I promised myself, when I retired from teaching Literature at the State University of New York, to resume piano lessons. I had begun relatively late — at 18 — but I was a serious student, and over several years my capable teachers enabled me to master the rudiments. My retirement coincided with a move to Dobbs Ferry, where I sought an appropriate teacher. The name Marilyn Sophos was mentioned by a number of musicians as a teacher of impeccable credentials as well as having long experience with students of all ages.
That was ten years ago. Getting back to even a modicum of fluency was not easy after a hiatus of forty years; nor was my body as agile. Marilyn suggested subtle changes in arm and finger positions to improve technique, as well as how to create exercises related to the music we were working on that would further alleviate the drawbacks. From early on, she encouraged me to pay close attention to the different touches and finger strokes to produce legato, staccato, and other effects. She insisted on rhythmic precision and did not neglect the use of the pedal.
Marilyn allows me to follow my taste in music, as her repertoire is vast. For example we started with pieces already familiar to me like the Bach Inventions and Fauré’s and Chopin’s Preludes, and worked on them for several months for dynamics and clarity before taking on a new piece. The uniqueness of each composer and historical period is always considered. Even though she is open to a variety of interpretations, Marilyn’s own preferences are always expressed.
Together we are still working on my neglected fluency so that I am now better able to read music and play with more confidence. Only recently we went back to Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias, after studying several of his Preludes and Fugues, so that the progress I have made has become still more palpable to me. I think most people would agree that music is a universal language that has the power to absorb the listener or player in an inspirational, almost therapeutic, way. I feel that in Marilyn I have found a source of such inspiration for years to come.
— Thelma (current adult student)
Marilyn taught our two daughters from the time they were seven until they left for college. She not only taught them to play piano, but she also taught them self-discipline, organization, perseverance, and a life-long love of music. She has a wonderful sense of humor and is bright and intelligent. Her enthusiasm for the piano and for music in general is infectious, as is her seriousness of purpose and high standards. She loves teaching, loves children, and loves music. Our daughters still get great pleasure from playing piano alone and with chamber groups, practicing for the enjoyment of the music and the opportunity to express emotion in their playing. Marilyn gave them an enormous gift which they will use for the rest of their lives. I can’t imagine a better teacher, and I am tremendously grateful to her.
— Susan (parent of two former students)
As my piano teacher for nearly a decade, Marilyn was a kind, patient, and engaging mentor. She pushed me to be a creative and technically precise musician. I am lucky to have had such a wonderful teacher!
— Maureen (former student)
From New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Judges on listening to some of Marilyn’s school age students perform at NYSSMA festivals and competitions —
Very well prepared solo. Beautiful articulation on the opening passages. Excellent flexibility – good tempo – fine feeling for the phrases. Good use of the dynamic changes – good pedal technique. Very musically played. BRAVA!
You had some excellent teaching – please give her my congratulations.
What an absolute pleasure to listen to you! You play with verve, spirit, vitality and great sensitivity. Bravo to your teacher for encouraging you to play with such artistry…. Wonderful, wonderful playing. You made my day. Thank you.
Your light and exquisitely nuanced touch sent me to heaven just now. I’m writing as you are playing the opening: seldom have I heard such sensitive playing. Yet with just enough meat in the tone to relax the listener…. It is uncommon to hear such a splendidly musical rendition from a young student. Thank you for coming in.
Great performance – a credit to you and your teacher – Bravo!… Great dynamics and energy. Super scales…. Nice sight reading.
Your ornamentation has sparkle. You obviously have knowledge of all the technical skills needed to share a musical idea. Your dynamics and tempo shadings have an ethereal quality to them. You made a single note melody sound so exquisite. Thank your teacher for cultivating your musicality. Your pulse was alive, and you displayed an understanding of the composer’s thoughts. Brava.
You do not need me to tell you that you can play the piano. You have provided a splendid display of mastery of all the technical execution of the skills and knowledge learned since way back when. Be proud of yourself. You had emotion in your rhythm that kept moving along (drawing me into it) but never feeling hurried. And your dynamics were “THE BOMB”; they gave each and every phrase an ethereal quality. Naturally, your hands moved your nimble fingers gracefully over the keys. I think we call all this perfection. REALIZATION OF INTENT – you brought Debussy’s musical ideas to fruition.
Truly extraordinary sound – lovely articulation throughout. Jennifer is fine young pianist with great strength, flexibility, and understanding of the music she is playing. Bravo!
Recommended for NYSSMA Piano Showcase. Outstanding!
What a wonderful performance! You and your teacher picked the perfect pieces for you. Your playing was wonderful…. Way to go! An outstanding performance – you have such an affinity for this style. Listen to great jazz artists for more inspiration! Bravo!!!
Exquisite performance. You’ve practiced many long hours and have achieved fantastic results. All notes were precise and clear. You’ve committed them to memory! Wow!! Be proud of all that you’ve achieved…. You’ve had fun learning it!! Isn’t it wonderful to play the piano??
Congratulations to your teacher, too.
Sixth grade and playing so beautifully and with such grace and maturity! I am so impressed! What a lovely performance in every way. Your use of the pedal was very appropriate. Dynamics were right on target too. The fact that you have memorized this indicates a real commitment to your music. Congratulations to your teacher for encouraging you to play so beautifully. Keep up the good work. Listening to you today was sheer delight! Thank you.
Nice tempo, very even and truly waltz-like! Brahms would be proud! Excellent phrasing, wonderful dynamics and feeling. Wonderful job – keep practicing. Scales were good, quick tempo, very even. Very strong sight reader.
Bravo! to your beautiful performances of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor. Your performance was very mature and wise for one so young. Your playing was clean, melodic and energetic.
Thank you for playing for me. Keep up the fine playing. Fine solid rhythm. Your legato style was lovely and one chord just floated into the next one. Fine appearance of finger and wrist position! All notes firmly placed. Fine contrast of dynamic levels! You have a fine understanding of the style of a Debussy composition! You have also presented a fine imagination of your creative thought to this composition! You perform with a perfect combination (sense) of mind, body and soul! Well prepared! Terrific FINE!