Portland Piano Lessons

Education and promoting music, specifically, piano playing and teaching is a very important part of what we do at Michelle’s pianos. We have dedicated a special section of our showroom, for studios designed for private teaching. Our highly qualified and award winning piano instructors offer years of experience in teaching, and have degrees in music and piano performance. Some actively perform around the Portland Metro area, others are currently teaching in our local Universities and Colleges. You can read more details about our instructors and their accomplishments below.


Dear Lotof, I just wanted to send my congratulations on your beautiful new store. It is so appealing and classy, the floors are great and the performance area is so nice and the lighting is superb. I could tell that my students and their families felt very comfortable in the recital space. I hope this move will be beneficial to your business. I like how easy it is to get to.            – Elizabeth Ackerman, Piano Teacher 3/28/2011


Gary Michael Skye, M.Mus., a solo and collaborative pianist, private piano teacher, university instructor, vocal coach, and composer/singer/songwriter, began playing the piano at age four. After graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Preparatory Division, he studied piano for two years at The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Desiring a more well-rounded education, he then transferred to Stanford University, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. In 2007, Gary received his Master’s degree in Piano Performance from Portland State University, studying with Lisa Marsh.

Gary has performed in many parts of the U.S. and has collaborated with numerous nationally and internationally touring artists including NY City Opera mezzo soprano Jennifer Rivera, folk-rock duo Gypsy Soul, and contemporary fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Michael Mandrell. As a collaborative pianist in the Portland area, he has performed with the Northwest Children’s Theater and cast members of The Lion King’s national touring company, and he is the regular accompanist for the Oregon Chamber Singers and the Portland Boyschoir.

Gary has held positions as a Staff Accompanist and Vocal Coach for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Preparatory Voice Division, Sonoma State University’s Department of Music, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. He has taught piano classes and is a guest lecturer at Portland State University and teaches on the adjunct faculty of Marylhurst University.

For more than 15 years, Gary has enjoyed teaching private lessons, incorporating diverse musical styles in his instruction (classical, jazz, and popular), and working with students of all ages and levels. He is a specialist in the areas of improvisation/composition, musician’s wellness/injury prevention, and Body-Mapping.

Also an electronic keyboardist, he is a two-time national winner of the Yamaha National Electone Keyboard Festival. Gary is very excited that his debut album of original solo piano and piano/vocal music is scheduled for release.

Piano Lessons at Michelle’s Piano Company
600 SE Stark St., Portland OR 97214 503-295-1180
Rates: 30 min. ~ $30, 45 min. ~ $40, 1 hr. ~ $50

Ahmad Jamal once said: “he deserves to be heard at the best concert halls in the world…” The famous Lionel Hampton said: “…that cat really plays…” Thomas Lynne, of This Week Magazine said of Andrei’s music “Perhaps it took a Russian born pianist with a lot of Rachmaninoff in his blood to find a new angle on this material. What one hears from the first cut to the last is not a rehash of the familiar but rather a profoundly emotional exploration of the guts and soul of these classics”. All this points to a musical genius combined with the thirst for the musical expression only jazz can offer and the gut-wrenching cry for the freedom to explore, develop, and present one’s soul on the ivories of the piano.

What makes a young boy fall in love with the magic created by jazz? What causes a Russian to taunt authorities, to face fear head on, and leave his homeland to pursue a sound, a voice that is calling to his soul, his heart, his mind, and to every cell in his body? What goes on in the mind of a person who doesn’t speak a word of English, that makes them leave the familiar, the comfortable and embark on a journey with no particular geographical destination, but rather with a musical one? That’s what causes one to do the “Russia to Berkeley” thing Andrei did in 1978.

Andrei Kitaev was born in Russia where he started his formal classical piano training at the early age of six. From a family of musicians, including his aunt, a famous concert pianist in Moscow, Andrei felt the flow of music in his veins. He studied for ten years under his aunt. At age 16 he entered the prestigious Gnessin College. He graduated with a final majestic performance of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto.

The musically enterprising and curious Andrei became acquainted with the sound of jazz by listening to Voice of America at the age of 13 that culminated in his own personal attempts at duplicating the sound and feeling. The very first time Andrei heard jazz he knew he had to play it for the rest of his life. This musical exploration almost got him kicked out of his college only to be stopped when he agreed to no longer play the “bastard” sound from the other side of the cold war. Thus began Andrei’s love affair with that music that made him eventually cross over from the rigors and commitment of the classical world to the ever-expanding universe of jazz piano. The 45 minute Voice of America programs were his only portal to the jazz sound. It is amazing with such a limited access to jazz music that he would be able to master this art. And so he began to practice Jazz in 1978. During the first year of this musical journey Andrei mastered over 400 standards so he could sit in any jam session. At this point in his Jazz carrier he was earning $35 a week.

One night a gentleman heard Andrei play and felt the power and fire from his soul and offered him to come stay with him so he could practice every day and hone his craft. In 1981, Phil Elwood heard Andrei perform and wrote an article about him in the San Francisco Examiner. He said: “warm and technically brilliant pianist…a truly magnificent addition to our…jazz scene. Kitaev deserves recognition”

As with almost all Jazz greats, Andrei’s beginnings were humble. Playing three nights a week in San Francisco, he had a pack of cigarettes, bus fare, and food for a day. But that is all one needs when the music one is playing and interacting with feeds one’s soul and the soul of the hundreds that listen to him.

Andrei continued his jazz journey as he studied chord structures and melody lines differently from the regular approach of analyzing and memorizing scales and riffs. His focus was on freedom, poetry, making a beautiful statement with one’s notes, creating musical beauty with a special attention to economy of the notes used. Saying more with less became his trademark. When you say a lot with little, just imagine what can be said with a lot. That is Andrei Kitaev.

This unique approach to the orchestrated harmony between keys and strings is what has propelled Andrei to the worldwide recognition and status he now commands. Audiences everywhere recognize a special magic that is generated at his fingertips. These days you will find Andrei rowing his boat down on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, where he now lives with his wife Anastasia.

Andrei has performed with many well known artists such as Eddie Gomez, Elvin Jones, John Clayton, Eddie Marshall, Lou Rawls, Arturo Sandoval, Freddie Hubbard, Dean Martin and many more. You can hear Andrei’s sound on his albums First Takes, Reference Recordings, Yesterdays, Global Inner vision, and Live at Vartans. George Fendel, from Jazz Scene Magazines said of Live at Vartans: “My jaw dropped. Never had I heard a more inspired and let’s face it, brilliant Andrei Kitaev…”

This is Andrei Kitaev. From Russia with Groove.