Musical Firsts

First piano recital

My first public appearance as a pianist was in Mrs. Henry Harmon’s semi-annual student recital in Juneau, Alaska. I was probably 6, although there is no date on the mimeographed program, titled Spring Recital. Third in the lineup of performers, I played “Fairies Harp” and “Spanish Fiesta”, from the Grade I book of the John Thompson Modern Piano Course.

First solo recital

One of the most exciting things about this recital was wearing my new blue A-line dress with the white collar. I remember coming out, bowing to the packed audience, sitting down at the piano, and little else. There is a reel-to-reel recording, transferred to cassette, and now on CD. Venue – the Presbyterian Church in Anchorage. Date – Sept 7, 1957. Piano – a brand new 9 ft Yamaha. Program – below.

Skye Atman Recital Invitation

First paid gig

Marita FarellTwo afternoons a week I rode the school bus to a downtown Anchorage stop and walked to the voice studio where my job was to play for the students during their singing lessons. (I was paid $2.00/hour.) It was a cold, dark walk. In the Land of the Midnight Sun there is actually hardly any daylight for half the year.

Marita Farell had sung leading soprano roles at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for ten years, a true prima donna. Retired at the peak of her career, she married and moved to Alaska with her husband. She had been very well trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was a formidable voice teacher. I, too, received instruction: “Don’t worry about the melody! They will sing it! Play the left hand and the rhythm!” There were tears and tantrums from all sides during the lessons, but this baptism in the art of accompanying instilled in me a deep love of art song and opera, of making music with others, and led to my career as a collaborative keyboard artist.

First music scholarship

My first piano scholarship was awarded by the Soroptomist Club in 1956. It paid for a full year of lessons with the teacher of my choice. Money was always tight in my family. I imagine supporting four girls on a government salary was not easy. We were all highly encouraged to enter contests and apply for scholarships. So I entered again the next year, and, thankfully, won again.

World Premiers

Blackheath Concert Hall, London, 9 December 1990
Three Pieces for Violin and Piano, by John Ogdon, with Peter Sheppard Skærved, violin
Available on a double CD set: The Music of John Ogdon, from the John Ogdon Foundation, London

Golders Green Unitarian Church, London, 16 April 1992
Two Pieces for Skye, by Aidan Fisher (Skye Blues awarded 1st Prize, Blackburn International Composition Competition, 1991)
Sonata for Flute and Piano, by Kathy Henkel, with David Miller, flute


Skye with the Anchorage High School Choir