin Kim, Colburn School
    Private Lessons
  • Jeffrey Lavner, Colburn School
    Private Lessons
  • Rodolfo Leone smiling in front of a window.
    Rodolfo Leone, Colburn School
    Private Lessons
  • Micah Yui smiling in front of a window.
    Micah Yui, Colburn School
    Private Lessons
  • James Conlon, LA Opera
    Master Classes on Piano Concerti
  • Tamsin Carlson, Colburn School
    Movement Classes
  • Sheila Arnold
    Sheila Arnold, Cologne Musikhochschule
    Master Class
  • Jeffrey Kahane
    Jeffrey Kahane, USC Thornton School of Music
    Master Classes
  • Bernadene Blaha
    Bernadene Blaha, USC Thornton School of Music
    Master Classes

Bernadene Blaha

Bernadene Blaha’s “brilliant command of the piano”, whether featured as recitalist, concerto soloist or chamber musician, has been heralded in performances throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Mexico. Piano and Keyboard magazine has reviewed her as, “a pianist of integrity, with lovely sonorities and total clarity of line.”

Originally from Canada, Ms. Blaha first came to international attention as a prizewinner in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Competition; the Young Keyboard Artists International Piano Competition, Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Masterplayers International Competition, Lugano, Switzerland; and the 11th Annual International Piano Competition, New York City. This latter award resulted in two highly acclaimed recital appearances, at Carnegie Recital Hall and the Lincoln Center Library. Soon afterward, Ms. Blaha was featured in the opening orchestra concert and a solo recital at the XXIX International Chopin Festival in Marianske Lazne, Czechoslovakia, followed by performances at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Ms Blaha’s discography includes recordings for the CBC, Centaur, Analekta and Eloquentia labels.

A highly regarded chamber musician, Ms. Blaha has been a regular guest at international festivals including, The Newport Festival, Tucson Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, Festival of the Sound, Bard Festival, Banff Festival of the Arts, Round Top International Festival, Academie de Fourviere, Lyon, Amalfi Festival, Italy and Festival de San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Also in demand as a teacher, adjudicator and clinician, Ms. Blaha has received the National Arts Foundation’s Outstanding Teacher Recognition Award, the 2017 Thornton School of Music Dean’s Award for Excellence in Professional Activities and the 2020Thornton School of Music Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has served on the distinguished jury panel of the Gina Bachauer International Artist Piano Competition, Virginia Waring International Competition and the 2015 International E-Competition.

Currently residing in Los Angeles, Ms. Blaha has been a member of the Keyboard Faculty at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California since 1993 where she is a Full Professor.

Jeffrey Kahane

Equally at home at the piano or on the podium, Jeffrey Kahane is recognized around the world for his mastery of a diverse repertoire ranging from Bach and Mozart to the music of our time.

Mr. Kahane has appeared as soloist with major orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago and San Francisco symphonies among many others, and is also a popular artist at all of the major US summer festivals, including Aspen, Blossom, Caramoor, Mostly Mozart and Ravinia. In August 2016, he was appointed Music Director of the Sarasota Music Festival and he is currently also the Artistic Adviser of the Sarasota Orchestra.

Since making his Carnegie Hall debut in 1983, he has given recitals in many of the nation’s major music centers including New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A highly respected chamber musician, Mr. Kahane collaborates with many of today’s most important chamber ensembles and was the Artistic Director of the Green Music Center’s Chamberfest during the summers of 2015 and 2016.

Jeffrey Kahane made his conducting debut at the Oregon Bach Festival in 1988. Since then, he has guest conducted many of the major US orchestras including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Indianapolis and New World symphonies among others. In May 2017, Mr. Kahane completed his 20th and final season as Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He also served as the Music Director of the Colorado Symphony from the 2005/06 season through the 2009/10 season and for ten seasons was Music Director of the Santa Rosa Symphony, where he is now Conductor Laureate. He has received much recognition for his innovative programming and commitment to education and community involvement with all three orchestras and received ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming for his work in both Los Angeles and Denver.

During his highly successful tenure with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, he spearheaded the creation of many new initiatives, including Westside Connections, a chamber music series that brings together LACO musicians and guest artists with speakers from a wide range of disciplines; Baroque Conversations, which presents chamber and orchestral music of the 17th and 18th centuries with spoken program notes and audience Q and A; “Discover” concerts, evenings devoted to the exploration of a single work involving an hour long lecture with the orchestra on stage, followed by a complete performance; and Sound Investment, a commissioning club whereby for a modest investment, LACO patrons can participate in the commissioning of a major new work and interact with the composer from the very first stages of its conception to the performance. Between this program and the regular commissioning of new pieces, over 50 works were given their premieres by LACO during Mr. Kahane’s tenure. He is now the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate.

Recent and upcoming engagements include a fifth play/conduct with the New York Philharmonic as well as play/conducts with the Houston, Indianapolis, Vancouver, Milwaukee, Colorado, San Diego, San Antonio and Phoenix symphonies; concerto appearances with the Toronto, Cincinnati, New World, New Jersey, Oregon and Utah symphonies; and appearances at the Aspen, Britt, Oregon Bach and Tippet Rise festivals as well as with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia and New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. During the 21/22 season, Mr. Kahane will perform the world premiere of a new concerto written for him by his son, Gabriel Kahane, with the Kansas City Symphony. Subsequent performances of the concerto are scheduled with the Oregon Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and at the Aspen Music Festival.

Mr. Kahane also recently conducted two productions of Kurt Weill’s operas – the first, a rare fully staged production of Weill’s last Broadway opera, Lost in the Stars, during his final LACO season; and the second, a concert version of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with the Hamburg Symphony in May 2018.

Jeffrey Kahane has recorded for the SONY, EMI, Telarc, RCA, Nonesuch, Deutsche Grammophon, Virgin Records, Decca/Argo and Haenssler labels in collaborations with the New World, Cincinnati, Bournemouth, and Oregon Bach Festival symphonies. He has also recorded works by Gershwin and Bernstein with Yo-Yo Ma, the complete works for violin and piano by Schubert with Joseph Swensen, and Bach concertos with LACO and Hilary Hahn.

A native of Los Angeles and a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mr. Kahane’s early piano studies were with Howard Weisel and Jakob Gimpel. First Prize winner at the 1983 Rubinstein Competition and a finalist at the 1981 Van Cliburn Competition, he was also the recipient of a 1983 Avery Fisher Career Grant. An avid linguist who reads widely in a number of ancient and modern languages, Mr. Kahane received a Master’s Degree in Classics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011. He is currently a Professor of Keyboard Studies at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

Jeffrey Kahane resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Martha, a clinical psychologist in private practice. They have two children – Gabriel, a composer, pianist and singer/songwriter and Annie, a dancer and poet.

Sheila Arnold

Sheila Arnold belongs to a generation of pianists who feel as much at home on the modern concert grand as on the fortepiano: the symbiotic feedback between the two instruments never ceases to inspire her. Her repertoire spans keyboard music ranging from the 1700’s to world premieres of contemporary music.

Very early on, her triumph as a finalist at the Clara Haskil Competition in 1995 and the Mozart Prize awarded by the Wiesbaden Mozart Society at the Salzburg International Mozart Competition reflect her special affinity with that composer: Sheila Arnold’s Mozart renditions have always been euphorically acclaimed by reviewers and audiences worldwide.

Ms. Arnold studied under the guidance of Heidi Köhler and Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, and went on to garner a considerable number of first prizes and successes at German and international competitions. She was also selected for a series of scholarships and awards, leading to extensive worldwide appearances since her youth. Many of them were recorded for radio and television broadcast, as well as on CD.

Renowned music festivals have invited Ms. Arnold to perform in Europe and the US. She has collaborated with well-known orchestras such as Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of Bonn Beethovenhalle and Prague Chamber Orchestra, and with conductors such as Jesús López-Cobos, Marc Soustrot, and Michael Hofstetter. Her chamber music partners include the likes of Nina Janssen, Sergio Azzolini, Wilhelm Bruns, Ralf Manno, Guido Schiefen, Michael Faust, Isabelle Faust, Alexander-Sergei Ramírez, the Mandelring Quartet, and many others. Inspiring encounters and collaborations with renowned musician colleagues have taken place at Festivals such as the Spannungen Chamber Music Festival (Heimbach) or the Music Festival in Hambach (Neustadt).

Sheila Arnold’s previous CD with works by Brahms and Schumann was released in 2010 and featured as a CHOC selection in Classica, the French classical music magazine. Her CD recording on Franz Schubert has been highly acclaimed by leading critics and her recent Solo CD „Ecoutez!“ on works by Claude Debussy, Toru Takemitsu and John Cage has entered the Longlist of the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis. Same as her latest CD, which has been released this year and covers works for the Romantic Guitar and Fortepiano with guitarist Alexander-Sergei Ramirez which has met enthiusiasm in the international press.

In 2006 Ms. Arnold was appointed piano professor at Cologne Musikhochschule. She is frequently invited as member of national and international piano competitions and gives regular master classes. Many of her students have won prizes and scholarships at national and international competitions.

Moreover she is co-editor of the Wiener Urtext New Edition 2020 of the „Piano Pieces“ including fingering and notes on interpretation.

Learning Standards

Creating

Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work
Activities:

Standard 1
Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work: Rely on intuition, curiosity, and critical inquiry
1, 2, 3, 4

Standard 2
Organize and develop artistic ideas and work: Discover different ways of communicating meaning
1, 2, 3, 4

Standard 3
Refine and complete artistic work: Musicians refine their work and practice through rehearsal
3

 


Performing, Presenting, Producing

Realizing artistic ideas and work through interpretation and presentation
Activities:

Standard 4
Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation: Musicians make choices to effectively convey meaning
3, 4

Standard 5
Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation: Musicians develop personal processes and skills for performance
3

Standard 6
Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work: Musicians share and present stories, ideas, and envisioned worlds to explore the human experience
3, 4

 


Responding

Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning
Activities:

Standard 7
Perceive and analyze artistic work: Musicians reflect to understand the impact of musical processes and experiences
Intro, 1, 2, 3, 4

Standard 8
Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work: Musicians’ interpretations of a musical work are influenced by personal experiences and aesthetics
1, 3, 4

Standard 9
Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work: Musicians apply criteria to investigate, explore, and assess musical works
Intro, 1, 2, 3, 4

 


Connecting

Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context
Activities:

Standard 10
Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art: Musicians allow awareness of interrelationships between self and others to influence and inform their work
1, 3, 4

Standard 11
Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding: Musicians understand and can communicate their creative process as they analyze the way the world may be understood
Intro, 4

Music Explored

Études-Tableaux, Op. 33, No. 7 in E-flat major
By Sergei Rachmaninoff

Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101
By Ludwig van Beethoven

Flight of the Bumblebee
By Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Bumble Boogie
By Jack Fina

Pictures at an Exhibition: 1. Gnomus (“The Gnome”)
By Modest Mussorgsky

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26: II. Tema con variazoni
By Sergei Prokofiev

Toccata in C minor, BWV 911
By Johann Sebastien Bach

Odeon (Tango Brésilien, Op. 146)
by Ernesto Nazareth

Carnaval, Op. 9
By Robert Schumann

Glossary

Accelerando: gradually faster; an increase in tempo

Articulation: the way a note is played

Composer: a person who writes music

Crescendo: a gradual increase in volume

Dynamics: the volume of music

Harmony: multiple pitches that are played or sung at the same time to create a pleasing sound

Interpretation: to explain the meaning of or to perform in a way that shows your own thoughts and feelings about something

Melody: a series of pitches or notes that create the main tune in a piece of music

Mood: a state of mind or feeling. In music, it is the feeling that the music creates

Piano: a large keyboard musical instrument with metal strings that are struck by hammers when the keys are pressed; also used a musical term for soft volume

Pitch: how high or low a sound is

Rhythm: patterns of sound and silence

Scale: a set of ordered pitches or tones on which melodies and harmonies are built

Score: the written version of a piece of music

Tempo: the speed of music

Tone Color (Timbre): the unique sound quality of an instrument or voice

Virtuoso: an individual with exceptional and extraordinary technical and musical abilities

Meet the Performers

Sam Glicklich

Sam Glicklich Samuel Glicklich is currently a piano student and Bachelors of Music Candidate at the Colburn Conservatory. An international prize winner, Sam was most recently awarded 3rd prize at the 2021 Singapore International Piano Competition.

Learn more about Sam in this Colburn Student Feature

The Piano

Steinway and Sons Concert Grand Piano THE PIANO is a concert grand Steinway who began his life at Colburn in 1950. He spent most of life as a rehearsal piano, but is excited to finally make his debut as the concert piano in Zipper Hall!

Listen to an interview with THE PIANO

Chrome Music Lab

Musical Extension: Practice piano skills, compose original music, and explore musical pictures.

Create more musical pictures through digital experiments in Chrome Music Lab.

Visit the Interactive Website

  • Practice your piano skills, by yourself or with a friend, on the Shared Piano.
  • Compose an original song using colors and images on the Song Maker and Melody Maker.
  • Explore your inner artist with the Kandinsky Experiment, which turns anything you draw – lines, shapes, or scribbles into sound.