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A Pianist’s Life


Teaching, Tutoring, Practicing, Performing


Philadelphia native Peter Dugan (B.M. ’11, piano) doesn’t have a lot of spare time. In addition to being a teaching fellow and a Writing Center tutor, he will also be performing as-yet-unannounced repertoire with Charles Yang (B.M. ’11, M.M. ’13, violin) at the Juilliard gala, on April 29—not to mention winding up his master’s degree (he studies with Matti Raekallio) and preparing for his graduation recital, on April 14. He recounted the events of February 27, the last Thursday before spring break.

Peter Dugan
(Photo by Kevin G. Wong)


8 a.m. Thursday is the one day of the week when I can snooze a bit, so I do—for a while.

10:15 a.m. Quick shower while the coffee maker gets going. I just got a really dark Dominican coffee from Fairway and it smells awesome.

10:24 a.m. My favorite breakfast: Life cereal, coffee, and a protein shake. I’m currently using Whey to Go brand powder—I admit I’m a sucker for puns.

11:03 a.m. After a brisk walk to Juilliard, I head to the Writing Center to clear up a few scheduling issues, then dash across the hall into a practice room—it’s technically for voice students only, but I’m feeling rebellious and I need to glance over some material for my appointment in 27 minutes.

11:30 a.m. I’m upstairs in the library’s media room, meeting two students who are in Professor [Edward] Klorman’s (B.M. ’04, Graduate Diploma ’08, viola) Teaching Music Theory course. These guys are training to be teaching fellows, and I, as a current fellow, have been asked to check in on their progress with keyboard harmony, a fantastic new addition to the theory curriculum. They are breezing through their figured bass realizations, so I am able to send a good report back to HQ.

12:17 p.m. Waiting outside [voice department chair] Edith Bers’s studio on the fifth floor while mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz warms up. To keep myself occupied, I sing through a country song Kara and I wrote in my head while timing it on my flip phone. I need to know if there will be room to squeeze it in on my graduation recital in April.

12:28 p.m. Ms. Bers and Kara are ready for me to come in and accompany the lesson. Kara and I have been dating for over three years, and I’m still blown away every time I hear her sing! Today it’s “Que fais-tu” from Gounod’s Faust.

2 p.m. After Kara’s lesson—which went great—we come home (we share a little studio) for a quick lunch of Trader Joe’s frozen pizza, then head uptown for our Gluck Community Service Fellowship (G.C.S.F.) concert at Valley Lodge, a temporary residence for formerly homeless men and women.

3:34 p.m. Kara and I are amazed when one of the men in our audience starts singing along to my instrumental rendition of “All of Me.” He has an awesome voice! He and Kara do a fantastic impromptu duet of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” 

3:58 p.m. In a cab heading back to school, Kara and I agree that that was one of our favorite G.C.S.F. concerts ever. The audience was so involved, and they enjoyed our Purcell and Brahms selections as much as the jazz standards!

4 p.m. Now for two hours in the Writing Center, where I tutor English and music theory. My first tutee has written a short essay comparing a selection of 19th-century paintings to photos from the Humans of New York blog. My second—a Theory II student—is looking for a comprehensive review in preparation for his midterm tomorrow. We cover various musical forms and structures, secondary dominants, and all kinds of fun stuff like that.

6:09 p.m. Tutoring ran a little late, but I still have a decent break ahead of me, then more tutoring at 7.

6:10 p.m. It’s violin superstar Charles Yang! He’s my collaborator and one of my best friends. We bump into each other in the hallway and immediately duck into a practice room to start jamming. We play and sing through “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” It occurs to us that that could be a good selection for us to play together at the Juilliard Gala in April or at our Joe’s Pub show in March, so jamming morphs into rehearsing.

6:35 p.m. Charles and I are in the midst of an R&B-style cover of the Game of Thrones theme song when he notices a tour passing by. He swings open the door of the practice room and starts transitioning from Game of Thrones into “Billie Jean.” The prospective students and their parents are, well, I don’t know, I didn’t see their faces; but I’m guessing that’s not exactly how their Curtis tour went down!

6:48 p.m. Oh no, now I only have 12 minutes for dinner. Gourmet Garage it shall be.

7 p.m. I settle down into one of Juilliard’s awesome new keyboard labs to hold two hours of walk-in office hours for Theory II students who are writing three-voice fugue expositions. The students are all doing great, and they’re a pleasure to work with. 

8:23 p.m. A break in the flow of theory students means a few precious moments of practice time. I’m programming the “Moonlight” Sonata on my graduation recital, the theme of which is “music of the night from Beethoven to the Beatles.” The last movement of “Moonlight” is tough, but it’s starting to feel good finally.

9 p.m. Exhausted, I head home.

9:20 p.m. I grab a beer from the fridge, and Kara and I settle down for a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead—we’ve gotten a bit behind, and there is nothing like some zombie gore at the end of a long day. 

11:30 p.m. After a quick review of tomorrow’s schedule and a couple of last-minute emails, it’s time for bed.

The Juilliard gala, Dreams Come True: A Celebration of Juilliard Music, takes place on April 29; Dugan’s recital takes place on April 14. 


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