Kenn Gartner

Video Conference Lessons Available

Accompanist, Composition, Conducting, Ear Training, Performer, Piano, Voice


Will Travel

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This photo is from my October 2013 recital at the Szechuan Conservatory, Gendu, China; 237 high fives from students, many of whom attended my Master Classes in Piano Technique.


I was listening to our first lesson while I was driving and I am starting to realize the beauty of your teaching methodology.

I am excited for what the future holds for us

Adult student Brian Kim


Hi Kenn,

I hope this finds you in good health and good spirits.  I thought I’d give you an update on Camille’s career.

Camille is under contract with Portland Opera for another year.  It’s been a great experience for her.  In February she participated in the Met Council competition and won the Pacific Northwest regional in Seattle.  A couple of weeks ago she sang on the Met stage in the semifinals.  By all accounts (I unfortunately couldn’t attend), she performed beautifully but did not advanced to the finals.  There were 21 singers in the semifinals, and nine advanced.  But considering she started that journey in a pool of about 500 singers, making the top 20 is a great accomplishment.  She continues to grow artistically by leaps and bounds.  She’ll try for the Met finals again at some point, but will probably take a year off from that.  I think she is finally going to try for Merola this year.  She’s been adamant about waiting until she’s ready, and she now feels she is there, as does her teacher, Catherine Cook.  She continues to get invited to some big auditions, and I feel confident that she will eventually get to work in A level houses.

Whenever I see Camille, she always tells me what a tremendous advantage she has had in her journey by developing her piano skills.  She really knows how to utilize the piano to learn parts, etc.  So once again, Kenn, thank you for all you did to help her!

Best wishes,

Jeff Sherman


Dear Kenn,

I just wanted to thank you for your time and wonderful performance you shared with me and my staff today at SFUSD Buildings and Grounds.

I very much enjoyed the music, and it’s very special for me to have an opportunity to witness such accomplished talent and artistry. (That moment in time is one that I was in the right place to gain the pleasant memory).

I also enjoyed our brief conversation. Your shady history growing up in New York promises a very interesting story path to where you are today.

It’s truly my pleasure to make your acquaintance,

Thanks again,

Kevin Connolly

A review of a concert performed in Tiburon, November 18, 2010, called me “Marin’s Eclectic Pianist.” ( Another, from a performance in San Francisco, mentioned “Gargantuan (Piano) Technique.” At the time of this writing, I am one of two teachers of piano in California on the Juilliard Private Teachers Directory. It seems I am the only one on the directory in Voice. There are no other nationally certified teachers of Piano or of Voice in Marin. I am the President of the Board, BASOTI (Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute), founded by Sylvia Anderson.

In PIANO, I am listed on The Juilliard Private Teacher Directory as 1 of 5 on the West Coast:  2 in L.A., 1 in Bakersfield, 1 on Bainbridge Island (Washington State).  I am the sole PIANO listing from L.A. to Bainbridge.

In THEORY and in EAR TRAINING, there is one teacher in Los Angeles.  I am the only THEORY and EAR TRAINING listing on the West Coast above LA.

In VOICE and CONDUCTING (Choral and Orchestral), I am the only Juilliard Teacher on the West Coast.

One needs to get to Chicago to find other Juilliard teachers in these areas.

A few years ago, I received the designation “Best of San Rafael for Juilliard level Piano and Voice lessons.”  Some months later, the additional ”  . . . and World-Wide Concerts” was added.  One September a 9 year old from China came with her parents.  The first day she took a 3-hour lesson.  I mentioned to the translator she had had poor instruction.  The translator said her father was her teacher!!!  I was embarrassed of course.  Her dad said I was correct:  she did not use Alberti bass in her performance of the C Major Mozart sonata, for example.  The family went to Napa Wednesday, and then Candy (her English name) came for a 4-hour lesson Thursday.  Friday they flew back to China.

When a prospective student comes for an audition, THE STUDENT AUDITIONS ME!  During the audition–for which there never is a charge–I demonstrate what we can do together, and the student makes the decision.

An extremely important thing to do at a lesson is have the student record the work he/she does together with the teacher!  This has two immediate effects:  the student now has a progress record based upon the collection of recordings.  But its greatest benefit is the ability for the student to repeat exactly what was taught!  I strongly suggest a small GO-PRO.  One may buy a used one in a pawn shop.

Often I am asked what one should look for in finding a teacher:  here are some things, which might prove useful in your search:

  1.  Ask if it is possible to watch the teacher teach!  If the prospective student likes what is being done, proceed further.

  2. Observe if the teacher mentions:  “This is C, that is F, etc.”  One needs to learn names of notes, but to teach this first wastes time.  For those who drive, when was the last time you read S-T-O-P on a stop sign?  You probably reacted to the sign’s shape and color, and you stopped.  The teacher of music should learn to read—and to teach—via gestalt:  the ability to recognize something by its shape!  For example, prospective students of any age visiting my studio use both hands simultaneously within 5 minutes of our working together!

  3. An extremely important thing to do at a lesson is have the student record the work he/she does together with the teacher!  This has two immediate effects:  the student now has a progress record based upon the collection of recordings.  But its greatest benefit is the ability for the student to repeat exactly what was taught!  I suggest a small GO-PRO.  One may buy a used one in a pawn shop.

  4. The two “Red Books” are a dead giveaway for being a piano teacher’s best friend:  the two hands do not learn equally.  BTW, John Schaum actually did compose some great things:  “Donald the Dinosaur” is brilliant.

  5. To find out more call for an appointment:  415-444-0618.  If I have a student at the same level as the prospective student, I want the new student to watch me teach.  Only after I have answered all the student’s questions (or, in the case of very young children, the parents’ questions) do we discuss scheduling and fees.

  6. At what age should my child start piano?  I have a number of 3 year olds who work with me 12 minutes 3, 4, or 5 times a week, depending upon a parent’s schedule.  Imagine how high reading grades would be if kids learn to read two and a quarter inches of space with all the data in-between?

If the above has helped you in your search, kindly let me know.

Kenn Gartner

PS:  The gross error—an error of omission—which 99%+ of the public makes–is not recognizing that learning an instrument is the only thing people do that exists ONLY IN TIME!  Once a note is performed, it is gone.  Think back to first grade:  the teacher calls you to the board to read:  “See Jack and Jill go up the hill  . . . “  “Very good,” she says.  “Go back to your desk and read silently to yourself.”  BUT YOU DO NOT READ SILENTLY TO YOURSELF:  YOU SUB-VOCALIZERead something right now and put your fingers on either side of your windpipe.  You will probably feel muscles move under your fingers.  The benefit of learning to read music at an early age is obvious:  you read 2.5 inches of space via gestaltWithout sub-vocalization!  Please refer to paragraph 2 above.

-You are a treasured genius, artist and teacher. Patrick, continues in the music industry after receiving his Bachelor’s degree in music composition and is considering returning to school for a degree in film scoring. You have had a profound affect on him as a mentor, teacher and friend and helped him in more ways then you can imagine.

Thank you. Forever in our hearts. – Sara Martin


Recent Student Accomplishments:

  1.  Best Actor in a Musical, so designated by San Francisco Critics
  2.  The Voice Contestant, recruited by the judges’ panel
  3.  Only Marin School of the Arts (music) student admitted to the San Francisco Conservatory

Best of San Rafael 2015 & 2016!!!

San Rafael Winner for:  Piano & Voice Lessons

Category:  Julliard Level Piano and Voice Lessons + Concerts World Wide
See website for award details:


Dear Dr. Gartner:
It is our great pleasure to invite you to join the Jury Board of ENKOR International Music Competition, Voice 2015: 
ENKOR, the first global internet competition for classical music performers, has a jury which consists of 350 members from 60 countries, and is one of a few with a transparent adjudication and scoring system.
We believe your participation will bring valuable knowledge and expertise, and we would be very happy and grateful if you join us in our quest for innovation.  Please let us know if you would like to join in.
Düsseldorf, Germany


“Kenn is the Cadillac of Piano Teachers!”

Charylu Roberts, Music Publisher,

Piano Teacher, Composer

“You are incorrect Charylu:  he is the Rolls-Royce of Piano Teachers!”

Newcomb Barger, Luthier


Dear Kenn,
You were one of the teachers that laid a stepping stone for Camille’s musical enlightenment.  You provided one of the sparks.  The job you do can’t be assigned a value.  It’s priceless.  It has a tremendous ripple effect.
You can’t always be aware of the profound effect you may have on a young student.  You have had a lasting, positive impact on Camille.  And for that, we thank you.
Jeff and Julie Sherman


Dr. Gartner, were you the music teacher at PS 10 in the early 70s when I would have attended?

MAY 21ST, 2017

Dr. Gartner, thank you so very much for taking the time to respond.  I just wanted you to know that you had and always will be a big part of my life’s happiness.  I so very much enjoyed you as a teacher, your class and our singing engagements.  Such a very happy time in my life.  Music is in my heart and always will be. When I plan to visit San Francisco I will email you so I can thank you in person for the joy and happiness you brought to me with your gift of teaching and instruction.  

Thank you again for your response.  It means a lot to me.

Debbie Gangloff Stocksen

A REVIEW OF AN APPEARANCE JANUARY 11, 2015:   Jameison Ranch Vineyards, Napa, California

Reflections on a Movement:  Silence, Napa 2015
Somewhere between harmony and melody 
there is an empty place in which notes find themselves 
abandoned from the stream of music. 
All alone 
Searching for a moment in time to resonate. 
A tempo that awaits the notes’ presence returning into being;
a languid anticipation, 
and therein lies an ecstasy, a longing to hear, 
that I cannot express in words and is absent in music, 
it has no voice or sound 
And yet is beautiful. 
Mark M. Whelan
 “In the past three months of taking lessons with Kenn, I’ve learned more technique than I have in my twenty years of playing.  I feel I have grown as an interpreter of classical music in such a short period of time that I can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeve to help me improve even more!  He is an amazing pianist for whom I have so much respect and am blessed to be under his wing,”

Tara O’Brien, Pianist, Teacher, Composer

Kenn Gartner is the only Teacher of Piano, from Los Angeles to the Washington State border and east to Utah, and the only Teacher of Voice in the Western States, except for one teacher in Oklahoma, listed in The Juilliard’s Private Teachers Directory.

“Kenn Gartner – Marin’s Eclectic Pianist”

(From a review of Dr. Gartner’s November 18, 2010 recital, The Community Congregational Church, Tiburon.) 
To read the entire review of this program–as well as other reviews– please visit:

When someone comes for an audition, the student auditions me!

Parents and adult students are often interested in results of work with a particular teacher.  As a courtesy, one may find, at the bottom of this site, a short list of present and former students whose achievements may be of interest to any considering study.


For a beginning pianist:  The student is incorrectly taught if thumb notes are pushed down with the forearm and the first finger joint bends concavely rather than convexly.
For a beginning singer:  The student is incorrectly taught if breaths occur in the middle of a word and the pupil is not taught to correctly use the diaphragm and with the correct position of the larynx.
FYI:  The Juilliard School recently increased requirements for those listed in its Private Teacher Directory.  In addition to a complete resume, a teacher must document public performance within the past ten years and provide outstanding recommendations.

Some Accomplishments since 11/2004

The Music Teachers National Association, MTNA (not to be confused with MTAC, Music Teachers Association of California, a local organization), certified Dr. Gartner nationally in the teaching areas of Piano and of Voice.   He is the sole nationally certified teacher of voice and piano in the 949XX Zip Codes.  MTNA’s local affiliate is The California Association of Professional Music Teachers.   He is also on Steinway’s Private Instructor List.
January 2005:  Marin School of the Art’s Music Theater Program, under Dr. G’s direction, wins Sacramento State University’s Lanaea Festival for the first time, beating 49 other high schools from around the nation.  (To ascertain if Marin School of the Arts has won this since 2005, one should call Novato High School.)
The Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Institute (BASOTI) elects Dr. Gartner President and Chairman of the Board, two posts he held until 2013, at which time BASOTI closes because of the retirement of the Artistic Director.
September 2005:  The San Francisco Conservatory accepts his Voice student, Zachary Franczak, a Marin School of the Arts graduate, with a scholarship.  Zachary was the first (possibly only?) student from MSA to achieve this honor.  While still a student at Marin School of the Arts, Zach won a NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) competition in the areas of Art Song and of Music Theater.  The prize included a performance at the San Francisco Conservatory.
Dr. Gartner’s 13-year-old eighth grade Voice student, Brittany Newell, receives Gold at the California Music Educators’ Association adjudication festival for those having received gold medals in their local festivals.  (Sacramento State University, May 10, 2008.)  Brittany is accepted to the San Francisco Conservatory’s Prep Division.
Brittany and Zachary are soloists at Kenn Gartner and Friends, Doctor Gartner’s third Steinway Showcase sponsored by Sherman Clay in San Francisco, May 4, 2008.
September 2008:  Kenn debuts at The Herbst Theatre as both soloist and pianist for soprano Margot Alexander.
2010:  Concert tour of California, New York, and France.  His performance in Paris raises several thousand Euros for breast cancer research, and his performance generates requests for five encores!  The producer points to his watch before the last encore to indicate that if the program runs overtime, there will be a financial penalty.
2011: Dr. Kenn Gartner is the only music teacher in California—perhaps the entire United States–recruited and certified by the Better Business Bureau.  His rating:  A+.
2013:  Kenn is asked to be a Visiting Artist, University of Wyoming, in Music Theater.  He lectures on François Delsarte, gives Master Classes in Musical Theater and Singing Performance, and presents a piano recital.  Students rate his classes and demonstrations A+.
10-11/2013:  Concert tour of China.  Kenn performs in Canton, Chengdu (Sichuan Conservatory), and Changchun.
Despite his attempts to disorientate the students, he is asked to return in July 2015.
2014 Accomplishments:  Producers of The Voice request one of my students to audition for the show in Washington this June!


Dr. Gartner’s Method
Unlike some, I do not charge for the first interview, audition, or advice.  I strongly suggest any person seeking lessons watch a teacher teach:  IT IS YOUR JOB TO AUDITION THE TEACHER!  When a person discusses the possibility of our working together, I demonstrate some things, which can help accomplish a student’s goals.  It is then up to the student to decide regarding our work together.  All lessons are recorded so a student has a record of accomplishment; the student IS ALSO ABLE TO REPEAT THE LESSON OVER AGAIN!  I also encourage students to telephone with questions about our work:  The question not asked is the stupid question!
Kenn came to California November 1, 2004 to join the faculty, Marin School of the Arts, until June 2005.
Prior to coming to California, he was acting choral director, Stuyvesant High School, and Music Consultant for Ballet Tech, two schools where he taught in NYC following 9/11.
Kenn studied Music and Theater at Cornell University. A graduate degree from The Juilliard School of Music followed. He possesses a Master’s degree in Musicology and Music Education from Queens College, City University of New York, and was the first Ph.D. in Performance from New York University’s Steinhardt School.  Doctor Gartner has performed in over 60 countries. His experiences range from a command performance for the Mayor of Halifax (Nova Scotia) to master classes in piano (Shanghai Institute, Sichuan Conservatory, China). He was the first New York City schoolteacher to perform in New York’s prestigious Town Hall.  At New York’s Flushing High School, his choruses won many prizes and performed Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s and Brahms’s Requiems, and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy.  He has taught over 50,000 students during his tenure in public and private educational facilities.
Dr. Gartner teaches piano, voice, conducting, piano performance and accompanying, composition, and theory. He is a vocal coach, having sung at the Metropolitan Opera at age 8. He accompanies and mentors all instrumentalists and singers at auditions and festivals. He gets his greatest enjoyment from helping students win scholarships, contests, or a place in the school of their choice.




Kenn Gartner offers the music of

Carl Maria von Weber

Victorian Englander House – November 11, 2006

“Only someone who is at ease with gargantuan technique can play [the] Concertstuck in F minor, Op. 79, by Carl Maria von Weber.  Welcome to the world of Kenn Gartner.  Along with the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra and under the baton of conductor Geoffrey Gallegos, Gartner performed [the] Konzertstück for his Saturday audience at Victorian Englander House.  The piece is interesting, requiring streams of cluster chord madness and delicate, seemingly spontaneous notes.  At times, the orchestra and piano appear to splash through waves of fire.  It is a long piece, a precise piece, an abstract romantic – not always easy to hear, but fascinating to watch and [his] performance on piano was groundbreaking.” ~ Jean Bartlett for San Francisco Virtuoso
(In 2014, he premiered Liszt’s arrangement of this work in China and the United States)

Shaping a Musical Performance,Conductor Kenn Gartner directs the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra

An evening at Victorian Englander House –

November 11, 2006

The piece was Concertino for Flute, Opus 107 by Cécile Chaminade.  The soloist was Elizabeth Gaston on flute and The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra played under the baton of conductor Kenn Gartner.  Well able to communicate with his orchestra, Conductor Gartner displayed a well-trained inner ear, able to direct his orchestra and his flutist through an easy elegance of tempo and beat.  His physical gestures were calm and confident and his obvious respect for his orchestra allowed the music to truly capture the accessible dance that is the music of Cécile Chaminade.
Reviewed by Conductor Tracks:
Interview at
The Juilliard’s Directory of Private Piano and Voice Teachers
Web Site 1:
Citations:  Other musicians use my work and research in their books.  Maurice Hinson, perhaps the most famous musicologist alive today, quotes me in his book, Music for More Than One Piano, p. 48.  The second is someone who used my research for her article.  Both (plus several others) deal with the music of George Crumb.

Some students’ accomplishments

Victoria Rios was accepted to the Berklee School in Boston, MA.  (I call the school “Juilliard for Jazz.”)  She did this by coming for 10 intense lessons in 8 days!  At her audition in Barcelona, Spain, the committee stopped her after the first song:  “You’re in!” they said.  I also had the privilege of coaching her brother, Jose Rios, one of FIVE conga players at the school, in theory, ear training, and voice.
Kelsey Byrne, Soprano, won $15000 in scholarships to Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, an award that included the hard to win “Emerging Young Artist” prize.
Zachary Franczak, Baritone, scholarship student at the San Francisco Conservatory.  He was seen in the leading role of Tommy, (the rock opera written by The Who), produced by the Ray of Light Theater, The Victoria Theater, October 16 to November 7, 2009, which won him Best New Actor 2010 from the San Francisco Critics. Now in New York, he is making his fortune on Broadway.
Brittany Newell, Soprano, left the preparatory division, San Francisco Conservatory, to continue vocal studies in Aspen, Colorado.
Camille Sherman, Soprano, won Superior for her performance, California Music Educators Association Adjudication Festival, Sonoma State University.  She also earned Superior for Flute Duet.  She was selected as a Counselor at Cazadero! She graduated from the Boston Conservatory and is now working on a Master’s degree at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Marta Lledo, a student who came periodically from Cabo San Lucas (Mexico) performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in Sacramento.  She is presently the pianist for Blutner Pianos in Germany.
Makenna won the 2010 Marin County Fair’s Star Search for 12 year old students:  thier audio engineer was curious as to how I made an electronic instrument sound like a real piano.
William no longer studies with me, but is typical of what may be accomplished within a very short time:  I only arrived in California November 2004; Billy started with me late 2005.

William Zhao and Dr. Kenn Gartner, excerpted from Small House, full book of auditory page turners:

SF Concerto Orchestra Competitions


“Latin American Encores Tour”


Jean Bartlett, Arts Correspondent

Ran Pacifica Tribune, November 22, 2006

Primary Website:

Contact Info:

(415) 444-0618

Senior Winner, Marin Music Chest
Visiting Artist in Music Theater, University of Wyoming
4 Concert Tours, Peoples Republic of China:
11 Recitals and Master Classes in Piano Technique
Interview at
National Association of Teachers of Singing
The Juilliard’s Directory of Private Piano and Voice Teachers
Web Sites Citations of other musicians using my work and research in their books!  The first is Maurice Hinson, perhaps the most famous Musicologist alive today.  The second is someone who used my research for her article.  Both (plus several others) deal with the music of George Crumb.
William Zhao and Dr. Kenn Gartner, excerpted from Small House, full book of auditory page turners “SF Concerto Orchestra Competitions present Latin/Latin American Encores Tour,” By Jean Bartlett, Arts Correspondent, Ran Pacifica Tribune, November 22, 2006:
Friday night, 9 year old piano virtuoso William Zhao of Dixie Elementary School, San Rafael, sat before his Pacifica Sanchez Concert Hall audience and played: “Rumores de la Caleta” by Isaac Albéniz. The composition is a malagueña inspired under a flourish of classical piano. The piece was the first to be performed in the San Francisco Concert Orchestra Competition entitled: Latin/Latin American Encores Tour.”  It is complicated and  demanding requiring:  crossed hands, stretched chords and an ability to play poetry. Zhao met all of these challenges.  Zhao, a relaxed but thrillingly accurate pianist, swept across the dance rhythms of Spain, catching the shade and flourish of each note like a warm, romantic Spanish guitar – except of course Zhao presented his tempered fire on piano.  Obviously at ease with rhythmic flexibility and delicate finger work, Zhao is traveling a gifted musical path.
The next performer was pianist, composer, baritone and conductor Dr. Kenn Gartner. New York City born Gartner, a graduate of The Julliard School, is also Mr. Zhao’s piano teacher. Gartner presented several selections: “Fire Dance” (Manuel de Falla y Matheu); the world’s most famous tango “La Cumparsita” (Gerardo Matos Rodriguez); “Obrigada, Jose” (Kenn Gartner); and the additionally world renowned “Malagueña” (Ernesto Lecuona). Exploring the great emotional rise and fall of the piano, Gartner’s fingers laughed and played lithe internal lines, moods of charm or dark intimacy, with a sonorous and obvious affection for each composer’s melodic themes and dynamics. Explanation per song: “Fire Dance” was swagger and Romany gusto; “La Cumparsita” pulsed with exceptionally explosive rhythms and inventive tossed-in tidbits (which included a little boogie-woogie) from such tunes as Bizet’s “Habanera,” Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Berlin’s “Cheek To Cheek.” “Obrigada, Jose” caressed and haunted and “Malagueña” was the expression of tickled abandonment.  Like his audience, Dr. Gartner enjoyed a thorough zest for each composition.


Contact Info:

(415) 444-0618