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Life is like a series of music lessons: Pianist and Instructor Jeremy Denk Drops New Memoir

SFCM's Jeremy Denk released a book, "Every Good Boy Does Fine" which has received glowing reviews from national press.

March 28, 2022 by Mark Taylor

By Alex Heigl 

Acclaimed classical pianist, MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship winner, and SFCM professor Jeremy Denk can now add another impressive achievement to his resume: celebrated author. 

Denk’s new book, Every Good Boy Does Fine, which began life as an article for The New Yorker, has received glowing attention from national press outlets, when it was released last week from Penguin Random House. Denk has been on SFCM faculty since 2018

“It’s been a long journey trying to write all this out,” Denk wrote on his Instagram. “All the funny and sad and painful memories of lessons, and I hope at last it reads as the love letter it’s supposed to be. Without all those incredible teachers, music would be so much less meaningful and humane.” Denk is also an Opus 3 Artist, the management company acquired by SFCM in 2020

Denk’s book highlights the big names—Bach, Mozart, and Brahms, among others—and smaller ones like his first neighborhood teacher and his high school orchestra conductor. He also delves into illuminating lessons on harmony, rhythm and his approach to the piano.

In an excerpt of the book shared with CBS News, Denk recalls a childhood memory that stuck with him. His father inviting him to listen to a record of Saint-Saëns's Organ Symphony with him. “I snuggled into the cushions,” Denk writes. “I heard deep bass notes circling, aspiring, giving up again. A theme in doubt. Music losing steam, searching for an exit. My dad murmured—‘Keep listening.’  We lay in wait like hunters. After a dark and foreboding silence, the wooden speakers vibrated with a massive C-major chord, rocking the house with triumph.”

As Denk recalls, his fathers reaction to the moment was, simply, “Holy crap," Denk continued, “I consider that to be my first real music lesson, he seemed so happy.”

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