Tickling the Ivories

Local musician Shawn Onsgard offers piano lessons to students of all ages in the neighborhood. Plus, he's about to "make it big" -- his music is slated to be available on iTunes very soon! Always been wanting to study piano? Start locally.

Here's more info: an interview with Shawn

How long have you been giving piano lessons in the neighborhood? I started teaching piano full time in 2001 when I finished grad school at Wesleyan University, CT, and really enjoyed it, so when I moved to the neighborhood in 2003 I started my little piano studio here.

What's the normal clientele? Mostly children? I teach a lot of families ... parents and children, which is nice, I like facilitating music in family life. A little over 1/3 of my students are adults, and my students range in age from 5- adult at all abilities from beginners to people with professional goals.

Did you take piano as a child? I grew up in a musical family and learned my first song at the piano, "Boogie Woogie," from my Aunt and Grandmother when I was 7. I signed up for piano lessons then, continued my studies at the conservatory in Milwaukee through high school, and just haven't stopped playing.

What kind of music do you write and perform now? My website www.Onsgard.net has a good downloadable selection of my music from the last several years and albums for sale. My own music is avant-garde, avant-jazz, new classical, experimental ... these are names people tend to to describe it. I have composed a lot for dance, film, media performance with lap-top, sound sculpture and installation. Right now I'm developing an improvisatory solo piano repertoire using 'home-made' scales that don't repeat at the octave and irregular rhythmic structures. Think Thelonious Monk picnics with Alexander Scriabin in Charles Ives' backyard.

How long have you been in the neighborhood, and what's your favorite aspect? I've been here 3 years, and have family who've lived on Vanderbilt Avenue for more than 30 years. I love the people here. I like the diversity in this neighborhood... ethnicity, income, religion, language, etc. Gentrification hasn't homogenized the place. I enjoy the small town feel I get here that I never got in any of the small towns I've lived in. Go to the farmers market on Saturday, any play ground anytime, the 5spot on Myrtle, you see what I mean. People know each other here.

What would you love to see open up nearby? Bookstore!

How do you feel about the neighborhood as a musician? Do you think it promotes creativity? There's a supportive network of successful musicians, artists, and freelance creative types here which is really supportive. I would like to see more local venues opening to live music performance. Does anyone but Parlor Jazz on Vanderbilt even have a piano in this neighborhood? Musicians I know are mostly performing in other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Also, the rents have got to slow down, or intentionally diversify, or something!

Favorite neighborhood place to eat: Too many. My local regular go-to is Cafe Martino (Tino's) for breakfast sandwiches and espresso. My all time favorite is ici on DeKalb any time. Also in my top seven are Pillow Cafe, Urban Spring, Graziella's, Ft. Greene Park on Saturday morning, and the 5 Spot. If I wasn't vegetarian, I'm sure Lou Lou's would be in there too. I haven't yet been there, but I suspect Kush on Fulton would be in there too.


Shawn does exclusively in-home lessons, and presently has time available on Saturday afternoons.

Shawn Onsgard www.Onsgard.net

Shawn@Onsgard.net 917.553.2064