The Piano Pod

Bringing the Piano into the 21st Century


May 14, 2021: TPP is taking to the stage! For Episode 14, we are foregoing our usual interview format to give an actual piano recital instead.  On Friday, May 21, Clara, Yukimi, and Eric will each play one third of a recital program, with works by composers including Bach, Brahms, Debussy, Bartok, and others.  While there will be some commentary, this time we are going to let the music take center stage! The performance begins at 7 p.m. EST and will last approximately 1.5 hours.  Please see our Facebook event for the Zoom link.  Hope to see you there!

May 4, 2021: Episode 13 is out today! We interviewed  the renowned Madeline Bruser, Founder of the Art of Practicing Institute and author of the highly acclaimed book "The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart." An authorized instructor of mindfulness meditation in the Buddhist tradition, Madeline has presented mindfulness in secular contexts for more than 30 years.  Join us as we discuss the impact mindfulness and meditation can have on piano practice, technique, and performance.

April 20, 2021: As April is Jazz Appreciation Month, we had the privilege of interviewing Jim Ridl: jazz pianist, composer, recording artist, and educator.  Jim shared with us his insights on improvisation and differences in approach between jazz and classical musicians.  This interview rapidly evolved into more of a masterclass as he then demonstrated stylistic differences between blues and jazz, various improv techniques, and even his warm-up routines at the piano.  We hope that this episode inspires you as much it did us!

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The Piano Pod is a bi-monthly podcast hosted by Yukimi Song, Clara Zhang, and Eric Hunter. Twice a month we interview a guest speaker who has been breaking exciting new ground in the music industry.  Started during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to adjust to the new musical reality, the goals of The Piano Pod are to examine the traditions of the piano, adapt them, and expand its capabilities in this modern era.


Dreaming of studying journalism and the English language in the U.S., Yukimi Song moved to Florida to pursue an undergraduate degree in Communications. After completing her B.A., Ms. Song was granted a full scholarship to continue her piano studies, and earned a Master’s in Piano Performance.  Ms. Song continued to teach piano lessons and classes at a private college in Florida as a full-time faculty member. 

In 2007, Ms. Song moved to New York City to continue her graduate studies at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She received an Advanced Certificate Degree in Piano in 2008, while also teaching individual and group piano lessons as an Adjunct Instructor at Steinhardt and teaching young students independently.  In 2013, she established Yukimi Song Studio, LLC.

Ms. Song has been a member of the Piano Teachers Congress of New York since 2015, where she currently serves as Vice President and Secretary. She continues to perform regularly in solo recitals and chamber ensembles both locally in NYC and overseas while educating over 40 piano enthusiasts of all ages and levels. 

Recently, Ms. Song launched a podcast for her piano studio, “Yukimi Song Studio Presents Conversations with a Piano Student,” to showcase her students and their piano journeys. Now she also joins her colleagues Eric Hunter and Clara Zhang in contributing her expertise to “The Piano Pod.”

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Clara Zhang

Meet The Pod

Yukimi Song

Eric Hunter is a multi-genre pianist, composer, and educator.  He has performed across the United States and Canada at venues including Carnegie Hall and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and as a soloist with the Greenwich, University of Rochester, and University of Southern California Symphony Orchestras.  An experienced chamber musician, Mr. Hunter has collaborated with the violinists Philippe Graffin and Barry Shiffman, horn player Eric Ruske, baritone Peter Lightfoot, soprano Jennifer Behnke, and the Penderecki Quartet.  Outreach initiatives have included working as a music therapy consultant at the Austen Riggs Center for Mental Health in Stockbridge, MA., guest performances at VISIONS at Selis Manor, and volunteer work as a performer and consultant with Sacred Music New York, an organization dedicated to fostering social change through music.  In 2008 he played an all-Liszt recital at the home of the renowned Golden-era pianist Earl Wild at his invitation.


Mr. Hunter is also an established composer and orchestrator, and works in a wide variety of genres including classical, jazz, film, and electronic music. He was a prizewinner in the 2012 operamission Cabaret Night songwriting competition; the following year he composed the music for the multimedia piece Connection, commissioned by Arts on Site.  In 2019 his score for the animated short "Pin and Pon" went viral, with 400,000 views in its first month on YouTube.  He also scored the multi-award-winning short "Run Little Boy," by Dominick Bedasse. 


A lifelong educator, Mr. Hunter is the founder of Midtown Music NYC, a piano studio that reflects his creative, multi-genre approach.  He is Head of Professional Development at The Piano Teachers Congress of New York, where he created the Open Forum program for teacher enrichment., and he has guest lectured at the School for Visual Arts, New York University, and Columbia University.  In joining The Piano Pod he hopes to bring inspiration to a new generation of performers and music lovers .


Mr. Hunter's education includes degrees from the University of Rochester, the University of Southern California, where he studied with Bernadene Blaha and Kevin Fitz-Gerald, and Teachers College at Columbia University.  He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two sons.


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Eric Hunter

Born in mainland China, Clara Zhang dreamed of becoming a professional musician in New York City from the age of three, when her grandmother gave her a little keyboard for her birthday. She was admitted into the Tianjin Music Conservatory, and later was selected to go on a tour of the United States. Following her dream, she moved to Topeka, Kansas, with a music scholarship at Washburn University, to begin her professional career. 

Ms. Zhang regularly concertizes across the U.S. and Asia. In the summer of 2012, she opened Rational Music Studios, a private piano studio based on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  It has consistently been among the top 1% of NYC piano studios for the past six years on  In 2019, RMS won the Best Small Business award in the Piano Teachers category from the New York Awards Program, and Ms. Zhang was one of two artists invited to the New York Women's Leadership Summit.  Her students have been competition prizewinners and performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. She is an Educational Partner of Steinway & Sons and an executive board member of the Piano Teachers Congress of New York. 

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Rational Music Studios transitioned to teaching students fully remotely with online concerts around the globe.  At the same time, Ms. Zhang joined the board of directors at "Life Is Music and Music Is Life," a non-profit music foundation that provides scholarships to underprivileged students.  She is excited to join Ms. Song and Mr. Hunter in contributing her experience and expertise to The Piano Pod.

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