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The Mind Over Finger Podcast

Apr 19, 2019

Today, I speak with renowned pianist Jamie Parker and, I need to warn you in advance: this one is filled with wonderful information and really applicable tips, so get ready to take some notes!

Among many of the topics we cover, you’ll hear about Jamie’s favorite practice tips - from how to mark your part clearly, to his special crazy fast technique - why it’s crucial to know yourself and know how to prioritize in instrumental practice, and the importance of listening right here, right now!

As I said, there’s so much wonderful information ahead and I hope you enjoy this discussion with Jamie Parker!

Jamie elaborates on:

  • His experience growing up in a musical family
  • His trajectory from Juilliard to the Gryphon Trio and the University of Toronto
  • The early days of a chamber music group and how instrumental the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was during those times
  • His favorite practice tips
    • How he marks his part and works the difficult passages
    • How he likes to make things more difficult
    • His “crazy fast” practicing technique
  • The importance of prioritization: to know what your strengths and weaknesses are so you know what and how to practice, and how often
  • How crucial a strong sense of rhythm is
  • Why he never wants to be “the slowest person in the room”
  • How you’ll never know if you’ve over practiced, but you’ll know if you haven’t practiced enough!
  • Things that help him learning repertoire rapidly
    • Get a good sense of the overall “lay of the land” and do formal and harmonic analyses
    • Marking his score carefully
    • Using a basic pencil
    • A highlighter to mark important info
    • Marking the passages that are important to rehearse with the group
  • Why it’s important for us to learn to mark the info that we will need in ways that will be clear for future performances
  • Why he likes to practice in the dark
  • Why we must work on the skill of public speaking
  • What are the three musicians that live within each of us
  • The importance of listening right here, right now
  • His life as a performer and teacher
  • Aspects to consider when thinking of leading a career in a serious chamber ensemble



Website – The Gryphon Trio:

The Gryphon Trio on YouTube:


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Accomplished, versatile, brilliant, are descriptors frequently linked to Canadian pianist, James Parker. To put it simply, he is among the most sought-after artists. Mr. Parker's achievements are both lengthy and impressive. His musical roots can be traced to the Vancouver Academy of Music and the University of British Columbia where he studied with Kum Sing Lee. He then went on and received his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts at The Juilliard School with Adele Marcus. Dr. Parker continues the teaching tradition as the Rupert E. Edwards Chair in Piano Performance on the music faculty at the University of Toronto.

Awards came early and often. Beginning in 1984 with a first prize at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, James served notice that he was a rising star. The CBC competition concurred, selecting him winner of the 25th National Competition for Young Performers. The Virginia Parker Award as the most promising young classical artist soon followed, further solidifying Parker's place as one of Canada's best. He is often invited to the international juries of such competitions as the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and the Honens International Piano Competition.

Concerts given by Dr. Parker consistently garner artistic acclaim. His style has earned him praise as “one of the most searching musical intellects and 10 of the nimblest fingers in the business” according to The Globe and Mail. James has enthralled audiences in North America and Europe, counting diplomats and dignitaries among his receptive audiences. He has made frequent appearances on CBC, and has performed on Bravo!, the CanWest Global Network, MuchMusic and a myriad of stations across the globe.

A consummate professional, James is recognized as a soloist, a chamber musician and as the pianist for Canada's foremost ensemble, the Gryphon Trio. Add to this his critically acclaimed performances with major Canadian symphonies like Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Quebec City, Edmonton, National Arts Centre, Symphony Nova Scotia and many in between, one is reminded of the scope of his contributions to the national classical music scene. With three JUNO recording awards and many other nominations from his vast discography, James Parker continues to graciously strive to do it all.

James Parker is a Steinway Artist.



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Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme!  Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.

Also a HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly!