Michael Green didn’t want his mother to sell the piano. At the time, he was a 9-year-old Grantsville boy who liked soccer, and he had been taking piano lessons for five years.
“I didn’t want to practice anymore,” Green said. “I was just sick of it, and I kind of wanted to do other things. My mom said I’m going to sell the piano, because you don’t practice, and I said no, don’t sell it. I kind of like it, I’ll try again. Then, it was like a fire lit in me, and I ended up loving it.”
Green started practicing four to six hours a day. His dedication paid off in December 2016 when he received his Doctorate of Music Arts from the University of Utah.
“It’s the equivalent of a PhD, but they require a lot of performances in addition to the dissertation,” he said.
Now he’s running a piano studio from his home in Tooele, helping his students relax into their music, and making plans to bring more music opportunities to Tooele Valley.
For his dissertation, Green chose to focus on the modern piano ragtime music written by William Albright. Albright used Scott Joplin, who wrote “The Entertainer” and other ragtime music, as an inspiration, although, Green said, Albright’s pieces are more complicated than Joplin’s.
“He went back to the era of Joplin and modernized rags,” Green said. “I analyzed and gave some arguments in regards to his rags.”
In addition to his dissertation, Green was required to give four concerts. Two of them were solo recitals of his classical music repertoire.
“One of them was what we call a lecture recital,” he said. “That’s where I basically present my dissertation to the public and also played through the examples.”
His last concert requirement was a series of collaborative performances.
“That’s where I played with the symphony a few times,” Green said. “I got to go play’ Rhapsody in Blue’ in various venues in Salt Lake. It was great.”
Green performs as often as he can. Now that he’s graduated, most of his performances have been accompanying others, but he plans on doing solo recitals a few times a year.
Meanwhile, he’s expanding his piano studio. Green teaches private and group piano lessons Monday through Saturday in both Tooele and Salt Lake. Lessons range from half an hour to an hour long.
“It depends on the needs and the wants of the students,” he said. “I recommend starting at 30 minutes and as they get more advanced, then we start looking at longer lessons.”
Green starts his students off in sets of piano books, called method series, because they organize musical concepts and don’t leave anything out.
“Then I usually accelerate past those, because they’re a little bit slow on theory, so I’ll supplement with other pieces,” he said.
While some of his students prefer to play just for fun, others are motivated by opportunities to perform and compete.
“For the students who want to, I have piano competitions that I enter them into,” he said. “I usually hold three recitals per year.”
Green is part of both the Tooele and Salt Lake chapters of the Utah Music Teachers Association (UTMA). He also participates in the Utah Federation of Music Clubs, which allows his students to play for teachers at the University of Utah and receive rankings, trophies and other motivational rewards.
“They can earn prizes and things like that,” he said. “There are plenty of performance opportunities for those who want them.”
Students who feel shy don’t have to participate in the competitions, Green said. The only requirement is to participate in his studio recitals.
“I like to work with my students and see what works for them and try to accommodate them the best I can,” Green said.
One of the things Green hopes to teach his students is how to relax and have fun while playing the piano.
“I feel like most pianists don’t know how to relax,” he said. “Really, relaxation is what should be focused on. It’s not focused on enough in beginning and intermediate piano lessons.”
Green said relaxing can help serious piano students avoid problems like carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.
“You should be able to play these difficult pieces for extended periods of time, like you see the pros do, without ever feeling tense or tired in the wrong ways,” he said. “Plus you’ll be able to play with a more clear sound. That takes a while to develop but once you do, it really makes all the difference.”
Information about the Michael Green Piano Studio can be found online at www.michaelgreenpiano.com or by calling Michael Green at 801-860-4553. The studio also has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/michaelgreenpianist.
As he expands his studio, Green hopes to find or build a local venue where he and his students can perform concerts and recitals. So far, he’s been holding recitals in Salt Lake at Day Murray Music and other venues.
One of his dreams is to bring a piano conservatory to Tooele Valley where students could come for lessons and where the public could come enjoy the music.
“I used to work for the Utah Conservatory in Park City, so I have an idea of how it all works, and I know some people who gather pianos and donate them to nonprofit groups,” he said. “We might be able to gather some grand pianos and raise some money to open a conservatory out here.”
He remembers holding a public solo recital at the high school auditorium in Grantsville.
“I didn’t know that I was going to make a career out of it at the time,” he said. “I just liked it, and I kept doing it. Success breeds success. If you like something and you’re doing well at it, you want to do more of that.”
Following the scare about selling the piano, his parents eventually moved the piano into his bedroom because he practiced so often. Although the idea of law school or medical school sometimes appealed to him, in the end, the piano won out.
“Things just kept pulling me back,” he said. “I ended up saying, ‘I have to do this. This is what I’m meant to do.’”