Practicing with Presence

Thursday, June 14 | 3 PM
Practicing with Presence
Free entrance
Aula Consiliare: Piazza Carlo Maria Carafa, 1 | Grammichele


Musicians’ minds often wander when practicing for extended periods, allowing poor musical and technical habits to develop as ears, emotions and intellect are no longer fully engaged in the precise activity at hand. A solution as simple as taking periodic practice breaks may help, but most young musicians must develop a greater focus on each step in the learning process as they execute it, rather than fixing their minds on the results these steps may produce in the future. Lamenting past difficulties or worrying about future progress draws thoughts away from the present, the only time when true progress is possible.

Many musicians make the mistake of concerning themselves more with how long they practice than how they practice. Any distractions will negatively impact practice sessions, whether they are external (smart phones or unwanted interruptions) or internal (negative emotional states or impatience). Productive practice should feel almost meditative, with deep immersion invested in each vital step, with none of those steps ever rushed or glossed over. Some student musicians seem convinced, at least subconsciously, that even the simplest musical correction, such as a forte dynamic that sounds piano, will take weeks or even months to improve, even though they are able to correct the problem immediately when it is pointed out to them in a lesson. They are trapped in a mindset wherein significant progress can only occur in some uncertain future time frame, despite evidence to the contrary.

During this session, I will suggest several easy and practical methods to draw students’ attention to the present and sustain that level of awareness for long periods. The results of this approach can be genuinely transformative for musicians of any age.



Thomas Lanners has appeared as a solo and collaborative pianist and clinician throughout the U.S. and abroad, presenting his New York solo debut in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2004. His performances have been broadcast nationally and internationally on programs such as American Public Media’s Performance Today and RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany in Ireland, among many others.

Thomas has performed, presented master classes, and given lectures on various musical topics as a guest artist throughout the United States, in Mexico, Canada, Europe and Asia. Most recently, he has presented master classes at Yonsei University in Seoul, and in China at the Sichuan Conservatory, Shanghai Conservatory and Conservatory Middle School, Zhejiang Conservatory, East China Normal University and Beijing Normal University. Thomas gave a master class on the NYU Steinhardt School of Music’s Piano Artist Master Class Series in 2012 and served as a performer, master class clinician and adjudicator at the Lee University International Piano Festival and Competition in Tennessee. He performed in Bangkok and Hua-Hin, Thailand in 2014.

Other institutions he has visited as a guest artist include the Eastman School of Music, the Universities of Texas-Austin, Colorado-Boulder, North Texas, Miami (FL), South Carolina, Oklahoma, Western Ontario (Canada), and Iowa; Northwestern, Syracuse, Louisiana State, Southern Methodist, and Baylor Universities; the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and the Unidad Académica de Artes de la Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas in Mexico. In addition, Lanners has played solo recitals in Belgium and performed on the Classical Mondays recital series in Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center.

His latest recording, Ned Rorem: Piano Works, Volume 2, was released worldwide by Centaur Records. The disc received great critical praise, including this from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Thomas Lanners brings exceptional detail and urgency to the repertoire, taking as much care with inner voices as he does with arching statements. Grade: A.” An American Record Guide review of Thomas’ previous CD, Ned Rorem: The Three Piano Sonatas, read: “Anyone who cares about mainstream 20th Century piano music should seek out this superlative recording.” In a review of Lanners’ recording of Leonard Bernstein’s solo piano works, Jed Distler wrote for “All told, Lanners’ loving mastery easily holds its own in any company. Warmly recommended.”

His championing of American piano music was the topic of an interview article in a 2010 issue of Fanfare. He is an active writer on musical topics, with several feature articles having been published in American Music Teacher magazine, among others. Always in demand as a clinician, he has presented numerous sessions at both Music Teachers National Association conferences and various state associations. Thomas will be featured, for the fifth consecutive year, in the annual National Conference, a four-day online piano pedagogy event.

Lanners received his Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the Eastman School as a student of Barry Snyder. He also studied under John Perry at the Aspen Music Festival and Jerome Lowenthal at the Music Academy of the West. Designated the 2014 Distinguished Music Teacher by the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association, he currently serves as Professor of Piano at Oklahoma State University.