American Pianists Association “Episode One: From the Piano Bench,” on  April 26, featured Dominic Cheli, one of the five 2021 Awards finalists, and 2007 Awards Winner Dan Tepfer, in conversation, and a bit of riffing on their pianos about the enduring delight of creating your own variation of Bach’s “The Goldberg Variations,” the popular designation for his Klavier-Ubung, iv, [Klavier Exercise] published in 1741/2. Bach built his 30 variations as playing exercises upon the concept developed by Johann Kuhnau, his immediate predecessor at St. Thomas in Leipzig.

The bag of gold and a sleepless prince story surrounding the ‘Goldberg’ designation seems at best apocryphal, though it is known that Bach gave a copy of his thirty variations for harpsichord to his 14-year-old student, Johann G.T. Goldberg  [1727-1756].

Milton Cross, in his “Encyclopedia of Great Composers and Their Music,” notes: “[T]he Goldberg Variations, with proper justification might have been entitled The Art of the Variation [as an] elaborate work, consisting of thirty variations on a stately sarabande theme.”

The sarabande, Zarabanda in Spanish,  originated in Latin America, traveled to Spain in the early 16th century, only to be “banned by Philip II in 1543 because it was regarded as loose and ugly, ‘exciting bad emotions’,” according to the citation in the “Oxford Dictionary of Music.” By the time the sarabande arrived in France and England, it had morphed into a stately version, in slow triple time. Bach, in effect by making no tempo notations in the score for the variations, challenges the player ‘to exercise’ more than nimbleness of fingers. The Variations open themselves to a  player’s personality and dancerly aptitude, which leads me to remark on what fun it was to experience Tepfer’s body language as Cheli was playing snippets on April 26. 

On May 3, at 3:30 p.m., we can experience the APA Grand Season Finale, featuring  Dan Tepfer’s interpretive artistry here: Dan Tepfer's "Goldberg Variations Variations

To learn more, in advance of this program, go to: for a conversation between  writer, pianist and lecturer Stuart Isacoff and APA’s Lee Clifford to discuss Bach, jazz and the Goldberg Variations. (scheduled May 3).

Listen also to:

Dominic Cheli on the origin of the Goldbergs:  Dominic Cheli on Bach & Jazz: and:

Episodes two-five: “From the Piano Bench” are accessible here: Facebook event on  

May 10: Kenny Broberg with 1981 Awards winner Jonathan Shames:

May 17: Mackenzie Melemed with 2006 Awards winner Spencer Myer

May 24: Michael Davidman with 1981 Awards winner Sara Davis Buechner

May 31: Sam Hong with 1985 Awards winner Frederic Chiu

Catch past live videos here, including the April 26 Episode One:

“This live stream series will have no impact on the judging for the 2021 American Pianists Awards, “ wrote Daniel McCullough, APA Media Specialist, in an email to “Originally we had scheduled for the five finalists to appear in New York at Steinway Hall for a Media Event where they would be announced as the 2021 Awards finalists in a more formal setting. That event, like so many, had to be canceled due to COVID-19.  “From the Piano Bench” is our way to let the general public get to know the finalists before they begin competing in the competition officially.”

McCullough said that the Premiere Series, where the official judging begins, is scheduled for the Fall, with dates to be announced. He suggested that the best way to keep up to date is by subscribing to the APA newsletter at

Learn more about the 2021 American Pianists Awards finalists here:

American Pianists Association also directs us to these programs:

Mondays at 2pm EST - Dan Tepfer live-streams at

Mondays at 7:30pm EST - 2019 Awards winner Emmet Cohen's Trio streaming "Live From Emmet's Place" at

Wednesdays at 6pm - 1985 Awards winner Frederic Chiu's non-profit, Beechwood Arts and Innovation, hosts a weekly arts show at


More to do with the Arts :

Indianapolis Opera offers special events to connect with here:

"Beef & Boards Behind the Scenes." Facebook Live event on May 1, at 10 a.m., “with your coffee and questions,” invites Patricia Rettig.  Musical Director Terry Woods covers “what it takes to be a musical director for Beef & Boards -- there's a lot more to it than performing at each show!”  

Access here:


Indiana Repertory Theatre offers interactive opportunities here: 


Eiteljorg at Home offers a weekly line-up of activities and learning opportunities here:

Room by room explores the Queen Anne and Romanesque style Propylaeum Mansion, built in 1888 by brewery owners John and Lillie Schmidt at the corner of 14th and Delaware Sts. Go to:


Storytelling Arts shares virtual time anytime with storytellers at

and  programs on Thursdays at 2 p.m. Up next:

April 30: Stephanie Holman

May 7: Celestine Bloomfield


The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration website,, offers free mental health resources that have been vetted by experts. The information on this site “is designed to address the increase in anxiety, depression and other mental health issues caused by the pandemic, including both first-time issues as well as preexisting mental health concerns.”

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