Sometimes I get lucky.
Finding a piano at a conference facility where I am scheduled to speak is a rare find. When I am real lucky, the piano is in tune.
If you have witnessed one of my serendipitous piano finds, then you know how much I enjoy music. And it’s not just me. Piano playing makes people smile – happens every time.
I owe much of my musical ability to Marty Dale. I was introduced to Marty, when I was nineteen. The guy who tuned my parents piano heard me play and he suggested that I give Marty a call. “He doesn’t teach anymore, but I think he’d take you on as a student,” said the piano tuner.
The phone call didn’t start on a positive note.
“You’ll have to come to my apartment and audition,” Marty exclaimed, during our first phone conversation. His authoritative voice was intimidating.
“Do you play in a band?” he asked. Back then I performed a weekend jazz and lounge gig. He liked that.
Our first meeting went well.
When I arrived for the audition, Marty asked, “Show me what you played last night?” After playing a few chords from a song I played the night before, Marty stopped me, “Tonight, instead of playing that boring G chord, do a descending 6/9 run starting on a high B.” Then Marty showed me the run and I practiced it a few times and he liked that I learned fast.
Marty had mostly retired after a successful career as a pianist, composer and radio personality. He was a real master at the piano. We’d spend an hour together on Saturdays as he taught me new songs, chords and filigrees.
I learned all about Preheat from Marty. Preheat is the cocktail hour, prior to a wedding or gala. Marty taught me that preheat success hinges on style and song selection. This lesson served me well in future years.
On one occasion, he opened an old shoe box and removed a stack of letters from the 1930s and 1940s; fan mail that he had received while hosting his radio show called Melody Ramblings. He was the real deal.
Marty was more than a piano teacher. Some Saturdays he talked about the music business, contractual arrangements and touring and I learned much from his extensive experience.
He was a terrific mentor.
Most everyone needs a Marty in their life.
Watch the below 90-second video in which I describe how Marty improved my piano playing.