About the Instructor
When Suzanne Lichtenstein was 3 years old, her parents bought an "upright grand," a very tall, upright piano, to complement the many other instruments in their musical home. Her mother began taking adult piano lessons, and Suzanne was fascinated. She was drawn to the instrument like a bee to a flower, making up her own songs about galloping horses and a scurrying family of mice. She also wanted to be just like her mommy and make beautiful music on the piano.
Back in 1970, however, the guiding wisdom was that children needed to wait until they were 8 years old to begin music lessons. The Suzuki Method was just beginning to be known in the United States, and only for violin. Suzanne's parents did enroll her in Suzuki violin lessons, and she enjoyed them. What Suzanne truly wanted, though, was to play piano. At that time, however, Suzuki piano was still in its embryonic stage, and could be found only in Japan. Consequently, Suzanne's parents were told that, since their daughter was only three, she would need to wait until she was eight to begin studying piano. Thankfully, after more than two years of listening to Suzanne plead for lessons, her parents succeeded in finding a non-Suzuki piano teacher who was willing to risk trying a student only 5 years old. This teacher was Evelyn C. Dyer of Stockton, California, a pioneer in lessons for young children.
At the first lesson, Mrs. Dyer showed Suzanne the “Piano ABCs” (the names of the keys), and what they looked like when written as notes on the staff in her first piano book. Immediately, Suzanne was off and playing. In fact, at the next lesson, little Suzanne insisted that she just had to play the last piece in the book for Mrs. Dyer. It had a beautiful picture that had attracted her, and Suzanne had worked hard all week long to figure out the notes. The piece was perfect...or rather, that's what the young student thought! All of the note names were correct -- that was true -- but the piece needed so much more: rhythm, technique, and beauty. Ever so gently, Mrs. Dyer redirected the enthusiastic little girl to more fundamental exercises. This was an early lesson in patience and the importance of the “Basics.”
Finding her niche in music, Suzanne continued lessons through high school with Barbara Lee Schooler and Janice L. Jansohn of Annandale, Virginia. Along the way, she also studied voice, handbells, violin, and, most surprisingly, the baritone horn--a large instrument that was about the same size she was!
During her high school years, Suzanne took teacher-training courses through the Washington, D.C., area Suzuki Institute and began her teaching career with a few young pupils. Throughout this time and during college, at the University of Virginia, she played for events such as weddings and Christmas parties, and accompanied instrumental soloists for adjudications. She also studied theory, composition, arranging, score analysis, choral voice, and choral singing. She sang in three auditioned choral groups at the University, the UVA Women's Chorus (1986-1989, Soprano II), University Singers (1988-1990, Alto I), and the select Bel Canto Ensemble (1990, Soprano II / Alto I).
In the years since college, Suzanne has continued developing her skills in voice and piano. She has sung with a women's barbershop chorus, studied Byzantine chant, recorded a CD with the Boston Byzantine Choir (First Fruits, recorded 1996), and participated in choir directing workshops. From 2012 through 2018, she sang as a choral member and also as a soloist with the Harrisburg Choral Society: From 2012 to 2014 the chorus was under the direction of Dr. Robert H. Baker. From 2014 to present, the chorus has been under the direction of Dr. Jason D. Vodicka of Susquehanna University. From 2014 through 2017, Suzanne studied Solo Voice (Soprano I) and vocal-teaching pedagogy with master teacher Joan Boytim of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 2019, after moving to Texas with her family, she founded the San Angelo Choral Society.
In her piano studies, Suzanne has advanced her studies by learning to play by ear, transpose, improvise, arrange and compose music. She enjoys sight-reading, accompanying, and playing a magnificent arrangement of "Happy Birthday" for her students and piano parents on their special days. During 2013 and 2014, she studied Haydn Sonatas for ten months with master teacher James Sempeles of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. She also studied autoharp with Ivan Stiles during 1998, and occasionally will use the autoharp or other instruments for teaching purposes during her students' lessons. For instance, finger staccato is best taught by plucking strings, and training the ear to anticipate chord transitions is easily done with an autoharp.
Musical theater has also played a large part in Suzanne's life. Her earliest performance memory is from when she was 4 years old, and recited the glad tidings of the angels to the shepherds in a Nativity pageant. Throughout her school years, she appeared in numerous elementary, middle school, and high school musical productions, culminating that time period with a leading role in Stages (Fall 1985) and a supporting role in Fiddler on the Roof (Spring 1986). Suzanne also performed in the University of Virginia's First Year Players production of the Broadway musical, Barnum (Fall 1986). Then, to focus on academics, family, and career, she sadly put theater on the back burner for many years. She attended shows or helped backstage, but stayed out of the limelight. That is, until the Summer of 2013, when Suzanne sang and performed with CHLOE (Camp Hill Light Opera Experience), in two operettas: Gilbert & Sullivan's Patience, and Libby Moyer's Not a Tenor.
In addition to teaching piano, Suzanne also teaches voice and is a vocal and acting coach for theatrical productions. Bringing character into the singing voice and meaning into lines is a great love of hers! Favorite shows which she coached include Oliver (2005, Forest City High School, Pennsylvania), Beauty and the Beast (2015, Harrisburg Christian Performing Arts Center, HCPAC, Pennsylvania), The Addams Family and Elf, Jr., the Musical (both in 2017, HCPAC, Pennsylvania), and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (2018, HCPAC, Pennsylvania).
In her spare time, Suzanne loves to spend time with her family, and occupies her quiet time with reading and researching. Her research interests focus on music theory and the history of its progression; the historical development of musical notation; scale degrees as interpreted and taught throughout the world; and biographies, letters, and handwritten scores of composers. She also enjoys composing lyrics for music, and composing music for poetry and scripts. She attends the theater and the ballet whenever she can, and particularly delights in seeing her children and students perform.
As a mother, she has delighted in composing songs for and with her children, and teaching them to play piano and set lyrics to music.
~ ~ ~
It was as a mother that she began developing her innovative techniques for more fun and faster learning in piano lessons. "I remembered how much I wanted to start playing piano when I was only three, so I was determined to start teaching my own children as soon as they showed signs of readiness. It's a challenge to teach students so young. It really requires getting into their minds and seeing things as they see them."
In addition to developing her own teaching techniques, Suzanne studied the pedagogies of Shinichi Suzuki and Haruko Kataoka (Suzuki Piano); Maria Montessori (Montessori Method); Kindermusik®; Elsie Stewart and Phyllis Jansma (Stewart Piano); Zoltan Kodaly, John Curwen, and Sarah Ann Glover (solfege and pitch training); and Mary Gae George and Jon George (Artistry at the Piano). She has attended seminars and masterclasses by many famous pianists, including Paul Badura-Skoda, Ann Schein, and Ruth Slenczynska; and by many master teachers, including Jerome Lowenthal (Juilliard) and Marvin Blickenstaff (The New School for Music Study). Master teachers with whom she has studied Suzuki teaching and ergonomic technique are Keiko Ogiwara (Japan), Keiko Kawamura (Japan), Bruce Anderson (Florida), Leah Brammer (California), Karen Hagburg (New York), Bruce Boiney (Louisiana), and Linda Nakagawa (California).
Showing her inclination for music, Suzanne set acquisition of a grand piano as her first goal after college. So, shortly after marriage, graduation, and beginning their first jobs, Suzanne and her husband purchased a 1929 Baldwin grand piano that was manufactured right before the October stock market crash.
It is an amazing piano: an instrument with great beauty, sound, and construction, as well as excellent action and responsiveness to touch. The elaborate case is made of carved walnut, with unique iron scrollwork decorating the doubled legs. After purchase, the piano was lovingly renovated by master technician Brian Spears of Indianapolis; and this beautiful instrument has sweetened every living room of the Lichtensteins' twenty-eight-year marriage.
Over the years, Suzanne has used this special piano to teach her four children (ages 23, 21, 18, and 15), and believes that it is a tremendous help to all of her students. The second piano in the studio is a restored 1910 Decker & Sons grand piano. Both pianos are hand-built and have been renovated.
Currently, Suzanne's students range in age from two to adult. Her students have been of all experience levels in music, from complete “newbies” to a conservatory graduate in voice performance. Suzanne also teaches ergonomic piano technique to fellow teachers who have suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and thumb pain. All students are welcome, for Suzanne truly believes that everyone is musical, and everyone has natural rhythm. Suzanne embraces the task of developing the musical potential in every student.
Suzanne Lichtenstein is a member of the Suzuki Piano Basics Foundation (SPBF), the Advisory Board for Artistry Alliance, the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), the Texas Music Teachers Association (TMTA), and the San Angelo Music Teachers Association (SAMTA). She is a past Board Member, Program Chair, and Festival Committee Member for the Capital Area Chapter of the PMTA in Pennsylvania. She attends teaching conferences and continuing education quarterly with SPBF, bringing along students for master classes in around the country; annually at Penn State University (State College, PA); and biennially at the Crane School of Music (SUNY, Potsdam, NY). Suzanne also speaks locally for the music teaching associations and private organizations on music history, theory and composition, business, and pedagogy topics. In addition to teaching in her private studio, she teaches both live and online classes for homeschool academies on the arts, including music, visual art, poetry, and theater. She also directs her church choir and serves as a cantor. She is often seen onstage in piano, voice, and choral performances, and enjoys performing in musicals and operettas. She is the founder of and choral director for the new San Angelo Choral Society.