By Erica Podosek
A Westminster Choir College professor is in the spotlight after being recognized for her talent, career and influence.
In July, piano professor and piano department coordinator Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Conference of Keyboard Pedagogy, or, as she would like to rename it, the “Half a Lifetime Achievement Award.”
“I’m much too young to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award and I have a whole lot of achieving left to do,” Clarfield said.
This is not the only award Clarfield has achieved recently. In 2009, Clarfield became the first recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award from the New Jersey Music Teachers Association, and was named “Teacher of the Year” by the Music Teachers National Association in 2012. More recently, Clarfield was interviewed by piano magazine Clavier Companion as the front cover artist in their March and April 2015 edition.
An avid clinician, pianist and author, she has presented and hosted lectures, workshops and master classes in more than 100 cities across the United States.
A student of Clarfield’s, Matthew Gutwald, 2014 WCC graduate, spoke highly of her impact on his musical performance.
Stating that he spent six years with her constantly demanding the absolute most of his musicianship, performance and technique, he said, “I have grown more in those years than I ever have in my entire life.”
Gutwald noted that Clarfield isn’t “afraid to say what’s on her mind, and because of that, her students always know what needs improvement, what to focus on and how to better all aspects of their playing and musicianship.”
Some of the proudest moments of teaching for Clarfield are when her students, and other teachers, tell her she has “changed their lives” through her camps, lessons and workshops.
While Clarfield has enjoyed a career filled with success, her life has not been without obstacles. In 2007, she suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body. Losing the ability to use her left hand, Clarfield was faced with the notion that she would never play piano again. However, this was only a bump in the road and after less than a year of physical therapy, she was teaching again.
For Clarfield, her love of music and the arts has been ingrained in her since childhood.
Growing up, she attended music and dance camps and spent time watching ballets, listening to concerts and visiting museums.
After dinner, her home was overcome by her father’s piano playing, operas and symphonies.
“Our house was filled with music. At a young age I was exposed to all the arts,” said Clarfield.
The music and art in her life only reaffirmed the thought that quitting was not an option.
In 2011, the award winning documentary Take a Bow: The Ingrid Clarfield Story was released. Directed and produced by Lu Leslan, the film depicts Clarfield’s extraordinary love and dedication to piano, her students and how they helped her overcome the obstacles that seemed nearly impossible to beat after her stroke.
This film shares the courage, enthusiasm and admiration Clarfield has for life.
To achieve an award of such magnitude is a true reflection of the determined mindset that Clarfield possesses. However, it can be difficult to accomplish such a feat alone.
Although she requires the assistance of another pianist to play the left hand for her, Clarfield still retains her passion and talent for turning students into extraordinary teachers of piano.
“One can always dream of winning this type of an award, but no one ever expects it,” Clarfield said.
Additional reporting by Jason Diaz.