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Stephen James - Pianist/Composer

Framingham, MA 01702 (map)

Lessons Offered

Composition, Piano

Where are Lessons Offered

In Teacher Studio

In Student Home

About Me

At a Glance
– experienced performer/teacher working in Framingham, MA and nearby towns
– free trial lessons are available in my home – all ages and skill levels are welcome
– I use relaxation and focus to improve technique and to make learning and playing music easier and more enjoyable
– I’m an experienced composer and also teach composition and music theory

In addition to being a seasoned classical performer and composer, I have more than 30 years experience as a piano teacher and have taught at a number of area colleges including the School for the Arts at Boston University. I think where I differ from most teachers is in problem solving: in my experience and certainly during my own training, the answer given to most piano students in response to problems they encounter usually seems to be some variation on “try harder.” The fact is, many students run into difficulties not because they’re not trying but because they’re stressed or simply lack the necessary skills and experience. Telling them to work harder doesn’t solve the problem and may make it worse. My teaching is influenced by many years of practices such as Vipassana meditation and Tai Chi: I try to understand where each student has issues and to use a combination of focused method and relaxation to help them remove obstacles. Effort is important, but it’s only part of the solution. I’m primarily a piano teacher, but have taught composition and music theory privately and at the university level.

My Teaching Philosophy
My emphasis is on serious study but also on fun; I’m a traditionalist in the sense that I think real facility comes from mastering the basics – scales, sight reading, and so on – but I also believe that piano pedagogy can benefit greatly from modern insights into learning and relaxation – and most of all from a positive relationship with the teacher. Piano lessons do involve effort, but they can and should be enjoyable for the student. For this reason, I don’t require specific repertoire – you should play what you enjoy.
An administrator at Juilliard once said to me that Juilliard can only help you if you are a “pianistic talent:” which I think means that unless virtuoso piano playing comes naturally to you, Juillard isn’t interested – in other words, they’re not in the business of solving problems. I am in the business of solving problems: most students are not “naturals” – yet many are musical and some are very talented: for me good teaching is about helping every student to discover how to make playing effortless, as it is intrinsically for a very small percentage of the population. The aim is to get the greatest result for the least effort, both mentally and physically – but you can’t play a piece of music in a relaxed way unless you at least know the notes and fingerings. That takes commitment: good practicing is really about learning how to master difficulties gradually and with minimal stress. As far as how much you need to practice, 10 or 15 minutes a day is fine for a beginner – as time goes on, you should practice more, but how much more really depends on what you want to accomplish. I would rather have a twelve year old enjoy practicing a half hour a day than grit his teeth through an hour and half – and he might actually learn more. I’m a serious pianist and am certainly interested in teaching serious students, but I understand that most students aren’t seeking careers in music – what I’m hoping for is students who really want to improve, at whatever level: that’s something I can help you with.

My Musical Education Background

My Background
I have a BA in music from Amherst College, where I performed the Schumann and Stravinsky piano concertos with orchestra; masters degrees in piano performance and music composition from the School for the Arts at Boston University, where I performed the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements with the BU Symphony Orchestra; and a doctorate in composition from Boston University. I was awarded a graduate fellowship at Amherst and received multiple awards in music both as an undergraduate and graduate student: I was also a Crofts Fellow at Tangelwood in 1985 and a fellow at the Aspen Music Center the following year. I have performed for the Tanglewood Music Center Chamber Series, the WICN Radio concert series at Mechanics Hall, the Omnibus Series at Boston University, the American Repertory Theater, the Essex Chamber Music Players and on many other concert series in New England.
I am a composer as well as a pianist: performances of my work include premieres by the the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston and the Atlantic Brass Quintet, commissions from the Washington Music Ensemble and the Newburyport Choral Society, and performances by the Society for New Music (Syracuse, NY) and the Fellows of the Music Center at Tanglewood. I currently teach piano performance and music theory at Worcester State University and have also taught at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Anna Maria College and Bridgewater State College.

Genres and Subjects Taught

- piano lessons: beginner to advanced

- lessons in composition and music theory: beginner to advanced

Lesson Rates

- $31.50 for a half hour lesson at my home in Framingham

- $63/hour for lessons in general

- $9 travel if I come to you - perhaps a little less if you live in Framingham 

- discounts are offered for lessons over an hour

Ages / Skill Levels Taught

All ages and skill levels are welcome.  For the youngest students - 7 and under - the question is whether thay can focus well enough to handle the material: that really varies with each student.

My Certifications and Awards


B.A. in Music, Amherst College, M.M. in Piano and Composition, Boston University,  D.M.A. in Composition, Boston University


     Award for Continuing Excellence, Boston University
     Full Scholarship, Aspen Center for Compositional Studies
     First Prize, Malloy Miller Composition Contest, Boston University
     Margaret Lee Crofts Fellow in Composition, Tanglewood Music Center
     Graduate Composition Prize, Boston University
               – inducted into Pi Kappa Lambda (music honor society)
     B.A. Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Amherst College
               – Sundquist Prize in Music
               – Associate in Music (one year teaching fellowship)

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