My first piano lessons were given to me by my father at an old upright grand piano in our home in Amanzimtoti, South Africa. Music was a staple in our house. In addition to both my father and mother playing the piano, my mother was a singer and my father often provided the piano accompaniment. They were a favourite item on soiree programs throughout South Africa. Choir rehearsals for Sunday services were held in the Zeeman home with my mother conducting and my father at the piano.
I consider myself fortunate with my musical heritage because my father favoured the classical side of piano music, while my mother, in addition to enjoying the classics, also had a natural improvising ability that she passed on to me. In fact, many times my piano practice times for my Beethoven and Chopin pieces would end up with more time devoted to long periods of improvisation! I do appreciate that my teacher at the time did not discourage my improvising, but rather encouraged me to just spend more time with the classics.
My formal study of music continued in the United States at a trio of Universities - Baylor University in Texas, University of Southern California, and Arizona State University. It would be nice if I could write that I completed all three degrees – bachelors, masters and doctorate – but the doctorate got stalled along the way. (A little thing called the dissertation!)
They say you learn more when you teach. Well I found that to be true when I taught at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona for seven years. Some things in music theory suddenly became vividly clear to me as I sought ways to explain the whys and wherefores of music principles to eager young university students!
Growing up in the church meant that there was a ready outlet for my music. I was always involved either in playing for the services or singing in some sort of musical item. When I was a student in California I was asked to play and lead a few songs for the singles Sunday school class at church. I said okay. Little did I know that this would lead to being asked to do the worship for conferences, which in turn lead to being asked to be the full time worship leader and music director at First Baptist Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Being a worship leader was very fulfilling for me. It was also good to work together with a full band. As a 'solo' classical pianist it was a new challenge! When our choir director left I agreed to conduct the choir - "just for three months" - until we found a new director. It lasted three years! And little did I know that it would prepare me for my current work in Hungary.
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