From 1974 to 2017...


I learned to play the piano through the French School of Music (Facebook page). As a child I played in Carnegie Recital Hall nine times, and was a student of Yvonne Combe (who studied with Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, and Ravel).

Some highlights:

  • World premiered Thelxiepeia's Lament in spring 2016 for a benefit concert for the French School of Music.
  • Won the Akademia Music Award for Best Jazz Song for 'Ragweed Woogie' in the December 2016 awards.
  • Performed compositions at various Sing For Hope pianos.
  • Was one of 23 composers selected from an intense review of 67 submissions by 57 students for the first ever Juilliard Evening Division Composition Showcase in 2017 (for Augur, inspired by Randa Jarrar's poem).


Here is a 1950 news article about the French School and its founders. This 8/27/2014 Courier News article has a good summary. Also, listen to this recording of a former French School student back in the late 1970's, and check the commentary after the initial applause, starting at 23:28. You'll hear that Mlle. Combe performed this same Saint-Saëns concerto in Paris in 1907 with Saint-Saëns himself conducting the orchestra (she was 15 at the time).

This makes those of us who studied with Mlle. Combe grand-students of Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Ravel, and more.

I am the eighth of the alumni from around my time to attend Juilliard, and others also attended Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, etc. Those who did not became doctors, lawyers, technologists, entrepreneurs, educators, etc.

So while people generally focus on their university work and not their early educational history, I am here to say that the French School of Music made these opportunities possible for us, by giving students a solid foundation in both technical skill and musicality.

Through Debussy the lineage of musicality then goes back up to Liszt to Czerny to Beethoven. If you feel you have musical talent, find a former French School student who teaches, and add your name to this impressive lineage.

To give you one data point for reference, the 1974 Carnegie Recital Hall program that I photographed here has six French School students on the front cover - Kyoko Utsumi, Liz Du Four, Eileen Chang Sauer, Karen Rispoli, Vincent Di Mura, and Todd Weiss. These were the first prize gold cup winners. Inside the program are eight other students who won Summa cum laude (after you win two gold cups you win Summa cum laude), and of those eight students six were French School - Cindy de Vine, Edwin Tsuzuki, Karen Marcus, Mayo Tsuzuki, Wendy Jaffe, and Kyoko Misawa. This concert was just before my tenth birthday.

So this is also an official callout to all former French School students: please check the Facebook French School of Music page and drop me a line directly if you'd like me to post an update for you on the Facebook page, e.g. if you have CDs, compositions, published sheet music, bio, where you are, etc. If any of you teach and would like others to know, I could post that too, so that promising students with innate musical talent can find you. Future generations of students need to know this information as well. Any of you who are/were students of Eleanor Van Pelt, Stephen Waters, Carol Comune, Vince Di Mura, Karen Zereconsky, Wendy Jaffe, etc. are all part of the French School of Music family and part of this extraordinary lineage as well. Feel free to introduce yourselves as well as send updates for me to post.

If you are a teacher having trouble inspiring your students to practice, I can't think of any better inspiration than for your students to understand what they are a part of. Please spread the word.