My grandmother Laura was a pianist in silent movie houses in and around New York City in the late 1920s. Although she didn't read music, she was an excellent musician who played pop tunes of her day and classic tunes from early jazz --- on the spot, by request.
By the time I was three or four years old, "Nana" and I regularly played piano four hands at home -- and later on, at bridge get-togethers she threw for her friends, often accompanying any who wanted to sing during breaks between card games.
She'd name a tune, point out a starting melody note, throw me into the deep end by gleefully starting to play the accompanying chords, and we'd be off to the races.
I couldn't be more grateful for the early music lessons she gave me, and for the intrepid attitude she always displayed in accompanying singers and figuring out new tunes.
Over the past few decades, I began accompanying friends at house parties, after concerts in small venues, and in pubs as closing time neared. It was always a complete blast and 100% addictive for singer and pianist alike. I began searching for a way to somehow develop and formalize the idea; although I've been an active musician and music educator for years, no musical activity I've engaged in that is more fun than Piano Karaoke.
Eventually, I realized the only way forward was to "just do it." Piano Karaoke started in 2009 in Nashua, NH, growing slowly but steadily among singers who appreciate the fun, music-centric, and mutually supportive setting provided by their fellow vocalists.
Thanks for reading!
Elise MacDonald, accompanist
Elise accompanying singers at
Far Hills Inn, Val David, Quebec, 1999