Memory Seminar

Confronting Memory: 
A Seminar in Memorization Techniques for Musicians
Eve Wolf, instructor

Next seminar:
To be announced
Please contact me if you would like to be notified about the next seminar. 

“The true art of memory is the art of attention.”
— Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) 

Playing from memory is often considered a musician’s greatest feat, but for many performers it is also their greatest source of fear. Yet memorization as such is rarely taught at all in the study of music; at best, it is taught haphazardly. As a result, many musicians memorize their pieces without thoroughly understanding the memorization process. When haphazard memorization is paired with general performance anxiety, the result can be a nightmare.

Confronting Memory: A Seminar in Memorization Techniques for Musicians offers rigorous techniques and methodical strategies for strengthening memory and building a solid approach to memorization. The class can be held either  as a two-hour introductory lecture, a full-day seminar, in three two-hour segments or as a semester-long course.

The course covers such topics as the history of memorization, physiological and psychological aspects of memory, conscious and unconscious memory, and memory modes.  It offers practical memorization techniques, including structural memory points, visual cues, mnemonics, fingering memorization, harmonic analysis as a memory tool, hands-separate memorization, memorization away from the instrument, recovery during and after memory slips, techniques for staying focused during a performance, and the use of improvisation. The course also addresses such issues as replacing negative thoughts with positive ones during performance, living with the risk of memory slips, rest, medication, diet, memorization in chamber music, and general philosophical questions about why we perform and how basic attitudes affect performance.  In addition to lectures, there will be round-table discussions and memory class performances that will deal with issues of concert preparation.

The goal of the course is to give students a wide variety of tools that they can tailor to their individual needs as they confront memory issues. Students who finish this course and implement these techniques will be better equipped to deepen their understanding of the works they play and to tackle memorization and its accompanying anxieties.

Eve Wolf, pianist, author, teacher, and Founder and Executive Artistic Director of the Ensemble for the Romantic Century ( received her BA from Columbia University and an MA in Piano Performance from New York University. She is an active performer and teaches piano at Teachers College-Columbia University. Ms. Wolf has studied and taught memorization at the piano for the past 25 years and her seminar is now offered through Steinway & Sons nationwide. Ms. Wolf is currently writing a book on memorization techniques.

Letter of Praise: 

Dear Eve,

I cannot let another minute pass without telling you how much I LOVED your seminar on Saturday. Your clear organization and presentation, participant involvement, and general demeanor contributed to an enormously successful venture; one that I hope you will take on the road.

The techniques that you taught apply, not only to memory, although that is the primary focus; but, to learning music in general. A thorough understanding of the score is not something that is automatic.  On Sunday, I began practicing the Brahms Cello Sonata in F major, which I have been learning throughout this semester at Mannes. I decided to play the left hand only; and, realized in the first movement where my problem has been all along. The problem, of course, lay in my not knowing the left hand. That is being remedied.

And I have flagged the Smetana Trio in so many places where I have to look at hands to negotiate the endless octaves.

You have inspired me to return to solo piano music with a completely different understanding of what has to happen in order to memorize and be able to play pieces for friends.

I thank you for being a superior pedagogue and look forward to the return of the Ensemble.