About Kenn Gartner

Dr. Kenn Gartner Taught Master Classes in Piano Technique (based upon Ph.D. dissertation wherein compositional innovations forced changes in the piano technique needed to perform these compositions thus changing a player’s approach to pianism) The Shanghai Institute, People’s Republic of China, San Rafael, CA, and other venues. 

Conducted many large-scale choral works. As a child sang at the Metropolitan Opera, e.g. Carmen and La Traviata; as an adult performed the role of Le Roi in Massenet’s Cindrillon for radio station WNYC’s broadcasts of live operatic performances from the Brooklyn Museum. 

Many appearances in the Bay area as pianist, conductor, and singer have produced extremely favorable reviews.  Research cited by several scholars, e.g. Maurice Hinson (Music for More than One Piano, p. 48). 

In 2008, certified nationally by the Music Teachers National Association as a Teacher of Voice—one of six in California—and as a Teacher of Piano, the only one in Marin County and one of three north of San Francisco.  On the Juilliard’s Private Teacher Directory as one of two Teachers of Piano and two of Voice in California. Listed by Steinway as a teacher of Piano.   Sept. 8, 2008, debuted as both pianist and accompanist, the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco. 

Tour, March 2010, included a performance in the Concerts Grand series, San Rafael, CA (3/21); Flushing Town Hall, Queens, NY (3/23); Salle Cortot, Paris, France (3/28); with a return engagement in NYC 4/6.  Coached several students to great success:  Zachary Franczak (San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Best Actor Award, 2009); William Zhao (Marin Music Chest Scholarship, 2010), et al.


1971-1979 New York University: Doctor of Philosophy (Performance)  New York, NY

1964-1970 Queens College:  Master of Science (Musicology/Music Education)Flushing, NY

1960-1964  The Juilliard School of Music:  Artist’s Diploma (Piano)   New York, NY

1956-1960   Cornell University:  Bachelor of Arts (Music)   Ithaca, NY

1951-1956  Staunton Military Academy:  Diploma (College Preparatory) Staunton, VA

Work Experience

1992-1999  Choral Director, Flushing High School   Flushing, NY

1991-1992  Teacher of Music, New York City Board of Education: Carson JHS  New York, NY

1978-1991  Supervisor and/or Teacher of Music: Greeley JHS; Canarsie HS (NYC) New York, NY  J Jackson High School (NJ); Copiague Public Schools (NY); Lexington Public Schools (MA)

1977-1978   Assistant Professor of Music, Hofstra University   Hempstead, NY

1962-1977   Teacher of Music, New York City Board of Education: Mann, Sands, Greeley JHS  New York, NY

Related Experience

11/04-6/05                           Choral Director and Music Theater Director, Marin School of the Arts                                     Novato, CA 2004                 Founder/Conductor, St. Mark’s Chamber Orchestra                                                                          Islip, NY 2003-2004           Organist/Choirmaster, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church                                                                           Islip, NY 2002                      St. Paul’s College Singers becomes The Kenn Gartner Singers

New York, NY 2001             Founder and Music Director, St. Paul’s College Singers Professional Chorus

New York, NY  2001            Consultant in Music Education, Ballet Tech and Stuyvesant High Schools

New York, NY  7/99-12/9     Music Department Chairman and Associate Professor, Five Town College

Dix Hills, NY 1999               Teacher/Accompanist, All-City Chorus

New York, NY 1998-2004    Major Groups Choral Adjudicator, New York State School Music Association

New York, NY 1995-1999    Conductor, Downtown Glee Club (succeeding Dr. George Mead)

New York, NY 1996-1999    Conductor, The Voices of Samaritan

Queens, NY 1994                Accompanist, The New York State Summer School of the Arts                                                 Saratoga, NY 1992-1994     Founder and Conductor, The Park Slope Choral Society                                                          Brooklyn, NY 1991-1992      Guest Conductor, Long Island Singers Society

Long Island, NY 1981-1982  Adjunct Associate Professor of Music, Suffolk Community College                                              Selden, NY 1979-1980         Adjunct Professor of Music, LaGuardia Community College                                                        Queens, NY 1976                Teacher, Cambiata Voices, Cathedral School of St. John the Divine

New York, NY 1972-1979     Director, Queens County All Borough Chorus  New York, NY


1/2 2014     Invitation to return to China in 2015

11/2013      Concert Tour of China with Master Classes and Recitals

4/2013        Visiting Artist in Musical Theater, University of Wyoming

2/2009        Lecture/Recital, California Association of Professional Music Teachers, San Mateo, CA

9/2008        West Coast Debut Recital, The Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

2006           Soloist:  von Weber, Concertstuck for Piano & Orchestra, Victorian Englander House, San Francisco

2006           Conducted Elizabeth Gaston, flautist: Chaminade, Concertino for Flute & Orchestra, SF Concerto Orchestra

2006           Conducted Joe Gold, violinist, in his orchestration of Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata, SF Concerto Orchestra

2006-          Annual Steinway showcases sponsored by Sherman Clay, San Francisco and Walnut Creek

04/04          Soloist:  Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, PY Orchestra, Southampton, NY

03/03          Conductor:  Beethoven’s Choral Fantasie, OP.80, KG Singers & PY Orchestra, Southampton, NY

06/02          Soloist:  von Weber: Concertstuck in F-Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Southampton, NY

03/02          Music Director:  rare complete Dublin Messiah, St. Paul’s College Singers, College Point, Queens, NY

10/00, 01     Conductor & Music Director:  Sweeney Todd, Youth Experiencing Art Project, Suffolk, NY

7,8/00          Chief Accompanist:  XIV Festivals der Zukunft, Ernen, Switzerland under Mme. Antonia Lavanne

05/99           Conductor:  Haydn, The Creation, complete, student soloists, Flushing High School Choruses

05/98           Conductor:  Gershwin, Porgy and Bess, concert version of opera, Flushing High School Choruses

11/97            Conductor:  Haydn, The Creation, St. Charles Hospital Dedication, Flushing High School Choruses

05/97            Conductor:  Mozart, Requiem, Concerto in A, K.488, Flushing High School Choruses

12/96           Kenny Rogers:  The Gift, Westbury (LI) Music Fair, backed up by Flushing High School Choruses

05/95            Conductor:  Brahms, A German Requiem, Flushing High School Choruses and Orchestra

12/95            Conductor:  Handel, Messiah; Beethoven, Choral Fantasie, Flushing High School Choruses

1992             Conductor:  Haydn, The Creation, LISS Chorus, Orchestra, and Soloists

1985             Master Class in Piano Technique:  The Shanghai Institute, The Peoples Republic of China

1981             Lincoln Center Esplanade:  COLOURSOUND – 6 hour electronic real-time performance

1969-            Piano Recitals:  Town Hall, Merkin  Hall, Kosciusko Foundation, Europe, Asia, Venezuela, Halifax, etc.


2012               Nominated to be a Steinway Artist

2008               Elected President Board of Directors:  Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute   (BASOTI)

2008               Music Teachers National Association:  Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano and in Voice

2005               Command Performance:  Lanaea Festival, Sacramento State University, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury

2000               Honorary Inductee:  Arista & National Honor Societies, Flushing High School

1998, 1999     Who’s Who Among American Teachers

1995               Conducting Fellowship, Columbia University

1994, 2000     Who’s Who in American Education

1993-1999      National Choral Society:  annual $15,000 Grant for Choral Program

1988               First NYC HS Vocal Chamber ensemble (Canarsie HS A Cappellas) to perform at Lincoln Center

1987-              President Emeritus:  The Conductor’s Club

1986-7,1995-6 Only NYC Level VI SATB Chorus awarded NYSSMA’s highest rating:  6A+ (Gold with Distinction)

1985               Award from Faculty, Administration, Students:  Creativity and Leadership in Education, Canarsie HS

1983               Citation:  The National Conference of Christians and Jews for Outstanding Human Relation

1982-8,1993-9 Only performing Male Glee Club program in a NY State High School, NYSSMA rated 5A+

1974              Who’s Who in International Music

Compositions and Recordings

1984              The Concerto for Piano and Synthesizer (Memnon Recordings)

1983              The Monster Concert with Eugene List (Musical Heritage Society)

1981               Richard Brooks:  Sonata for Violin and Piano–-with Carol Glenn (ASUC Recordings)

1966, 72        The Right to Be Different, Cantata for Young School Children (EKG Recordings)

Affiliations:  NATS; MTNA-CAPMT; Cornell University/NYU Steinhardt Secondary School Interviewer, 10,000 Degrees

When someone comes for an audition, the student auditions me!

Parents and adult students are often interested in results of work with a particular teacher.  As a courtesy, one may find, at the bottom of this site, a short list of present and former students whose achievements may be of interest to any considering study.


For a beginning pianist:  The student is incorrectly taught if thumb notes are pushed down with the forearm and the first finger joint bends concavely rather than convexly.

For a beginning singer:  The student is incorrectly taught if breaths occur in the middle of a word and the pupil is not taught to correctly use the diaphragm and with the correct position of the larynx.

FYI:  The Juilliard School recently increased requirements for those listed in its Private Teacher Directory.  In addition to a complete resume, a teacher must document public performance within the past ten years and provide outstanding recommendations.

The BEST Music Teacher! How to find him/her and other important things to know.


1. What instrument should a child study in an elementary–or, for that matter–ANY school music program?

The instrument your child should study in a school music program is the instrument in which the music teacher majored. The student will then receive instruction based on the teacher’s years of study. Should the child later decide to take private lessons on this instrument, the foundation will have been laid. Imagine studying, say, piano with someone who was only a voice major in college and studied a few semesters of class piano: can one imagine the problems these students will have in the future! (Refer to Stephen Shen, below).

2. What is the easiest instrument for my child to learn?

There is no such thing as an “easy” instrument: if you are looking for the easy way out, DO NOT participate in the school’s music program. If your child does participate, a commitment must be made to work diligently and regularly to gain the most benefit from the experience. Because we are not born knowing how to practice—or study, for that matter–your child should ask the music teacher for instruction as to how to practice at home. Be aware that teachers often do not know how to practice!

3. Do I need a real piano? We have an electronic instrument. Will that do, at least at the beginning?

The answer to the first question is a CONDITIONAL YES!

The answer to the second question is this: You, I, and a BRICK can make the exact same sound on an electronic instrument! But it plays loud and soft, you say. And the keyboard is weighted. And we just paid $5000 for it! You, I, and a BIG ROCK will make the exact same noise on it.

To answer the first question, the fingers are trained to pull the sound from the piano: the way they contact the keys has a very important job in creating the piano’s sound. Secondly, there are fairly good pianos for about $1200 with working MIDDLE PEDALS to be found: email me for information. Third, piano stores such as JB Piano in San Rafael or the Sherman-Clay stores on the West Coast will rent an instrument for a certain period to see if it works out for the student. Often rental money may be applied towards the purchase of either the rental piano if you are in love with it (it happens!) or towards another instrument. (Incidentally, JB and other piano shops apply what you paid– fewer taxes and moving–towards the purchase of a newer or larger instrument: in my case, Steinway gave me credit for what I paid when I found a better Steinway at their factory.) Mention my name when you go looking.

4. Where may one find an outstanding music teacher?

If you have heard a wonderful performance by a child or an adult, ask with whom he studies. This is a prima facie recommendation. Then make an appointment to see the instructor. Should the instructor have a full studio, ask about getting on the waiting list, or, should you be in a hurry, whom the instructor may recommend. As mentioned in the notes about me, I am nationally certified as both a teacher of piano and of voice: none of the Music Teachers Association of California (MTAC), at least in Marin County seems to have sufficient credentials or desire to achieve this level of pedagogical expertise. (You may wish to have them perform a small amount for you if you are interested in working with them! DEFINITELY, WATCH THEM TEACH!)

Recording an interview will provide comparisons should you meet with a number of prospective teachers. Ask a teacher’s permission in advance if you may videotape or record the interview. If a teacher refuses, find another. Teachers, confident in their teaching skills, should not be afraid to have a record made of what they can do.

DO NOT be impressed by the organizations to which some teachers belong, but DO ask about professional affiliations. Some affiliations are truly outstanding; others exist solely to acquire students.

You may wish to ask the teacher to perform a wee bit on his or her instrument. Some teachers are proud of the fact they never practice: See the notes on Ms. Bradley at a Master Class in Piano Technique, January 2006, JB Piano, San Rafael, This may prevent you from making both a financial and an artistic error.

One should probably avoid organizations with only local branches: their awards, etc., with the exception of monetary awards, have little influence outside of their immediate geographical area. They certainly do not affect college entrance the way being an Eagle Scout can!

CMEA, California Music Educators Association, part of the Music Educators National Congress, is largely active in schools. The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) is devoted to the highest level of music teacher: one may be certain that if a teacher is certified by MTNA, that teacher knows his/her stuff. Certification by the Music Teachers National Association is NATIONAL Certification: In California, at the time of this writing, there are only 6 Nationally Certified Teachers of Voice and 122 Nationally Certified Teachers of Piano, the majority of whom reside in San Francisco and south. The local affiliate is the California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) at San Francisco State: members of this organization constantly perform in public. NATS, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, is another outstanding professional organization. (Indeed, Faber and Faber, the composers and authors of what may very well be the best selling beginning piano books of our time, are members and presented a duo-piano recital recently.)

5. What should a parent ask a prospective music teacher at an audition?

Please understand: The prospective student auditions the teacher! Additionally, one should be clear if other teachers are to be interviewed. For myself, I tell the student we will work together for three months and then evaluate the results to see if we might (should) continue.

Here are some of the many questions to ask a prospective teacher—

Do you charge for auditions? If so, how much? What will happen at the audition?

As a reference, The San Francisco Conservatory charges $100 for an audition/evaluation. If a prospective teacher charges for the audition, this ought not to dissuade you from going to the audition: teachers, as well as lawyers and doctors, have only time to sell and are entitled to be compensated. However, find out in advance. You might also ask if the teacher takes checks or prefers cash. If you cancel the audition at the last minute, barring a true emergency, you should offer to pay for the teacher’s time. For the next audition, even if the teacher does not ordinarily charge for auditions, one should pay for the service.

At the audition, if a student has previous instrumental or vocal training, the teacher will ask to hear something. It is advisable for prospective students not to go crazy practicing before the audition. Expect the teacher to give the prospective student some sort of mini-lesson: a demonstration of some things the student and teacher will do to help the student achieve success. This will give the student a feel for what will happen at a regular lesson. Should the teacher not do the mini-lesson, ask why; there may be a legitimate reason for not doing so at the time—pending appointments, the new student is nervous, etc. However, this is the reason you tell the teacher you are going to try the program for a few weeks and then make an ultimate decision.

May we watch you teach? May we ask for references?

A superb teacher will always insist prospective students observe the teaching process and style. The teacher should try to arrange for a similar level of student and attempt to provide time at the end of the lesson to discuss what was observed and answer questions. For example, in the instance of vocal students, one wants the story to be told: the singing student should not stand like a statue but move with the music, act with body and arms and face.

What should a prospective student look for at the interview?

While I have experience in coaching many instruments, I am not expert enough on these others to provide sage advice. I refer you to those who can appraise a prospective student on what to look for at an audition. (I do play the violin, viola, and orchestral percussion, but would never dream of teaching these instruments!) Therefore, it is important to ask the prospective teacher the following general questions:

What is your major instrument?

With whom and/or where did you study?

Piano Students:

First, observe whether the teacher allows a student to use the arm in an up/down motion rather than using fingers.

Second, try to see if the first finger joint is bent in (concave) towards the keyboard rather than smoothly curved (convex).

These are two gross pedagogical errors, which, if not corrected the instant they occur, haunt a student’s future control.

Third, and extremely important for a beginner of any age, request the teacher do a mini-lesson with some beginner’s music. Did the teacher first tell the student, “That note is C”? This has now created the situation whereby the student will always spell music before playing it! The better pedagogical technique would be to point to the note and then to the keyboard: “This note is this key. Please play it.” After the student has gotten the idea of looking at the note and coordinating it with the keyboard, then one informs a student the note is named C or Do, etc. This is the way experts read; psychologists term this learning by gestalt. (When was the last time you read STOP on one of those red signs at the corner? Perhaps you reacted to the 8 sides and the red color to stop.)

Concomitant with learning to play a tone prior to spelling it, is the habit students acquire of calling a note on the keyboard a “1”, “That’s a 3”, etc. The teacher who knows something about teaching and learning has the student play that very first note with ALL the fingers, switching hands and playing the note with the fingers of the other hand: I, with a very young student, have the kid play the note with his nose! The child immediately internalizes the idea that ANY NOTE MAY BE PLAYED WITH ANY FINGER AND EITHER HAND.

Vocal Students:

First, observe if the lower abdomen moves in and out with the breath, similar to a puppy’s or baby’s when lying down. This is the highly desirable diaphragmatic breathing that is the basis for all vocal support.

Second, listen to the student perform. If the voice sounds tired, if you hear sharp inhalation (hyperventilation), if the mouth is a straight line across as opposed to “fish lips,” chances are the student is getting into bad habits. (Perhaps you saw the 10 y.o. blond girl on TV’s America’s Got Talent? Then you probably noticed that this singer had her lips closed over her teeth [“covered tone”] and you heard her breathe between each phrase [hyperventilation]. Who was responsible for these gross errors in vocal technique?)

Third, do not be surprised if the teacher asks to have the student’s vocal cords examined by an otolaryngologist, an MD who specializes in vocal disorders. Ask the teacher if he might recommend a competent MD who specializes in the singing voice, and not simply general vocal problems.

Do you practice your instrument? Would you mind playing something for us? Do you perform? If so, where? When is your next concert? Are there reviews? (See Christina Bradley, above.)

How many concerts have you attended recently? Do you listen to music?

Do you support performance examinations for students to indicate progress?

The only valid examinations I can recommend from personal experience are those from the Royal College of Music, London, England. Teachers who use these are trained in their use. If one wants this sort of examination program, one must seek certified teachers. These are very thorough and outstanding examinations; and to my knowledge, there are few qualified individuals who prepare students for them in our neighborhood, the counties of Marin, Sonoma, Solano. (But I may be wrong: I do hope so.)

Regrettably, often other examinations lack in several areas although they may very well be cash cows for the organizations sponsoring them. The syllabus of one such organization (Music Teachers Association of California) cites an extremely difficult work by French composer Olivier Messiaen: Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jesus, which they rate at level 9 or 10. While only three of the twenty parts are cited for adjudication, it is doubtful if many, let alone any, who belong to this organization play, or have experience with, this work.

What is your fee for a lesson?

A teacher has but one commodity to sell: time. Fees are contingent on various factors. Better teachers will charge more for reasons of education, experience, ability, etc. Think of it as buying a California wine: the better the bottle, the higher the price. Chances are, your prospective teacher will mention a number. If it is within your budget, the discussion is finished. Please be aware that fees DO rise with time. (Some teachers will provide data sheets to justify why less expensive is better as a sort of enticement to gain more students.)

NB: Sometimes parents go to a less expensive teacher to see if a child develops an interest in music. This seems an economical thing to do. This is a huge mistake! The DANGER here is that the inexpensive teacher is often inexpert; and, should the child develop an interest in playing, there will be so many corrections of what the student learned incorrectly that the cost of these inexpensive lessons was wasted money. In addition, the student may become discouraged no matter how politic the more expert teacher is. Think in terms of wine: one gets what one pays for.

What is your policy about missed lessons?

Most teachers require missed lessons be made up. If a student misses a lesson without informing the teacher in a timely manner, short of an actual emergency, the student should expect to pay for the lesson. This should be discussed with the prospective teacher before starting lessons. In general, lessons should be made up, whether missed by the student or the teacher: I add 10 or 15 minutes to a regular lesson which works very well and is better than adding large amounts of time. I also, within reason, ask that I be notified 48 hours in advance should a student need to change the lesson time: barring emergencies, of course.

Do you teach theory?

Teaching theory to students MUST be based on the music they are studying. Many “so-called” theory books have little or no relationship to a student’s musical studies: why study the D-flat minor scale when the student is not playing a work in that key. Additionally, these theory books hold back a student’s sight reading ability by emphasizing the LETTER name of the note rather than the intervallic (DISTANCE) relationships from one note to another so necessary for outstanding sight-reading or sight singing.

A website such as www.musictheory.com is extremely efficient in teaching students what they need to know. UNLIKE THEORY BOOKS PUT OUT BY SOME ASSOCIATIONS, THIS WEBSITE CORRECTS STUDENTS’ ANSWERS AT ONCE, PROVIDING IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK IN THE EVENT OF ERROR.

Can you demonstrate how a student should practice? How does one memorize music?

We are born without knowing how to practice or how to study. The art of practicing—and studying—is a learned skill. The teacher’s function is to provide incentive through the appropriate learning modality for the student. Practice techniques should be taught in each lesson: “Go home and practice” has no meaning to most students, except inane and mindless repetition. The same goes for memorization: practicing and memorizing occur at different times with different responsibilities. It is the greatest waste of a student’s time for him to first learn his piece and then memorize it. On the contrary, with correct teaching, a student will have the work memorized when he finishes learning its technical difficulties!

And while we are on this subject, parents should refrain from constantly nagging their kid to practice! As mentioned, we are not born knowing how to practice: but we teachers MUST TEACH THE STUDENT HOW TO PRACTICE. If we do not do so, the student will go over and over the work mindlessly. HINT: Ask the teacher, “How much do YOU practice each day?” AND “How long should my child practice?” (Parents should remember that kids have homework, athletics, chess, other activities, social life: if the teacher does not know how to practice, the teacher cannot teach this valuable skill. The mindless repetition of music is equivalent to the idiotic highlighting of a book: the student has found the important stuff but now must spend the same amount of time LEARNING the stuff.)

Do you provide opportunities for your students to perform? What about contests and competitions?

Most teachers will encourage friendly competition and participation in contests for the experience. While it is possible for a career to be launched by the winning of an international competition, most are simply the opportunity to meet others in the same sport and enjoy camaraderie and music. I have made arrangements with an assisted living facility for my students to perform a recital for the residents. I perform, my voice students perform, my piano students perform: it is like performing for all your grandparents! Recently, my 11 y. o. prize-winning student sang a half recital, and a seven y. o. pianist will present a complete 50-minute recital including the Mozart C Major Sonata.

6. What should a parent or an adult student be aware of and look for?

Watch out for teachers whose primary interest is your dollars. This is often hard to spot, but here is a hint—the “professional” organization cited in paragraph 3, above—the Music Teachers Association of California–makes its teachers demand four weeks notice should a student or a parent decide to change teachers! Immediately below is the quote from this association’s bylaws and a link to the website where it may be found and verified:

“3. In your studio policy, encourage parents to be open and honest . . . about intentions to transfer to new teachers. Be clear about requiring four weeks notice to terminate lessons.” http://www.mtacmarin.org/code.htm

There is no obvious reason for this practice except to gouge additional dollars from the student! If one decides to change instructors, a decision made solely by student or parent, it is often confusing to a student to receive contradictory instruction. (Nonetheless, it is extremely bad manners for the student changing teachers not to notify his/her present teacher in a courteous and timely manner.)