EP03: Justin Bird – On his journey as a pianist, teacher and father

The Podcast

Show notes

Justin’s website: www.justinbirdmusic.com

Justin’s Teaching Philosophy: I believe in creating a well rounded student.

Delius Piano Concerto

Standout quotes by Justin from the podcast:

[On growing up as a serious musician] “Sports were popular. The rugby players were the popular kids. People like me didn’t have many friends and even the ones I did have, I wasn’t even socially comfortable with.”

[On going to college] “My life up until then had been designed to be a performer. And I still wanted to be that. I had come far enough where I knew how much practice it took to become a successful pianist…Which is not a small feat.”

“Going overseas expanded me as a pianist, and I grew in many areas”

“I always assumed that the older the student; the more you’d enjoy teaching them, the more responsible they’re be. But I don’t think that’s the case at all. I’ve learned that teaching young kids can be such a joy.”

[On Omaha Conservatory of Music] “Most of my life, I’ve been teaching privately, but at OCM I feel there is so much more than any private teacher could offer. Because you have a real community, a beautiful space to hold recitals, group classes”

[On student retention] “We’re always struggling with losing students as teachers, but when you have a community, when those students have “piano” friends…peers above them, even people below them, when you have that full spectrum of the community, they really feel like they can’t leave it, like they’re attached to it.”

[on teaching] “I try to give students more well-rounded education, because who knows what branch they’re going to veer onto.”

[On repertoire selection for students] “It really is important. Probably one of the most important things we do as a teacher.”

[On helping new students with some past music experience improve] “Learning to identify weaknesses is really important…I believe in creating a well rounded student.”

“Sometimes you just have to dance that line between the music that you want to teach and then the music that’s good for the student. Especially with the more advanced kids, there’s so much music I would love to teach, including the music that I love to play

“I give my students pieces that are specific to work on specific techniques.”

“That’s what I really enjoy about arranging. Is making it reader friendly.”

“All composers and typesetters need to remember that the easier the music is to read, the better the music will be played”

“Now that I’m a parent, I really sympathize, and I expect less as a teacher. Even with our kids, with both parents being music teachers… we cannot even establish regular practice with them.


Books that Justin recommends

Piano Repertoire and Technique:

John Thompson – Velocity Studies

Vivaldi – The Four Seasons Arranged by: Justin Bird

Arvö Pärt – Spiegel im Spiegel Arranged by: Justin Bird


Method Books:

Faber and Faber – Piano Adventures


Articles mentioned:

The Power of Positive Peer Pressure


MTNA National Conference 2017 Lecture Notes


People Justin mentioned:

[On other pianists who attended his high school] “..other really good New Zealand Pianists”
Henry Wong Doe

John Chen

Aaron Ottignon, Jazz Pianist

Catch Justin Streaming on: