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How to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: From Investment Banking to Piano Lessons

Carnegie Hall is proud to partner with Canada's Royal Conservatory of Music through The Achievement Program, a national set of musical standards for people studying music across the US. Independent music teachers in the NYC area were invited to learn more about the program at a recent information session held at Columbia University's Teachers College. At the session, Keith Jewell—currently participating in the Program—shared his experience.

My name is Keith Jewell. I am a retired international investment banker living in Manhattan. I am also a piano student studying for The Achievement Program's Level 5 assessment, and I recently turned 77 years of age.

Just a word of background. I played clarinet in my California high school and always loved classical music—Beethoven being my favorite. But the US Navy and frequent international business travel made regular piano lessons impractical—at least, that’s my excuse for not starting piano much earlier.

Ten years ago, after my wife and I settled in Manhattan, I realized a long-held dream and began weekly piano lessons. I was fortunate to find two fine teachers. The first was a Juilliard graduate who got me off to a good start.  I eventually moved to a more convenient eastside school where I studied under a European concert pianist. The program was accelerated and I was soon working on Bach inventions, Chopin preludes and waltzes, and Für Elise.

I heard about my teacher, Maria Viapiano, from a friend at Juilliard and also from a close mutual friend of Mrs. Viapiano's, a virtuoso pianist who recently recorded the 32 sonatas of Beethoven. I began weekly lessons with Mrs. Viapiano just two years ago. She immediately enrolled me in The Achievement Program at Level 3. Last month, I passed the Level 4 performance assessment and am now working on Level 5. I have also passed the written Rudimentary Theory exam and am studying for the Intermediate Theory exam. Not only is Mrs. Viapiano a very accomplished conservatory-trained pianist and great teacher, but, by introducing me to The Achievement Program's graded system, she has provided me with what I like to call “a track to run on.”

What I like most about working in The Achievement Program is the wonderful sense of accomplishment and fulfillment it gives you.

In its essence, The Achievement Program is a system developed over decades by master musicians enabling you to know precisely where you are in your development as a musical artist. It tells you exactly what you need to learn to reach the next level in your development. The written set of materials provided for each level are comprehensive and truly outstanding.

What I like most about working in The Achievement Program is the wonderful sense of accomplishment and fulfillment it gives you. This is true even when you are working on pieces or techniques that are difficult.

To conclude, a teacher who puts a student of any instrument into The Achievement Program is giving him or her a wonderful gift. I heartily and most sincerely recommend enrollment in The Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program to any teacher and student of any instrument who sincerely wants to excel.

Now, with the world-class imprimatur of Carnegie Hall, it seems to me that a very promising and exciting chapter in American musical education has begun.

Learn more about The Achievement Program or register for an assessment today.
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