“Every Good Boy Does Fine,” a conversation with pianist and author Jeremy Denk
In conversation with Todd Decker, Paul Tietjens Professor of Music. Light lunch will be served. Free and open to the public with required RSVP.
MacArthur “Genius” Grant–winning pianist Jeremy Denk will discuss his New York Times best-selling book Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons, a beautifully written, witty memoir that is also an immersive exploration of classical music—its power, its meanings, and what it can teach us about ourselves.
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For more information about the Great Artists Series '24: Jeremy Denk, piano on Sunday evening and for tickets, please visit here.
Left Bank Books will be at both appearances selling copies of Every Good Boy Does Fine while supplies last. Copies of Jeremy Denk's book are available for purchase to pick up at either event, pick up in store, or have mailed to you. Paperback copies are available to order at the bottom of this page.
Center for the Literary Arts
David and Melanie Alpers
Financial assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. www.missouriartscouncil.org
About Every Good Boy Does Fine:
In Every Good Boy Does Fine, renowned pianist Jeremy Denk traces an implausible journey. His life is already a little tough as a precocious, temperamental six-year-old piano prodigy in New Jersey, and then a family meltdown forces a move to New Mexico. There, Denk must please a new taskmaster, an embittered but devoted professor, while navigating junior high school. At sixteen he escapes to college in Ohio, only to encounter a bewildering new cast of music teachers, both kind and cruel. After many humiliations and a few triumphs, he ultimately finds his way as a world-touring pianist, a MacArthur “Genius,” and a frequent performer at Carnegie Hall.
Many classical music memoirs focus on famous musicians and professional accomplishments, but this book focuses on the every day: neighborhood teacher, high school orchestra, and local conductor. There are few writers capable of so deeply illuminating the trials of artistic practice—hours of daily repetition, mystifying advice, and pressure from parents and teachers. But under all this struggle is a love letter to the act of teaching.
In lively, endlessly imaginative prose, Denk dives deeply into the pieces and composers that have shaped him—Bach, Mozart, and Brahms, among others—and offers lessons on melody, harmony, and rhythm. How do melodies work? Why is harmony such a mystery to most people? Why are teachers so obsessed with the metronome?
In Every Good Boy Does Fine, Denk shares the most meaningful lessons of his life and tries to repay a debt to his teachers. He also reminds us that we must never stop asking questions about music and its purposes: consolation, an armor against disillusionment, pure pleasure, a diversion, a refuge, and a vehicle for empathy.
Jeremy Denk is one of America’s foremost pianists, proclaimed by the New York Times ‘a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs.’ Denk is also a New York Times bestselling author, winner of both the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the Avery Fisher Prize, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In the 2022-23 season, Denk will continue his multi-season exploration of Book 1 of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, and will also perform with orchestras and in recitals across U.K., Europe, and the United States, including a return to Carnegie Hall play-directing Bach concerti with Orchestra St. Luke’s, and multi-concert residency at the Lammermuir Festival in Scotland. An avid chamber musician, Denk will also embark on a U.S. tour with the renowned Takács Quartet.
His New York Times Bestselling memoir Every Good Boy Does Fine was published to universal acclaim by Random House in 2022, with features on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s Fresh Air, New York Times Review of Books, and more, with The Guardian heralding it as “an elegant, frank and well-structured memoir that entirely resists cliche. A rare feat... it makes the reader care about Denk beyond his talent for playing the piano.”
Denk’s latest album of Mozart piano concertos was released in 2021 on Nonesuch Records. The album, deemed “urgent and essential” by BBC Radio 3, was featured as ‘Album of the Week’ on Classic FM, and ‘Record of the Week’ on BBC Radio’s Record Review.
Denk has performed multiple times at Carnegie Hall and in recent years has worked with such orchestras as Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra. Further afield, he has performed multiple times at the BBC Proms and Klavierfestival Ruhr, and appeared in such halls as the Köln Philharmonie, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and Boulez Saal in Berlin. He has also performed extensively across the U.K., including recently with the London Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and play-directing the Britten Sinfonia. Last season’s highlights include his performance of the Well-Tempered Klavier Book 1 at the Barbican in London, and performances of John Adams’ Must the Devil Have All The Great Tunes? with the Cleveland Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, and Seattle Symphony, as well as a return to the San Francisco Symphony to perform Messiaen under Esa Pekka Salonen.
Denk is also known for his original and insightful writing on music, which Alex Ross praises for its “arresting sensitivity and wit.” He wrote the libretto for a comic opera presented by Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, and the Aspen Festival, and his writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New Republic, The Guardian, and on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. His book Every Good Boy Does Fine was published in 2022 by Random House in the U.S. and Pan Macmillan in the U.K.
Denk’s recording of the Goldberg Variations for Nonesuch Records reached No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Charts. His recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 paired with Ligeti’s Études was named one of the best discs of the year by the New Yorker, NPR, and the Washington Post, and his account of the Beethoven sonata was selected by BBC Radio 3’s Building a Library as the best available version recorded on modern piano. Denk has a long-standing attachment to the music of American visionary Charles Ives, and his recording of Ives’s two piano sonatas also featured in many “best of the year” lists. His recording c.1300-c.2000 was released in 2018 with music ranging from Guillaume de Machaut, Gilles Binchois and Carlo Gesualdo, to Stockhausen, Ligeti and Glass. His latest album of Mozart piano concertos, performed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, was released in 2021 on Nonesuch Records.
Jeremy Denk is a graduate of Oberlin College, Indiana University, and the Juilliard School. He lives in New York City.