September is National Piano Month. Piano playing seems to make people smile.
When possible, I bring my piano along on business trips and practice in hotel rooms. Playing piano feels good and it keeps my fingers loose.
A few months ago, I spoke at the Western Propane Conference in Reno, Nevada.
When Teeco Products‘ marketing manager, Mary Clements, heard that I’d be there she remembered that I played the piano and she invited me to play during Teeco’s hospitality suite party.
Playing a Bossa Nova was much more fun than speaking about customer service. Looks like Mary had fun too. Click the photo to enlarge.
Mary Clements enjoying The Girl From Ipanema.
The speech at the Western Propane Gas Conference.
Actually, I had fun delivering the seminar to propane dealers. They are a lively group. The speech topic was Converting Phone Calls Into More Sales.
I played numerous phone recordings in which customers call to ask for a price. The conversion strategy is not to answer with a price. Instead, phone reps should shift the call focus from transactional to relational and it’s very effective.
The TEECO Products hospitality suite party occurred after the speech. The below photos tell the tale.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
With TEECO Products employees during the party.
An enthusiastic guest heard the piano up close.
A sample of my piano playing.
This Bach Concerto keeps my fingers moving. Fast tempo. Nice melody too.
Pennies From Heaven was one of my mom’s favorite tunes. She was an optimist.
Duke Ellington’s catchy riff is infectious – very likable. Improvised and fun to play.
I owe much of my musical ability to Marty Dale. I was introduced to Marty in the 1970s. The guy who tuned my parents piano heard me play and he suggested that I give Marty a call. “He doesn’t teach anymore,” said the piano tuner, “but I think he’d take you on as a student.”
The phone call with Marty didn’t start on a positive note.
“You’ll have to come to my Bayside, Queens 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.
Back then, I played in a band called Misty Blue. You can tell by the name we were a lounge act.
The New York metropolitan area had an active nightclub scene with ample opportunities for young musicians looking to get a start in the music business.
It was during this time that I met Marty. I still play many of the intros and filigrees that he taught me.
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.
During Saturday afternoons at home, after Marty’s lesson, I’d sit at the piano and practice. My mom would usually be in the kitchen preparing food for the weekly Sunday feast (an Italian custom).
One Saturday, Marty taught me the Rodgers and Hart tune, Lady Is A Tramp using four-note block chords (the melody is the top note of each chord). And as I walked the bass and played the chords my mom’s lovely voice carried from the kitchen. She sang like a pro. Cherished memories of days past.
Marty was a terrific mentor.
Most everyone needs a Marty in their life.