AT AGE 4, although neither of your parents is a musician, decide on your own that you want to play the piano. Study with a neighborhood teacher in Racine, Wisconsin, and discover that you love it so much that your parents never have to make you practice.
WHILE ASPIRING to become an architect or a brain surgeon, show so much promise as a young pianist that, when you’re 8 years old, your piano teacher tells your parents that you need to move on to a more advanced instructor.
AFTER MOVING to York, Pennsylvania, apply to study piano with a well-known teacher in Baltimore, an hour’s drive away. Get accepted and work with her for five years, as she gently nudges you to abandon brain surgery for a career in music.
AT 12, PERFORM as a soloist in your very first concert with an actual orchestra. Play a Mozart concerto with the York Symphony Orchestra and discover the thrill of performing before an audience that isn’t made up of relatives and friends.
AS A HIGH school senior at the age of 15, decide to apply only to music schools. Choose Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where you feel both intimidated and inspired by the talented people around you. Decide that this is the right path for you.
GRADUATE FROM Peabody in three years and attend a summer program for musicians in Fontainebleau, France, where you win a one-year scholarship to the École Supérieure de Musique in Paris. Take first prize in the school’s annual competition.
GO ON TO graduate school at Yale University, where you find a mentor, the pianist Boris Berman, who challenges you to think independently and find your own special voice as a musician. Eventually earn your doctor of musical arts degree there.
TEACH FOR TWO years as a visiting professor at Bucknell University and fall in love with the liberal arts setting. Apply for a job at Pomona College and get it. Enjoy working with the students so much that you’re still at it 25 years later.
IN ADDITION to your solo work, play with various chamber music ensembles, including the Mojave Trio and the Garth Newel Piano Quartet, even though the latter means flying across the country to Virginia for each rehearsal.
PERFORM AT venues around the globe, including Carnegie Hall in New York and Disney Hall in L.A. Play both classical works and experimental pieces and earn a Grammy nomination for a CD in which you play a toy grand piano.