After the referral from a family friend, I started learning the piano on my sixth birthday with Dr. Ann Birman, and up to now I have been her student for twelve years. Dr. Birman pushes you to excel, and it's through her efforst that I've excelled at such a high level. Under her guidance, I have won numerous awards, including 1st place in the Chicago Area Music Teachers Association Roberta Savler Piano Contest (2007), 2nd place in the Society of American Musicians Competition (2008), 2nd place in the Noth Shore music Teacher Association Piano Contest (2009), 2nd place in the Music Festival in Honor of Confucius (2010), and honors in the Emilio del Rosario Piano Concerto Competition (2011). I have also won scholarships to attend the Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp (2009), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill High School Music Camp (2011), and the St. Olaf College Piano Academy (2012).
Besides private lessons in Dr. Birman’s studio, I have been very lucky and blessed to be coached by her at the Merit School of Music, where Dr. Birman is a prominent piano teacher. At Merit, I have been playing in piano duos and chamber groups for seven years in the Tuition-Free Conservatory. Through Dr. Birman, I have been given opportunities to perform at the Northwestern University Kid’s Fare Concert with the Merit School of Music Symphony Orchestra (2009), and four times live on the radio station program 98.7WFMT Introductions (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).
The crux of my successes lays in Dr. Birman’s extensive musical knowledge and her ability to transmit and translate her abilities to students. As an extremely gifted and talented musician from a family of musicians, she has the expertise and shows students like me how to use the fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders effectively. She reinforces certain parts of a piece or specific techniques that I need work on, and uses descriptions to describe how to play a section so perfectly, like when she told me to “push my finger on the key as if through a cloud.” Her patience has also been instrumental, but I think I appreciate most, through all of these years, her high expectations, pushing me to play softer or articulate more. It’s because of them I have accomplished all that I have.
Perhaps more important, Dr. Ann Birman is a kind, genuinely caring person. She takes into consideration each individual student, treating each of her students as if her own child, with sincere love. I regard her as a mentor. And through her, I have not only learned how to play the piano well, but also, in part, how to think. She makes you hear; she makes you listen to yourself. From the counting and rhythm exercises, no doubt I am sure playing piano has increased my intelligence, both musically and personally.
It’s this ability to think that I will be taking with me as I head off to college next fall to Columbia University in New York. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I will always remember my twelve years spent with Dr. Birman. For that, I not only thank Dr. Birman, but highly recommend Dr. Birman to any piano student, at any age at whatever level. She’s simply brilliant—a genius in her own field.