The love of music

Love this blog post from Michele Bernstein. Had to share since it mentions piano camp prominently!


In 2000, DH sent me to piano camp as a birthday gift. We were both taking music lessons (piano for me, guitar for him), and read Noah Adams’ book, Piano Lessons: Music, Love and True Adventures. The description of Adams’ week at Sonata Piano Camp as an adult student inspired DH to surprise me with the same.

music quilt detail

It turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. I went many more times after that. I made great friends, and even improved my piano skills. One of my new friends attended with her mom, Betsy. Betsy was my duet partner in 2001. She was an amazing woman: A college math teacher, marathon runner, downhill ski racer, knitter, quilter.

music quilt 2

When Betsy was dying in 2012, I sent a note along with a CD of her playing at Sonata, including the duet that we played. It arrived the morning she passed away…

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Piano, not Netflix, on a Snow Day


Piano caught in the snow

Tomorrow, January 27, 2015, is going to be a snow day for most of the Northeast.

Why not spend it practicing piano? Join your friends in accumulating some nice hours at the piano.

Write in the comments, below, how many hours you put in and what repertoire you worked on.

Piano is a lonely instrument, at times, so I enjoy encouraging a greater community in small ways like this one.

Have a warm, musical and fulfilling day. And, a cup of hot chocolate!

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Sonatina website gets a new look


Dive in and check out our new website!

Yippee! Sonatina Enterprises, Inc., also known as Sonata Piano Camp, Intermezzo Weekends and Summer Sonatina International Piano Camps, has a new website at

Matt Moon, our tech-guy for all of the videos and livestreaming that we do at camp, has designed and put together the new website. We are delighted with the new look.

On the site you can instantly find the program that you’re looking for (Sonata, Intermezzi or Summer Sonatina). Clicking on that, you’ll find some muted videos and pictures as well as some text.

You can also instantly find the “Apply” button if you want to register without searching deeper for it on the site. There’s a button at the top of the site or you can go to the program and find a similar button.

Making payments got easier too. We now accept Discover, American Express, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal or by check. Such options!

Here’s some fun features on the site:  poke around the EXPLORE section of it and you’ll discover many things.

Availability: click on that and a lightbox will come up telling you how many slots are available for camp or if there’s a wait list.

FAQs: a question and answer section for either Sonatas/Intermezzi or Summer Sonatina.

My online piano lesson information: with a free TRIAL set up and tech session, how-tos, etc.

Video archives: this was an extraordinary amount of work and Matt will continue to add to the array. So far, all videos from 2014 have been added and there’s now a section that allows you to search by composer, piece or person who played.

There’s a ticker counter showing how many more days/hours/minutes and seconds until the first day of Summer Sonatina 2015!

My blog is linked to the pages, there’s a food and garden section with a description and pictures, more photos of the facilities (beds, pianos and rooms), a short blurb on the history of camp, and recent publicity about piano camp.

Scroll down some more and you’ll see where the livestreamed section of our website is hosted.

Below that, is a cool left to right line up of faculty with pictures and bios.

Finally, scrolling down further, you’ll find a map that includes airport distance from Bennington, VT.

Pretty cool, huh?! Thanks and major BRAVOS to Matt Moon for the hours and weeks of work that went into this. So, have some fun and enjoy the new site. We’d love your feedback, too.



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Happy New Year!

To all the pianists, far and wide, that I have met and worked with here at Sonata or  Sonatina International Piano Camp: I’m wishing you all a wonderful 2015 New Year.

Some of you might think that I always need to rely on a chef day in and day out, as is the norm when you come to piano camp. Here, below, is proof positive that I do cook. Most of you have seen pictures of me at the piano so I wanted to add a new flavor to your experience of me!

I look forward to sharing stories about things related to the piano and the various roles I play when being a teacher, colleague, friend, Mom, wife, sibling, daughter and more, to you all.

May 2015 bring you lots of gifts at the piano, whether in practice or performance.

Love, Polly


Photo by Laurie Devine

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How-To Videos on How to Start a Piece and Pedaling

At every Sonata Piano Camp session, I offer a couple of morning classes. This year, my topics were How to Start a Piece, ranging in difficulty from a simple 5-finger pattern to a Brahms Intermezzo and How, What and When to Use the Pedals, depending on the repertoire selected, the acoustics of the room and other reasons.

Each time I offered the class, people would ask me if it’s been recorded. On the final Sonata Piano Camp of the season (there are over a dozen per year if the Intermezzo weekends are included), I had Matt Moon videotape me and they are posted, below.

These are in an informal setting and the cameras pan between the keyboard, an enlarged PDF file of the music discussed, the Sonata participants listening to the lecture and myself. Both videos last about 90 minutes each.

Feel free to watch them and learn some of the techniques I use in my teaching methods. If you have any questions, feel free to post your question on this blog post below. Enjoy.


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Thank yous from Summer Sonatina 2014 Scholarship Recipients

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For pianists, it’s high 10s, not 5s!

For the past couple of summers, we have received wonderful support from adult pianists who wanted to give the gift of piano camp to youngsters who live in Bennington, VT or surrounding towns. This year, the scholarship fund swelled to $8700 and allowed 10 students to attend Summer Sonatina International Piano Camp. Due to the success of this program and the wonderful feedback we received from the young recipients (who were all need-based and of various levels and years of piano study) after they attended piano camp, we plan to add to our fund again for the 2015 summer season. Please enjoy these heartfelt and thankful letters from some of the 2014 local recipients, below.

From V.E., age 11: It has been a great summer for my sister and I, but one of the best parts was Camp Summer Sonatina. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this year, I met some new people that became my best friends in just a couple of days, I encountered some of my old friends who I knew from last year and we all bonded in an incredible way, it’s so amazing how music can bring so many different people from different parts of the world together. Sonatina attracts some of the most talented children and teens from all over the world, for example there have been children from Russia, Turkey, Spain, France, Canada and so many more. I keep thinking of what a privilege it is to be able to come to this extraordinary place and meet so many extraordinary people who play their music beautifully and passionately.  I hope that Camp Summer Sonatina goes on for many, many years and every child who comes back home from Sonatina comes back with a smile on their face.

From A.C., age 11: Thank you, I had a really fun time at your camp! After I came back from your camp I could sight read a lot better and I could just pick up a song and learn it in a day.  My piano skills are better as well. I’m a lot quicker on the piano now and I am learning a new song every day. At Summer Sonatina, I met a lot of new friends that I am still in contact with and I talk to them a lot. One of my best friends at Summer Sonatina was my “dorm parent.”  She was really nice and helped me with the songs that I was working on at that time. But, what made her really special was that she was like a friend. I am honored that Summer Sonatina gave me a scholarship and I am really happy that I came to Summer Sonatina. At the end of Summer Sonatina, it was really hard for me to say goodbye to my friends and the house. I can’t wait for next summer because I am definitely coming again. Also, I hope that I get the same roommates and I hope that I get my same dorm parent as last year. I absolutely loved your camp and learning more piano music!

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Two double artist benches with happy pianists

From J.E., age 9: I really enjoyed myself at camp this year. What amazed me the most was that even though the violin is my main instrument, I play the piano really well because your faculty and counselors teach us so well. I also like that you don’t just want us to focus on playing the piano but you also want us to focus on getting outside and running around and bonding with each other, and the field trips are just extraordinary. We get to see all kinds of cool ballets and orchestras. Because I’m a violinist I particularly enjoyed Joshua Bell. Thank you for all you’ve done for me and my sister. Can’t wait to go next year!

From N.R., age 14: Thank you for giving me a scholarship to attend Summer Sonatina this year. It was a lot of fun and it helped me get better at piano. I was able to polish several previously learned pieces and learn some new pieces. The teachers were very nice and helped me a lot and 3 hours of practice daily helped me learn how to organize my practice time. Then I got to perform on the wonderful Fazioli piano at the Bennington Center for the Arts – twice! I even got to play on the radio, on WBTN!  All with plenty of games, sports and some new friends made. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun and my parents noticed the difference in my playing when I got home. Thank you so much for helping me do all this and I hope you continue to help other kids do the same.

From A.K., age 9: Thank you for giving me a scholarship. I really enjoyed learning about all the different tricks you can do with the piano. I made two great friends this year and I can’t wait to make more in the following years. Summer Sonatina taught twice as many songs as I knew when I first started. I had a great experience and can’t wait until next year! Thanks again!

From H.M., age 13: To begin with, I would like to say a huge thank you for giving me a scholarship sot that I could attend to my second year of Sonatina. While being at Sonatina, I was able to improve my skills on piano, met new people interested with music like me. I find myself practicing more at home and I cannot wait to go next year again. Thank you so much.

From A.M., age 11:  Thank you so much for the scholarship. I had a great time improving my piano skills and learned a lot. I probably wouldn’t have gotten in if it weren’t for the scholarship. I hope I can go next year because I want to learn more. It was my first time at sleepaway camp and I liked feeling independent. I also liked making new friends.

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Love the pink crocs for pedaling!

From a parent: Both of my children received a scholarship to attend piano camp this summer. This was a much anticipated second year and a first time sleep away camp for my second child. The enthusiasm for music that manifest in our home as fighting over who gets the piano is a delightful energy! When we got in the car to bring the children home, one remark was: “Ok, only 51 more weeks until Sonatina.” Besides the obvious musical enhancement both children received from your talented instructors, they gained confidence in themselves as young individuals who sometimes find difficulty finding their way socially being “music geeks.” As a parent it has been a struggle to convince them their people are out there and this experience helped prove my suggestion that this is indeed the case. I am impressed by the awareness Polly has of children’s needs well beyond what they need in their musical development. This is remarkable despite the amount of work that must go into running this operation. So, a huge thank you from a very impressed parent who, by the way, enjoyed the first child-free week with her husband in 13 years!

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With 50 fingers, almost all 88 keys are covered!

A big THANK YOU to all who contributed so generously. We couldn’t have all these wonderful pianists without your help! Bennington, VT is lucky to count you all as our piano angels.


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My Piano Pedigree: in honor of all my teachers


Polly van der Linde in 1982

Polly van der Linde in 1982

With the advent of the academic year fast upon us, I have been thinking of all of the pianists who have shaped my musical life. I want to honor them for all they’ve given me, even if their role was just a small fragment of my musical education. Every one of them shaped my life and meant something to me. I’m often asked about my piano history so here it is in as short a synopsis as I can offer, in chronological order of appearance in my musical upbringing:

Rosamond van der Linde: my mother. She started me out on piano at age 4, inviting all of my neighborhood friends to come in for a lesson, too. She put the fun in piano and has never doubted me in my pursuits as a minor and as an adult (that’d be the equivalent of major!). See A Piano in Every Room

Rein van der Linde: my father. He put the passion in piano for me. We talked piano shop all the time and played many a duo piano concert (and sometimes trio piano concert with my sister, Erica). He was on the faculty for mathematics at Bennington College but most people thought he was a part of the music faculty. Sadly, he died from leukemia in 1996. He is missed every day. It’s hard to find anything online about Dad but someone on a pipe organ forum posted his obituary. Read more.

Beth Eisenberg: a student at Bennington College, who was what was called my “practice buddy” when I was gearing up for auditions. She worked with me for about a year. I wonder if she’s still playing since, in my limited search, I could not find anything recent.

Lionel Nowak: he never taught me piano but he invited me to Bennington College to join us piano class for sightreading sessions when I was all of 13. Somehow I wound up playing the Trout Quintet with BC faculty members at this time as well, thanks to simply being around campus.

Edgar Roberts: my teacher at the Juilliard Pre-College Division from ages 15 – 17. He pushed me to do full solo recitals at Juilliard. Repertoire included: Bach Preludes and Fugues, several Chopin Etudes, several Beethoven Sonatas, Haydn E-flat Sonata, Mendelssohn Variations Serieuses Op. 54, Bartok Suite Op. 14, Creston Prelude and Dance No. 2 and others.  He died in 2003. Single click on the black button near bios on this site. Read more

Robert Goldsand: my teacher for two years while I was an undergrad at SUNY Purchase. I commuted to the Manhattan School of Music for lessons with him. I learned lots of Brahms with him and got more guidance in technique, but, I think I bored him as he ate his lunch in almost all of my lessons. I was not one of his best students.  He died in 1991. Read more

Daniel Epstein: worked with me my last two years at SUNY Purchase. I learned a huge amount of repertoire with Dan. He got me to believe in myself as a pianist, too. Larger works: Beethoven Sonatas Op. 27, No. 1, Op. 31, No. 3, Waldstein, Op. 109, several etudes and pieces by Liszt, more Brahms, Prokofiev Sonata No. 3, Chopin Sonata No. 2, Estampes, Rachmaninoff-Paganini Variations. Dan’s website

Samuel Sanders: while I never worked with him on solo repertoire, he was my chamber music and Sonata music coach at SUNY Purchase. I swear I learned how to really play 2 against 3 when I worked on the Brahms F minor viola/clarinet Sonata with him. He was strict, funny as anything but also extremely giving. I learned and performed more repertoire with him than solo rep during my undergrad days. This was before the days of anyone pursuing a degree in collaborative piano. We were simply known as accompanists then. Sam prided himself on being the first to get proper billing when playing with (not for) big name artists. He also encouraged me to pursue this avenue as there not very many women doing so at the time. I found I enjoyed working with others more than being on the stage solo. Read more

Gilbert Kalish: he was my piano repertoire coach at Purchase. He had everyone in his class learn at least one Bach Invention, Sinfonia, Haydn Sonata, Crumb Makrokosmos (these had been composed only a few years prior to my learning them). I had never seen such beautiful musical scores before (in the shape of a spiral, a crucifix and all based on the zodiac). Read more

Robert D. Levin: well, he didn’t teach me piano – he taught me theory, and, I suppose, discipline during my undergrad days at Purchase. I have never worked so hard to understand theory, but, like math, I was not very good at it. Nevertheless, I learned so much, in part because I got to witness the genius side of RDL. I loved hearing him sight read or play by ear, full orchestral scores in classes. It was mesmerizing. And, yet, I will never forget when he sightread the Rachmaninoff-Paganini Variations with me as soloist for the Purchase Concerto Competition (yay, I won) and he misread the meter in the 6 bars before Variation XIX! Horrors! However, he saved the day by putting up his hands and telling the jury that it was his fault and started that spot over again. Somehow this story really resonated with me as his brilliance could be a tad frightening. Read more

Benjamin Kaplan: for the 2.5 years (1982-84)I spent in England, Benjamin Kaplan was my teacher. At that time, he was not affiliated with any music school but I took two 1.5 hour lessons per week at his studio. He completely revamped my technique and prepared for my first international piano competition in 1984, the Busoni, in Bolzano, Italy. Repertoire in those days included: Schumann Carnaval, Debussy Preludes, nineteen Chopin Etudes, a half dozen Nocturnes, Bach-Busoni Chorales, several Liszt Etudes, Beethoven Sonatas Op. 10, No. 3, Tchaikovsky Concerto and other pieces. There is mention of the late Benjamin Kaplan in an article by David C. F. Wright online (it’s copyrighted so I only mention of it here.

Theodore Lettvin: I returned to graduate school, at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts, in 1987. Ted Lettvin was my assigned distinguished professor. He expanded my dynamic range, especially on the quiet end and had an interesting way of counting. I remember spending long hours on the Brahms-Handel Variations as well as the Beethoven Op. 101 Sonata. Read more

Ilana Vered: another concert pianist that I worked with at Rutgers. A true tour de force at the piano. I loved her energy and excitement in her playing. I hoped that it’d rub off on me as well. Ilana’s website

Paul Hoffman: also at Rutgers, Paul got me interested in Berio, premiering new works and taught me how to count in circles. Paul’s website

Marina Young: Marina was also at the Mason Gross School of the Arts and showed me various ways in how to produce differences in tone. Strumming and plucking the strings of the piano helped to feel a new sensation under my fingertips and it translated back to the piano keys. Read more

Bernard Greenhouse: my passion for cello music gave me the opportunity to play with a lot of cellists, learning lots of repertoire. I had the good fortune to work with him on the Carter Sonata, a piece written for him specifically. I also had the honor of playing the Debussy Sonata with him. Lucky me. There were many more pieces learned but those two really stand out. Read more

Arnold Steinhardt and Michael Tree: I had the privilege to work with these two major string players for many, many coachings. They always graced the coaching sessions with a good sense of humor.  Read more

Also, a big shout out to my colleagues who give back so much to our piano camps, both for children, ages 7-16 and adult pianists.

Finally, since I come from a family of seven pianists, I’d be remiss if I did not mention my five siblings, who all were a big part of the piano world at home. Thank you Tasha van der Linde Irving, Amy van der Linde, Erica vanderLinde Feidner and Tiaan van der Linde. We always had a good dose of healthy competition for who would get to practice on the best piano. This launched the need for a practice wheel and it is still incorporated in the daily routines for all of our piano camps.

Many thanks to all the teachers who have molded my piano life. When reading bios on concert pianists, they often do not single out their teachers. Teachers matter and can make a difference! Who has shaped yours?

To end with a giggle: the photographer , whose name escapes me, came to take this photograph at 7:00am! I was an exhausted college student and couldn’t comprehend my Mom’s enthusiasm for this appointment. Only after I accepted this particular shot did I learn that this photographer had never taken pictures of anyone at the piano. His norm was taking them of horses!!! Neigh, neigh! (a little double entendre here if you speak Dutch!).


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