I wish someone told me that it is okay to be happy with what I have accomplished and not miserable about what I haven’t yet accomplished. Despite having founded two institutes, continually training and mentoring teachers, giving conferences and seminars all over the world while maintaining a busy teaching schedule, I still see so much more that needs to be done. And I need to constantly remind myself to be at peace with what I can do.
As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Edna Golandsky.
Edna Golandsky is a world-renowned piano pedagogue, the leading exponent of the Taubman Approach, and is the Founder of the Golandsky Institute.
A graduate of the Juilliard School, where she studied under Jane Carlson, Rosina Lhévinne, and Adele Marcus, Ms. Golandsky has earned worldwide acclaim for her pedagogical expertise, extraordinary ability to solve technical problems, and her penetrating musical insight.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My parents emigrated from Eastern Europe in the late ’30s, as pioneering Zionists. My mother lost her whole family and my father lost most of his family. They met in what was then called Palestine, and I was born at the same period as the birth of my country, Israel. My biological father died when I was a baby, and my mother remarried a few years later. I was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and from the age of three to sixteen, I lived in Haifa, overlooking the Mediterranean.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
A piano teacher lived in the next building to my family. My mother played the violin in her youth and wanted me to be exposed to music. So, I started piano lessons at the age of eight. I made so much progress, that a year later my teacher took me to her teacher, with whom I studied for the next seven years.
I traveled by bus and walking, an hour each way, twice a week for two-hour lessons and I gave my public recital at the Conservatory at the age of ten. From there, I started giving concerts regularly, both solo and with orchestras from age twelve on, and began teaching piano at the age of fourteen.
My paternal uncle, having survived the Holocaust, lived in New Jersey. When he saw that I was gifted, he would send me a beautiful dress each year to wear for my performances.
By the time I was fifteen, my uncle was married with two kids of his own. As I was the last remaining connection to his beloved brother, he wanted me very much to come to the US. And so, he and his wife offered to send me to music school. So, at age sixteen, without speaking a word of English, I came to New Jersey, registered in high school, auditioned, and was accepted into the preparatory division of The Juilliard School of Music.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was introduced to Dorothy Taubman while I was studying for my MA degree at Juilliard. She opened a whole new world of knowledge that explained why pianists hit roadblocks in their development as well as career-ending injuries.
My roommate Varda, a fellow Juilliard piano student, had heard about Dorothy and thought her work sounded scientific and mind-opening.
Varda had come from a family of scientists, and this new approach sounded like it was based on scientific information, so she decided to try it. Varda was very gifted but had only a limited technique, so she only played Bach and Mozart.
Then one day, I heard her practicing extremely difficult pieces. When I asked her about it, Varda told me that she never got tired and never experienced tension and invited me to one of her lessons with Dorothy.
It was the most interesting lesson I had ever been to; it was the first time I ever saw a teacher give rational solutions that worked instead of just telling the student to practice more. I was intrigued and began studying with Dorothy myself.
Although I was studying with the most prestigious professors at Juilliard and being groomed for a career as a concert pianist, I started questioning if I wanted this kind of a life for myself.
Meeting Dorothy, I realized the transformative power of her approach. I saw that teaching this approach could fulfill my yearning to go beyond what I was being groomed for and do something that would make a difference in people’s lives.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I am continuing to increase the reach of The Golandsky Institute.
The Institute already serves pianists in 35 countries, with online offerings such as virtual seminars, symposiums, lessons, and workshops. And also, expanding the certification program to increase the number of qualified Taubman teachers throughout the world.
In addition, I am working on bringing this same body of knowledge to other instruments and even other domains outside of music where people use their hands — especially as it relates to typing at computers and using iPhones.
I’m passionate about continually upgrading the instructional material for pianists, other instrumentalists as well as computer users. In fact, I’m currently working on my first book about the Taubman Approach as we speak.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Some of the most fascinating people in my life are my students, many of whom I have long-term relationships with.
Generally, people come to this work when they are injured. After consulting doctors and other bodyworkers without finding relief, this approach is seen as a “Last resort”.
One of the worst cases that I have ever had was that of Megan. A piano student in her twenties, Megan came to me with dystonia in eight fingers. She had lost the functioning in her fingers, and could not only not play the piano, but could not use her hands in everyday life.
Although I had worked with people with dystonia in one or two fingers, I had never encountered someone having it in eight fingers. Dystonia is a difficult problem to cure and can take a very long time. However, Megan was very patient and did precisely what I told her. She followed every instruction, totally relinquished everything, and put herself in my hands. Three months later, it was like a miracle, she was back to playing and the dystonia had disappeared.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Alejandro. An incredibly developed, impressive pianist who had graduated with a doctorate in performance from a top NY conservatory and was giving concerts and solo recitals internationally.
Although he had already worked with some of the best piano professors in the world, he felt that there was still more to learn. He told me that he felt there was a wall in front of him that he couldn’t move past.
Over the next three years, I gave him two lessons, a productive and satisfying experience for both of us; Alejandro went on to win one of the most prestigious international piano competitions. Most importantly, he now feels that there is no limit to what he can do at the piano.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
I draw my inspiration from the work itself. I continually discover further information that makes the results even more stunning. Also, I am inspired by seeing how solving people’s piano problems allows them to realize their full potential as pianists and improves their life in general.
The fact that there is no end to this knowledge and that it has such a broad application, to all people who use their hands, continues to be my greatest inspiration.
In addition, I draw inspiration from the music itself, from all art, theater, dance, lectures, and literature.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Through teaching the Taubman Approach, I have cured pianists and other instrumentalists with serious injuries, and in the process, have given them back their professional lives and personal happiness.
This has taken the form of helping pianists get to higher levels than they could ever imagine, giving them the tools for endless growth; and also curing people suffering from repetitive stress injuries.
In addition, I am incredibly passionate about continually teaching methods to prevent these problems from ever occurring and standardizing the Taubman Approach to ensure it is taught with the utmost precision for the greatest benefit of those learning.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone had told me how closed-minded people can be. I have given pianists one or two lessons, and even though they resolved major problems, they could not see that there was so much more.
- I wish someone had told me that no matter how obvious and beneficial it may be, knowledge is not always necessarily accepted. Regardless of the fact that pianists have used this approach all over the world, the universities and conservatories have continued with traditional teaching methods.
- I wish someone had told me the importance of branding and marketing a new idea, no matter how elegant and useful it may be. Because I am first and foremost a pedagogue, not a marketing person, the Taubman Approach has not had the visibility that it should have.
- I wish someone told me that great results don’t speak for themselves. Several people have tried to approach the science writer from a notable news outlet. Even though I have story after story of people who came from dysfunctionality to full functionality, the writer’s response was that she wanted scientific studies before even accepting to interview me.
- I wish someone told me that it is okay to be happy with what I have accomplished and not miserable about what I haven’t yet accomplished. Despite having founded two institutes, continually training and mentoring teachers, giving conferences and seminars all over the world while maintaining a busy teaching schedule, I still see so much more that needs to be done. And I need to constantly remind myself to be at peace with what I can do.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Because so many people experience pain by using their hands incorrectly, in professions or daily life, I would like to start a movement called “A Pain-Free World.”
Not only do I have the specific tools to help pianists, but also people from every walk of life. I can show them how to use their hands correctly to avoid tension, fatigue, pain, and injury. Repetitive strain injuries such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, dystonia, and more are prevalent, and all are preventable through basic knowledge of how to use our fingers, hands, and arms.
I believe these tools not only can prevent injury, but also can save the economy billions of dollars in treatments and lost work time.
We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she just might see this.
In terms of achieving a “Pain-free world,” it would be incredible to connect with women redefining the business world. In the VC space, someone like such as Sarah Kunst or even a trailblazer like Ariana Huffington.
In terms of music, talent at the top of their game is a true joy for me. It’s fascinating and inspiring when those “at the top” are open to trying a new approach, as I believe we can always grow.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
To connect further and learn more about The Taubman Approach, you can visit my website: www.ednagolandsky.com and you can find The Golandsky Institute online at: www.golandskyinstitute.org and learn more about healthy typing at: www.healthytyping.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!