American Concert Pianist, Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger

Welcome to the Exciting World of American Concert Pianist: Susan Merdinger

The Prize-Winning American Pianist and Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger, presents a wide range of recital and concert programs in venues both large and small.
With programs such as Latin-American Flair,  American Honor,  The Classical Style, and The Virtuoso Pianist, Susan brings charm, eloquence and hair-raising virtuosity to the stage.
Internationally acclaimed, Ms. Merdinger has appeared as a soloist in major concert halls in the USA, Europe and Canada, and has soloed with numerous orchestras and distinguished conductors.
A gifted speaker, teacher, and humanitarian, Ms. Merdinger is also available for Lecture-Recitals, Outreach Concerts, Masterclasses and Fundraising Events, and can create and perform a program or concert guaranteed to please any audience.

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Merdinger's Musings

The Making of a Musician... 

It's been quite a week here in the Merdinger-Greene household! Our eldest daughter, mezzo-soprano Stefanie Greene, performed her Masters of Music Degree recital on March 19th at North Park University, performing works by Verdi, Strauss, Heggie, and Berlioz. Our middle daughter, Sarah Greene, appeared on the FOX TV show, Final series and season episode of Glee! and our son, Scott Greene, aka Megaphonix, has newly released tracks on Beatport! Husband Steve Greene did accompanying for young artists in solo and concerto competitions, and the week drew to a close with my sold-out chamber music program on the CSO Chamber Music Series at the Art Institute, in a performance of piano quintets by Field and Dvorak and the Grand Sextet of Glinka.
So much excitement and activity for one family in one week- a little bit much for some, but  you might say it was "business as usual" for The Five Greenes...
You see, we are a family of five professional musicians- and this didn't just "happen" overnight. It has taken two decades of work to raise three of the musicians, but the work really goes back much further than that. It goes back to my and Steve's parents, who somehow manage to nurture two professional musicians who then "found" each other at the Yale School of Music. And then it took me and Steve to do the same exact thing, not just for one child, but for ALL THREE!. Kind of a small miracle as I have witness our family and our lives unfold. But then, in this past week of intensive rehearsals with my colleagues of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it became apparent many of the CSO musicians, like me, also had spouses and at least one child who became a professional musician. And in reading the bios of all the composers and musicians before me, it is apparent that many professional musicians and composers came from long lines of distinguished musicians.
So, I realized it is not such a "miracle", but rather there must be some sort of "formula". It's not just in the "genes", but it must be in the environment, in the nurturing...So, this has led me to ponder the different influences and factors that lead to a person becoming a musician- if not a professional one, then at least a life-long lover of music. As hard as it is for me to believe, not everyone enjoys Classical Music, so I am striving to figure out how Classical Music will survive, if it is only passed down to children from parents who are musicians themselves or at least music aficionados. How do we ignite the passion in more young people and in people of our own age who have not become "hooked" yet?
I think I have figured out why some people become entranced with music....and sometimes this even happens well into adulthood...I have one adult piano student, who started lessons as a complete beginner about three years ago. It has become so important in his life, it is almost an obsession- yet he still struggles to get in the amount of practicing he would like to do. And that is what happens in childhood these days...Without an imperative to make music, a role model, an absolute non-negotiable sense that taking music lessons is a requirement of education of growing up, of becoming a complete human being, then most kids these days find themselves swallowed up by video games, social media, over-programming, excessive homework, and increased stress. And with this increased stress we are witnessing an increase in youth depression, family problems and even suicides.
One way to fix this is through music- an immersion in music can cure many ills, boost brain power, offer a social outlet, create calm, efficient and disciplined youths who will grow into productive and creative members of society- even if they do not become professional musicians. So how to accomplish the goal of every person in the USA being able to sing or play an instrument?
Through music education for BOTH PARENTS AND CHILDREN ALIKE. So many organizations now are doing reach-out programs to needy children in schools- but it is equally important to educate and draw in those young students' parents and grandparents. Classical music has to become more accessible, yet classical music and classical musicians have never faced the challenges that we face in our society right now. Reduced funding, dwindling audiences, increased competition from other forms of entertainment and sports. While the declining demand for classical musicians is a major concern, the irony is that there still is an increased supply of young people studying music who hope to have viable careers in music. But, if schools decrease funding for music education, then these musicians will not, and cannot find gainful employment teaching music to young and old people alike. Many of these professionally trained musicians will give up, go into other fields, and yes, they will continue to support classical music as they mature and work in other fields. But, will they encourage their children to persist in an endeavor which many find difficult, time consuming, conflicting with other activities, not to mention expensive? Factor in rentals and purchases of instruments to 10-15 years of private lessons before even going to college, and playing a musical instrument just doesn't seem to be worth it, compared to being on a sports team or debate team. It seems like a big sacrifice to give up a family vacation in order to afford a year's worth of piano or violin lessons. doesn't it?
Basically, MUSIC EDUCATION must start EARLY and be MANDATORY- just like READING OR MATH. It should not be considered as something that is dispensable and can be tossed aside when the economy tanks, or when reading and math test scores seem to be suffering...JUST the OPPOSITE should take place...More money into Music education and classes and private musical instruction for all children will do wonders for their academic achievement. If a child struggles with one instrument, try another, and another...until you find the right match.
The main reason musicians end up having children who are musicians, is that we VALUE the music education, we make SACRIFICES for it, and we serve as ROLE MODELS for our own children. Our children heard good music in the household every day of their lives, and it runs through their ears and in their brains...it makes them whole.
When I teach my students, I teach the WHOLE person- not just the music or the technical aspects- but the emotional and analytical aspects of music, the organization of music and time management, vocabulary through description of music, mathematical principles in music, psychological and sociological issues of music...in short, it is training to make a person WHOLE. Any person, every person. Give your children the gift of music, and MAKE them do it. Because, someday, they WILL thank you for it. Someday. Someday, it may just SAVE THEIR LIFE.

Some like it hot, some like it cold... 

At this point in my career, as a performer and teacher, I am trying to decide which is better or worse for performing musicians- extreme cold or extreme heat? I am also wondering what are the best solutions for dealing with either extreme condition? Even though we generally are sheltered from the outside elements, one cannot escape the feeling of coldness and drafts in the Winter or the excessive humidity and oppressive heat in the Summer. And there are the summer festivals which of course do require musicians to perform outdoors under less-than-ideal weather conditions. How does temperature and humidity affect us as performers and which is better- to be cold or warm?

I think the answer to these questions is very individual and largely dependent on what you are accustomed to. However, even then hardiest of us cannot always feel that conditions are "right". I remember performances when the backstage was so cold, that my hands were like ice right before going onstage to perform. On the other side of the spectrum, I recall what was probably the most awful heat I have ever endured during a live performance- while in Italy, and the indoor air condition had failed.
On the face of it, one would think that freezing cold hands would be worse for the pianist or musician...in my case, I think the heat was actually  far worse. My hands had swelled up from the heat and the piano keys became slippery and while my fingers were sticky at the same time. I was sweating so much that perspiration ran down into my eyes during my performance stinging something awful and my makeup- well, after a couple of brow-wipes between movements- there wasn't much left of it! At that point, I decided that there IS such as thing as being too "warmed up"! At the time, I thought it was just me, and that perhaps I was just overly excited. But then I noticed that the other performer's shirts and hair were drenched, too, so I was not alone. ( Aha, the old "misery loves company" saved my psyche once again).  As I have reflected on that situation I have not figured out any real and lasting solutions for escaping unavoidable heat as one might encounter in an outdoor summer concert or indoors with a failed AC system. Possibly drinking ice cold drinks before the performance can lower the internal body temperature a bit. But, what about the heat that intensifies during the performance from excessive use of bright stage lights-at any time of year- this is something that one must anticipate, and test in a dress rehearsal. And ultimately, dress as lightly as possible in such weather. Give up the tux, suit or the long sleeves! Girls, put your hair up! Some pianists have even resorted to using anti-perspirant on their palms...

As for the cold. This provokes a different feeling altogether- and I think for most musicians, this is the more uncomfortable state- hence we always tend to speak of "warming up" before a concert. In fact, certain types of instruments do not play well when they are very cold- just ask any clarinetist!  In my case, when i feel really cold, my hands feel like they have shriveled up and my fingers feel like stiff wooden sticks. I personally have several remedies for this- 1. Warm up my body from the inside out by running up and down stairs or doing jumping jacks to get my heart rate up and accelerate my blood circulation. 2. Run my hands under warm-hot water. 3. Rub my hands together. 4. Use mental imagery to imagine being on a warm Carribbean beach!

My former teacher, Ward Davenny, taught me about these varying conditions by saying :" Play like Fire on Ice, or like "Ice on Fire!" In other words, he taught me that no matter what, one could make the best of a situation by understanding the specific challenges one faces at each concert event, and learning how to make the necessary accommodations. I am sure he also was referring to our own "internal" temperature- which often has nothing to do with the actual physical conditions, but more to do with our own mental and emotional state. If suffering from the added adrenalin rush and the body's "fight or flight" reaction- our blood flow is directed away from our extremities- and it is possible for our hands to become cold even if the ambient temperature is just perfect. Therefore, if we feel to riled up before a performance ("hot") we must learn how to "cool down" and stay in control. If we are feeling a bit detached or uninspired, we must be able to conjure up the heat and spice things up a bit, otherwise our performance will surely fall flat. 

I am interested to know what my readers think about heat versus cold when performing? I think I am leaning towards the cold conditions- but when one lives in Chicago, and the weather outside is sub-freezing or sub-zero, staying warm seems to be the primary concern. I have learned that 70 degrees is my favorite indoor temperature- any time of year and any time of day or night. I think I might actually someday move to such a place that would always be 65-80 degrees year round. Does Nirvana exist?
 

On "winning" and "losing"... pre-reflections on the Grammy Awards! 

So this is the weekend of the Grammy Awards. It was my second year as a voting member of NARAS, and I had two entries- my Soiree Solo Piano CD, and French Fantasy, A Piano Duet CD, recorded with my husband, Steven Greene. I cannot tell you how much I would have loved a nomination- as did so many other musicians like myself- both famous, and not-so-famous, signed with big labels, or indies.. All during this process of promotion and networking and hoping to garner votes and support for my entires yielded some unexpected benefits, even though I was ultimately not successful this year in earning a nomination.
But, here is what I learned: There are SO many fine musicians out there that most people have never heard of - and everyone owes it to themselves to listen to new artists on a regular basis. Second, those of us who did not get nominations are in VERY good company- so we must not lose hope or faith in our talents, but rather simply realize it is a numbers game, and that we are amongst hundreds of superb musicians who did not get any nominations at all. For example, in the Solo Classical Instrumental, there were entires by Lang Lang, Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson, Van Cliburn Competition medalists, and so on and so forth. There are only 5 spots for nominees in each category, and these pianists didn't win- just like me! So, is it simply a case of "Misery loves company" or is there something more here that we can take away from this? 

Certainly, a main thing I think we must always recognize is that these awards are BIG business. Many of the Grammy Awards Winners and nominees will benefit financially and get a career- boost by being able to have this award to their credit. But, NOT having a Grammy Award to one's credit certainly doesn't diminish one's stature as an artist and it certainly doesn't mean you cannot have or have not had a great career.  In fact, the great majority of music entered in the Grammy's is of such high quality, and music is indeed a subjective art - so the notion of there being a "best" is somewhat crazy and unrealistic. Musicians know this, but the public still wants and needs to witness their appointed favorite artists being "crowned" as "the Best". This is actually a good thing for the music industry as a whole- because it support the cause of music and brings it to the forefront of people's minds.

The Grammy Awards is really no different than any other competition- people can argue that the voting process is imperfect or unfair, or favors the big-labels, or whatever excuse you can think of- and whether or not this is true, the fact remains that not everyone can win a prize in a competition, otherwise what would be the point? Just as in a sports competition or game, it's never any fun if there is a tie or a draw or no winner declared at all. Audiences love SPORT, and that's what the Grammy's are, in a sense. And that's not a bad thing either- because it is important that music and musicians have their time in the limelight and that we, as a society support the arts as much as we do sports and athletic endeavors. 

Overall, the Grammy Awards are a very positive influence on the promotion of music in our country. One might even wish there were more such events for musicians throughout the year. Why do we musicians only get ONE big night to celebrate our fellow musicians and our "Winners"?
On the downside, we still must acknowledge that music really is not a sport- it is findamentally different in so many ways, no matter how much we try to make it into a sport. It is not about who plays more notes fastest, or who sings loudest and highest. All these quantifiable qualities are NOT what music is all about. Rather, it is hoped that the all the musicians have that extra-special quality of sound, of expression, of creativity and originality, all of which are characteristics that are un-quantifiable. True, sometimes a competition ends up selecting the most technically perfect, sometimes it ends up selecting the most "popular" or well-known entrants due to "name recognition". And, yet, we hope for this above all- that the competition selects the true "Stand-outs" in their field of entries.

Each year is a new challenge, each year is a new chance. So, will I plan on entering again- even though I didn't win anything this year? You bet I will. Because "if you are not in it, you cannot win it." Additionally, since this is a competition for Recorded music, we must realize that we musicians are creating  lasting legacies for future generations of musicians. THAT is really special! And there is no reason why a musician should ever stop competing, as long as they recognize that a music competition is simply SPORT, and look at it as a fun experience and way to meet great people and discover new music!

Best of luck to all the nominees!

On learning new, contemporary music... Podcast

In about a month i will premiere a totally new work by Uruguayan-American, Chicago-based composer, Elbio Barilari. Elbio and I have have a wonderful working relationship- I premiered his Toccata Gaucha in 2012, and also performed hi Darwin's Dream Trio on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series in 2012. Last year, he invited me to perform a solo recital on his Latino Music Festival at the Pianoforte Salon in downtown Chicago, and numerous times at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he is on the faculty. I have also heard his orchestral works performed by the Grant Park Symphony, and I must say that Elbio is a true original!
His works always alternate between a natural lyricism and the vitality of his native country's dance rhythms. Invigorating and energetic, to be sure. Harmonies are unusual and often times unexpected, while his orchestrations are so very effective.
Naturally, it should come as no surprise that when he called to ask me if I would learn and perform his latest solo piano work, I didn't even hesitate! He aid it would be "easy". Well, I have to be honest, it is not as easy as I thought it would be! But, then again, there is an easy comfort I have in knowing and understanding his style, from having played and listened to many of his other works. 
So, you see, for a performer, it is no different with contemporary composers and the "old masters"- the more you play and learn a composer's works, the easier it is to continue to do so- to "specialize" in that composer's work. And so often we see living composers have their favorite performers/interpreters of their music- and so it goes.
So, now I am working up both the Toccata Gaucha and his new "Saxon Variations" to include on a recording of Spanish/Latino music. I hope I can do it justice! On the one hand it is great to communicate directly with a living composer, as opposed to having to do the performance practice research and guesswork as to how the composer intended his work to go. On the other hand, it can be a little nerve-wracking having the composer present- because, as a performer, you really want to make the audience not just love your own playing, but also the music which you champion. And that is a hefty responsibility!
While I feel a need for integrity and creativity as a performer  and interpreter of all music, I feel that the true geniuses of music are the creators and composers of it. One time I dreamt of being a pianist and a composer. Today, I am "just" a pianist. Will I ever try my hand at composing again- only time will tell!

Happy New Year 2015! 

Introducing a new look for this website, and getting ready for some exciting concerts coming up in March and April. First a Live Broadcast on WFMT on March 5th and then a major chamber music concert on the CSO Chamber Music Series on March 22nd. April brings two performances at the FOCUS on the ARTS Festival in Highland Park, and before you know it, I will be back at my summer music home- Summit Music Festival! 
Look out for an announcement of an exciting new project on a very grand scale that I have originated! It's going to be great!
Also, check out my new uploads to SoundCloud- of my live performance on the Latino Music Festival in Chicago in October 2013.

Preparing for final concerts and festivities of 2013! 

What a busy season it is! Parties, concerts, fundraisers, open houses....particularly busy if one is the one playing the concerts!
While the season for gratitude and thanksgiving begins on Thanksgiving, it doesn't end there! We all hope and pray for another New Year- with good health, prosperity, and contentment.

For those of you in the Chicago area- come here me perform on Sunday December 15th at 2pm at the Northbrook Public Library in a chamber music program entitled "Homage to Beethoven"- featuring three works in the "Classical Style" by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.  Beethoven's Birthday is December 16th- so this is the perfect timing to honor my favorite composer!

Immediately following will be my Sheridan Music Studio Student Recital from 3:15pm until 4:45pm ( Library closing time).

On Saturday December 21st at 5pm at the Dixon Stein Studio in the Fine Arts Building in Chicago, the FAMS Festival ( of which I am a founding faculty member), will present a benefit concert and fundraiser event. There will be refreshments and a concert of chamber music to entice you. Lawrence Block,  Cellist and FOunder of the Highland Park Strings will Emcee the event!

On Sunday December 22nd, I will be performing with the Lake Forest Civic Orchestra in their Holiday Concert at the Gorton Auditorium at 4pm- with lots of fun holiday cheer!

The, at the end of December (28 and 29) I will be busy accompanying several students for the Walgreen's National Concerto Competition, and then hosting our Annual New Year's Day Musicale!

January will be a month of practice and recording sessions, and getting ready for the Spring. I'll be only to happy to stay warm indoors through the dreaded cold months here in Chicago!

All the best for a Happy Holiday Season and New Year!
Susan

 

Birthday Concert! 

As it turns out, almost every single year of my life I end up giving a concert on or within a day or two of my Birthday!
And this year is no different!
Please come help me celebrate next week with my performance on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra All-Access Chamber Music Series at the Symphony Center's Buntrock Hall, Wednesday October 30, 2013 at 6:30pm.
The program is Mozart and Bruckner- and I will be performing the Mozart Piano Quartet no. 1 in g minor, with Hermine Gagne, violin, Charlie Pikler, viola, and Daniel Katz, cello on the second half of the program. This work is considered to be the first piano quartet for fortepiano and strings in the chamber music literature, and is quite a delight!
I hope to see you there!
Susan


 

Grammy Awards Voting Season has begun: First Round Deadline Approaches 

With the creation of my own record label, Sheridan Music Studio, this is my first time ever with my recorded CD's entered in the Grammy's, and you cannot imagine how excited I am to be a part of it. Not just to be entered in it, but to be a voting member of the NARAS. ( NAtional Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). I have spent a great deal of time listening and evaluating submissions for the Grammy Awards, and I am simply humbled by how many phenomenal musicians there are that exist on this planet! SO much great music, but so little time!
Music exists in a temporal sphere- so it requires the luxury of time. Time to learn and to practice, time to listen and enjoy, and time to create and promote more music!
Plus, the time and responsbility to pass on the legacy that we inherit when we choose to become professional musicians!
It is a most rewarding, if competitive and highly challenging career to pursue, but I encourage all who love music to follow their heart! 
There is nothing better in this world than making music and sharing it with others! 
Best of luck to all in the 56th Grammy Awards! It would be a dream come true to get a nomination, but only time will tell- and the suspense is already killing me!



 
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Soireé CD- Click to buy now!

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"Virtuoso, Refined, Statuesque" Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Sentinel

French Fantasy- Buy now!

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French Fantasy Wins Gold Medal Award in the 2014 Global Music Awards!

Carnival CD- Buy now!

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"Schumann playing of eloquent expression and exquisite beauty"

Jerry Dubins, Fanfare Magazine

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