Pianist Paul Sheftel Uses Disklavier to Raise Funds for African School

Paul Talking to Shana PHOTO: JAMES STEEBERAt a recent gathering on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a small crowd filled the salon of pianist and educator Paul Sheftel. This was the last of several such events, all held in private spaces around the city during 2013 and 2014, all organized to raise funds for the Mali Nyeta organization, a foundation oversees education and public health projects in Mali and the surrounding areas. One of the projects, an elementary school, even bears the name “l’Ecole Paul Sheftel.” 
Sheftel, who is well-known for his scholarly repertoire editions and his witty, student-level compositions, has also enjoyed a long career as a concert artist in the US and Europe. One of the first composers and teachers to embrace MIDI technology in teaching and performing, he first created digital accompaniments his own compositions as well as for the Music Pathways and Bastien piano methods in the 1980s. He continues to compose and innovate, most recently collaborating with pianist and author Phyllis Lehrer to release the Personal Trainer technique series--available in both digital and print versions.  

Ever exploring the limits of technology, Sheftel also enjoys playing the 7’6” Disklavier Mark IIXG in his Manhattan home. So, instead of playing merely to the audience in Manhattan, he reached THROUGH the Internet and played for TWO audiences. At the very same time, all the way in Denver, Colorado, DEN coordinator Shana Kirk also assembled a group of Sheftel fans at Onofrio Piano Company. Seated before a Disklavier DC7X E3PRO with a large video monitor above, the Denver crowd heard every nuance of Sheftel’s all-Haydn program, carefully watching the keys and pedals move in coordination with the Skype video on the screen. 

Many of the Denver audience members were piano teachers who admire Sheftel, but didn’t know much about the Disklavier. “What an amazing way to expand great music,” noted Carolyn Shaak, who was experiencing a long-distance concert for the first time. “This truly is the future of artist-level teaching.” 

By the end of the program, the technology had disappeared into the background as both audiences alternated chuckling along with Sheftel’s jovial narrative, then immersing
themselves into the delicate and subtle lines of Haydn sonatas.

The event ended with a wowing encore by stride pianist James Steeber, as well as a generous outpouring of donations to the Mali Nyeta cause—in BOTH locations!

For octogenarian Sheftel, who remembers the excitement he felt going to Saturday serial mysteries at the neighborhood theater in the 1940s (long before televisions were common!), embraces the future, as he continues to explore ways to reach audiences with music. In fact, he will use the same Disklavier technology to travel much further — as he presents another of his “Seekin’ Haydn” programs to the audience at the Alaska International Piano-e-Competition in July. Once again, he won’t have to leave New York, and two audiences will hear the program.

If you’d like to learn more about Paul Sheftel, including the new Personal Trainer series, please visit

To learn about and support Mali Nyeta, Inc., please visit their website, where you can also find the handmade works by the Mali Nyeta Sewing Collective for sale.

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