2018-2019 Teacher Enrichment Grant: House Concerts, Betsy McCabe

The path to becoming a solo recital performer is not always straight and narrow, as Betsy McCabe, recipient of a 2018 AAAPTG Foundation Teacher Enrichment Grant, can tell you.  She studied piano seriously through high school with Betty Nolting in Atlanta. As an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, she majored in European Intellectual History, going on to receive a  Master’s and a PhD in Philosophy from Vanderbilt. Her dissertation,  “Assessing Decision Making and Dispute Resolution in Environmental Decision Making” led to a position at the Environmental Protection Agency in Ann Arbor for 10 years, where she developed regulations for the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.  Betsy also holds a certificate in Piano Pedagogy from Schoolcraft College, where she taught for several years while also maintaining a private studio of 10-15 students.    She has served the Ann Arbor Area Piano Teachers Guild in several capacities including a term as President, Vice President and Seminar Chair.

A few years ago, Betsy decided to downsize her teaching studio and return to her roots, i.e., serious piano study.  She worked with Dr. Joel Schoenhals to prepare a complete recital program in 2017, which she performed for four different audiences, and then a second complete recital program in Spring 2018 performed for three audiences.  She enjoyed the process, experienced growth and decided to continue along this path. Betsy applied for an AAAPTG Foundation Grant for support in preparing two complete new programs of solo piano music (approximately 50 minutes each) which she will perform several times at house concerts for members of the community.  

In her studies with Dr. Schoenhals Betsy works on varied issues involved in preparing full recital programs:  memorization, pacing practice, developing stamina, selection and organization of repertoire, development and delivery of program notes, and the general logistics of putting on a house concert.  In the work that she’s done so far, Betsy has “seen my performing abilities improve through my work with Dr. Schoenhals, and am confident that my performances will continue to be enhanced through continued study.”  

Each recital is performed three or more times for different audiences:  Guild members, neighbors, various friends, family and their guests; it’s very much a modern day salon.  One of Betsy’s guests captured the essence of attending her house concerts in a letter: “The experience of meeting up in a small venue to listen to beautiful, expressive music is a very different experience from the concert hall.  Music can be such an intimate mode of communication, yet some of it is lost in our mass electronic age.” Betsy’s house concerts are unique community-building and enriching activities which the Foundation is proud to support.

Betsy also considers her programs a means by which she honors the teachers with whom she has studied and those who share this music with her.  She has a table with photographs and letters of these individuals which she sets up for guests and thinks of the performances as part of the bigger historical continuum of all those who have played before.  Betsy’s Fall 2018 program included music of Mozart, Brahms and Chopin. Her May, 2019 will feature music by Bach, Haydn, Schubert and Chopin. Betsy welcomes guests to her concerts and can be reached at betsymccabe@comcast.net for further information.  


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