About CK

Welcome to Piano Motivator. I’m CK, Cortland Kirkeby, your host.

A Little Background on Me

I started playing piano at age 5. In the decades since, my piano journey has taken several directions. but the key questions are: (1) Do I still play; and (2) Do I still enjoy it?

Yes to both.

I started out as one of those obnoxious five-year-olds who parents discover sitting at the piano, sounding out tunes he has heard on records . Wow, we need to get him started with some lessons, right?

Oops. Lessons didn’t work out. Like a lot of youngsters, I didn’t want to sit inside and practice when I could be outside. “Worse” than that, I didn’t enjoy reading music. Once I knew the basic melody, I just played it and figured out my own chords.

A year and a half of tug-of -war and then no more lessons, but — still playing.

At age 16, I lucked out and found a dynamite piano teacher. He incited a revolution in my spirit, and over the next two years had me navigating Beethoven and Chopin with surprising ease. Great. Let’s study some music at college in Boston, right?

Oops. College music studies didn’t work out. Their rules, their agenda. Next

But that didn’t stop me from keeping up with piano — and guitar and voice — on my own, even though my college studies had shifted to English and some theater. Somewhere along the way, my listening tastes shifted to jazz. By then, my theater studies had landed me in London where I didn’t know anybody, I was free to “remake” myself and I immersed myself in jazz piano.

Fast forward to 1980 and the chance to relocate to Oakland, California, where I started showing up at jam sessions, and practicing with a couple of advanced-beginner buddies. One of the pros who “let me sit in” became my jazz piano teacher, replacing Beethoven and Chopin with Bill Evans and some Latin.

Since then, a detour to Omaha, Nebraska and then back to the Bay Area. In that time, I have played some solo piano as well as some piano trios under the name Jazz By Choice. I have also played in church and taught a few lessons here and there.

It’s Where You End Up

The moral of the story? Just play and keep playing! Everybody starts somewhere. Thank you for starting here.

Who wants to be one of those “if only” and “gee, I wish” folks who never get started? What I want to do is turn you on to some great resources, add a few extra helpings of me and get you started playing piano — whether you’re 15, 24, 75, single, married, got kids, got aging parents, loaded down with a tough job, whatever!

It’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.

Come on down, come on back

I’m just getting started with this site and it’s going to be a great ride. You’re either just getting started with piano — or f-i-n-a-l-l-y getting back to piano after circumstances stole you away — Either way, I want you to play and keep playing.

And I’m here to help.

If you have any questions, concerns, or just want to say hello, please say something below.

Wishing you the best,




  1. I agree. You’ve got to keep playing and think of all the benefits to your cognitive development along the way.
    I hope to one day soon, very soon, learn the piano/keyboard. I suppose the keyboard since I already have one and it may not require tuning like a piano does.
    The keyboard was meant for my then step kids who were complaining that recording studio cost too much. Then I bought the keyboard so when they visit they could record their songs. Then I discovered they didn’t read music, didn’t play any instrument, and didn’t seem interested. Oh well.

    1. Thanks for posting and welcome! I hope you come back again and often. Coming soon will be my review of an old classic entitled “Hanon Virtuoso Exercises.” I think it is an ideal workout for your hands. It matters less how musical instruments come into our lives and more what we do with them. My electric bass, who I named “Lucinda” (sister to my electric guitar, Lucille), was originally purchased for my then-17 year old son who left it with me when he went off to college. Bass had been on my “bucket list” for years and — can you guess?

      Anyway, thanks again for visiting!

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