TOM LAWTON, Senior Lecturer, University of the Arts

Tom Lawton: Portrait Of A Jazz Pianist

Interviewed by Vic Schermer (excerpt)

VS: Some time ago, you told me you were going to New England to study with a woman teacher who was to help you revise your piano technique.

TL: We’re talking about Dorothy Taubman. She has a two-week workshop every summer at Amherst College. I went there and then followed up with Bob Durso in Philly. I spent seven and a half years learning how to play the piano from scratch!

VS: Can you describe the difference between the old and the new technique?

TL: Ninety-eight percent of traditional piano teaching is wrong, physically. It’s based on the premise that you have certain fingers that are weaker than others and that you have to strengthen them to make them equal. I spent twenty years doing that, and it never happened. My playing got more and more tight. The more I did the exercises, my technique got worse. Instead of getting looser, I got tighter and less musical. The Taubman technique says that the forearm, hand and finger always move together as one, and that a child has enough strength in the forearm to make any finger feel equal to that of any other without any work. The movements are designed to put you in the optimum position for every note, which means that once you get past the boring mechanics, you have more control over the sound of every note. Now, it took me much longer to change over because I never stopped performing. If I could have taken off for a year or two, it would have been ideal.

VS: You’re very enthusiastic about it?

TL: Yes, I endorse it wholeheartedly.