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One day in the early 90’s, Keith was teaching a piano lesson to his then junior high school student Paul Cheung.  Paul was just beginning to learn the Sonatina by Bela Bartok.  With cassette tape in hand, Paul asked Keith to play the Bartok so that he could record it onto the tape and have an example to listen to at home to help the learning process.  In theory, Keith completely understood and approved such a request.  Reflecting on his own teen years, he remembered the impact that listening to his mother’s students, as well as many hours spent listening to LPs of piano music, had on the development of his musical knowledge, taste, and interpretive skills.  How he wished all of his students could have the same, or even a portion of such an opportunity to listen to piano music.  However, Keith realized that a semi-sight-reading of the Bartok Sonatina would not be an adequate role model to put on tape.  Likewise, he did not want to spend a portion of his week practicing the Bartok to make a recording.  If he did it once, he would have to do it again, and for every student, not just Paul.  Yet he still truly believed in the idea of students having good recordings of their music.

In a flash, the idea was born:  create a record company whose sole enterprise was to produce recordings of the standard piano teaching repertoire!  Keith enlisted the help of his talented friends to make it all come together.  Ken Zahner became the business manager, Brian Monahan ran the office and inventory, and Diane Hidy turned out one spectacular performance after another in the recording studio.

The business was launched initially as a mail-order catalog, with CDs and cassettes of the most frequently taught intermediate piano music:  Bach Inventions and Little Preludes, Burgmüller Studies Opus 100, Clementi Sonatinas Opus 36, a collection of easier Beethoven pieces, and so forth.  These were an instant hit with piano teachers all over the United States, and Academy Records continued to release new recordings rapidly.  Keith then got another idea:  edition specific recordings.  He had always liked using the excellent collection of repertoire in the four Piano Literature books compiled and edited by Jane andJames Bastien.  What a wonderful tool to have recordings of these particular collections, with Diane’s performances reflecting the editorial markings in the score!  A couple of phone calls, and a meeting with Neil A. Kjos Jr., the Bastien’s publisher, and everything was set in motion.  Within a year, all four books had CDs (Neil had the foresight not to bother with cassette tapes!).  At this point came a crucial turn of events when Neil called Keith with the suggestion that they create editions to go with the music that Academy Records had already recorded – Keith as editor, Academy Records to supply the inventory of CDs, and the Kjos Music Company as publisher and distributor.

Over time, Academy records discontinued the mail order business, and became strictly a supplier to Kjos for CDs distributed to music dealers along with the corresponding books of music.  In 2001, Academy Records was absorbed by the Kjos Music Company to simplify the process.

When Academy Records first came into being in 1993, recordings of student music were virtually non-existent; the influence of Keith’s brain child has reached nearly all music publishers, and the book with matching CD has become an expected industry standard.


Keith’s first published editions in 1994 were collections of music by Bach, Beethoven, Burgmüller, Clementi and Debussy, and matched the early CDs he produced for Academy Records.  After the success of these books and CDs, his publisher invited him to continue creating and adding to what was now called the Master Composer Library.  This series has grown to thirty-seven editions with corresponding CDs.

In 1997, Keith created a new series of editions to contrast the single-composer volumes of the Master Composer Library.  The thrust of the new series, Piano Repertoire, was to have graded levels of piano music, from the very easiest up through advanced literature.  Each level contains music of many composers and style periods.  There are eleven levels, with three books at each level:  Baroque & ClassicalRomantic & 20th Century, and a book of Etudes.  This series continues to be wildly popular with piano teachers and piano students, and has become a staple in curriculums throughout the United States and abroad. 

2008 saw the release of yet another graded series, Essential Piano Repertoire. Based on the earlier Piano Repertoire, this new version takes the best of the best music of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries from Piano Repertoire, and puts it into one book at each level, with the CD included in the book.

Scale Skills are a series of graded piano technique books which include finger exercises, scale and chord drills that become more demanding at each level.  Some aspects of keyboard harmony are included as well.  Scales Skills have eleven levels to correspond with the Piano Repertoire and Essential Piano Repertoire series.

Fundamentals of Piano Theory are the published works for which Keith is most well-known.  To write these music theory books, Keith collaborated with his colleague and great good friend Martha Ashleigh, a wonderful piano teacher and brilliant teacher of composition from California.  This series is also divided into eleven levels, and draws upon the music in Piano Repertoire to illustrate theory concepts.

Piano Town is a beginning piano method for children that Keith wrote in collaboration with Diane Hidy.  This high quality method has established itself alongside the most respected teaching materials of the 21st century.  The depth of Keith’s knowledge and insight of how to teach beginners is revealed on every page.  Not only do teachers praise this course, but the children who use it become wholly attached to Piano Town’s infectious celebration of music making.

The main part of the method has five levels, with four books at each level: Lessons, Theory, Technic, and Performance.  Keith and Diane have arranged five books of Christmas music, and composed five books of music for Halloween, to correlate with Piano Town.  They have also composed a collection of “sheet music” solos, several for each level of Piano Town.

“A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing,

and can see nothing that does not answer.”

Emma by Jane Austen

© 2017 Keith Porter-Snell