What is the Piano Retreat?
It’s a three day get together for pop piano enthusiasts. It’s a chance for adult piano players (and wannabe piano players) to gather for information, instruction, practice, encouragement, critique, camaraderie, reflection, fun, and parties all in a comforting environment of extreme natural beauty.
Who is it for?
We have a track for total beginners and one for “the rest of us” who know the basics, but want to grow musically. Many have either taken one of the Instant Piano workshops offered nationally through non-credit college programs or who have studied the Pianofun courseware or have learned the basics of chord piano elsewhere. In other words ANYBODY who has a desire to learn and improve on the piano has a place at the Piano Retreat.
How is this different than regular piano lessons?
Regular piano lessons usually teach classical music which revolves around the lengthy and tedious process of reading music notation. We teach the system used most by professional musicians, the chord method which de-emphasizes note reading.
So what makes the Piano Retreat special?
It’s really difficult to find competent instruction in this field. Most piano teachers don’t know the chord system and have never played professionally. On the other hand many competent pop and jazz players either have no interest in teaching or are simply not good at communication. The founder of this teaching system (and head of the Piano Retreat faculty) was and is a professional piano player. But he has dedicated his 30 year career to making this information understandable, inspirational, and fun. He has taught close to 25,000 people face to face, and another 150,000 have learned his system through his courseware and through workshops taught by his colleagues.
How does the Piano Retreat differ from the one day Instant Piano workshops?
It differs in many ways. The Instant Piano workshop runs 3.5 hours and teaches all the basics of chord piano playing. Students learn how to take a piece of written music—any song, any style, any key—and play it on the piano with two hands…albeit quite basically. Also the workshop is strictly lecture demonstration. Students receive courseware which includes a book and CD for future home practice. But there is no “hands on” learning.
The Piano Retreat, by contrast, is very hands-on and has a faculty of working, professional musicians. Beginners can get the basic Instant Piano curriculum, but spread out over several days, with ample time for practice and close teacher supervision.
The “intermediate” track is for those who already understand chord piano basics, but want to improve their playing by learning the secrets of the piano players’ trade. Instruction is “hands-on,” and students will bring their own pianos when possible, or use the ones we provide. They will play in the classes and will have time for individual practice throughout the weekend. They will also have direct one-on-one access to the faculty, and will be able to share expertise and experiences with other campers.
I’m a total beginner. Can I learn to play piano at the retreat?
Yes, we have a special track just for total beginners, where you will get excellent instruction in a small class with like-minded beginners.
I want to get started now so that by the start of camp I’ll be ready for the Intermediate Track. What can I do?
You can take a workshop if there is one available near you, or you can buy one of our self help courses and go from there. Click the link either to find a workshop or to find the right courseware.
I learned the basics of chord piano from someone else. Will this retreat help me too?
Yes. If you are familiar with a few of the major, minor, and seventh chords on the piano, you’ll be well qualified for most of the sessions.
What age group is it for?
You must be an adult, age 18 and up. We’ve had students in their 90′s. Anyone under the age of 18 MUST be accompanied by a parent. No one under 14 please.
Is this like playing by ear?
Playing by ear is just one aspect of this system.
I have special dietary needs (vegetarian). Can the kitchen accommodate me?
The camp chef is known for cooking tasty, wholesome, and nutritious foods. We’ve eaten there many times, and it really is good. He will provide vegetarian alternatives, if he is notified in advance. If you have any special dietary needs, please let us know.
What other activities are there planned besides just the classes?
We will have our famous Piano Bar Party on Saturday, featuring a faculty concert, open mic, and a piano bar sing along. It will not be hosted, but you are welcome to bring your own beverages (including alcohol) and snacks. And since we’ll be sleeping right there, no need for a designated driver.
You will also have time for practice, for hob nobbing with other students, and you are welcome to take hikes and explore the beautiful grounds.
What is the background of the instructors?
The lead instructor is Robert Laughlin. He has been playing many different styles of piano professionally for 40 years. He is the inventor of the One Day Piano workshop, and has been teaching that for 30 years. His entire career has been dedicated to teaching others the joy of piano playing.
His wife Pam is an exceptional musician in her own right and will be teaching the Beginning Track. Other faculty members are chosen for their unique musical gifts, experiences, and communication skills. See our Faculty page for more details.
How long has this company been in business?
We have been giving the One Day Piano workshop continuously since 1982.
Will there be some private time with instructors to discuss my personal musical goals?
Yes. There will be guided practicing sessions where you will be observed and coached by our faculty members. In addition there is a master class which can accommodate up to four students for a private session. This is an additional upgrade.
What are the sleeping accommodations like?
You will have a choice of housing options, ranging from bringing your own tent to sleeping in a semi-private room with bedding and towels provided. Or for economy and convenience you can choose to sleep in a cabin with several bunk beds, a bathroom, and shower. A mattress is provided, but you will have to provide your own bedding or a sleeping bag and pillow. Typically there will be a cabin for single men, single women, and another for couples.
I don’t feel comfortable in a group sleeping situation. Any chance I can get a private room?
The closest public accommodations are 30 minutes away. You can opt to sleep off site if you wish. There may be a limited number of private rooms for an additional cost. Please inquire.
Do you provide pianos for everyone?
We encourage you to bring your own digital keyboard. That will insure that you will always have an instrument to play in class and to practice at any time. If it’s not practical to bring a keyboard, we may have a few extras available, courtesy of the Kawai Piano Corporation who is one of our sponsors. They will be available on a first come first served basis. In addition we will be looking into the possibility of your renting a keyboard at a local music store.
I will be flying in from out of state. How do I get to Walker Creek Ranch?
The closest airports are in San Francisco or Oakland. From there it’s about a 90 minute drive by car. If you want to map the route on a computer or mobile device, their address is 1700 Marshall-Petaluma Road
Petaluma, CA 94952