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Peter Dickson Lopez

Oakland CA | 94605

About me

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An Adaptive, Holistic Approach To Teaching Music

After many years of teaching piano, theory and composition in a variety of situations, I have come to rely on an adaptive approach to teaching which recognizes that regardless of age or experience level, music students are individuals who have different styles of learning, different gifts, different interests, different goals, and different challenges.  I have learned to be as creative in teaching as I am creative in composing and performing.  Indeed, I have always felt that performing, composing and teaching are inseparable, and therefore I approach each leg of this “holy trinity” with the same care, dedication, and joy.

A Composer’s Perspective:

My holistic approach to teaching piano insists on “intelligent” performance grounded in a deep and thorough understanding of how the composition is put together and what makes it work “under the hood”.

Awards, Fellowships & Distinctions

  • Music Teachers' Association of California: Active Member
  • East & West Artists 7th International Composers Competition (USA): First Prize
  • Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize ( Prize
  • Henryk Wieniawski International Composers Competition (Poland): Semifinalist
  • University of California Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship ( Fellowship
  • Berkshire Music Center Avery Claflin Memorial Fellowship(, p.83): Fellowship
  • University of California, Berkeley: Ph. D in Music Composition
  • State of California: California Community College Teaching Credential in Music
  • Gaudeamus International Composers Competition, Netherlands: Semifinalist
  • University of California, Berkeley: George Ladd Paris Prize
  • University of California, Berkeley: Graduate Minority Fellowship

Professional Affiliations

  • Music Teachers' Association of California:
  • American Composers Forum (ACF)
  • Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI)
  • New Music USA
  • Piano Teachers Federation
  • Royal Conservatory of Music
  • Publisher Affiliate of Amazon and Sheet Music Plus


Early Years I began studying piano at the age of six.  However, after several lessons I complained to my mother that I wasn’t learning anything.  About a year later I took up piano lessons, this time with Theodore Gorbacheff, a Russian choral director and piano teacher living in Berkeley.  Mr. Gorbacheff guided my musical development for the next ten years, introducing me to Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and of course Russian composers like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.  My passion for composition emerged early when as a child I began to write pieces emulating the style of Bach whom I was studying at the time.  For me, performance and composition merged into one as I continued my studies in piano and composition in college.  During those early formative years prior to college I already was performing regularly for church. In addition Mr. Gorbacheff would often have me accompany his vocal men’s quartet and vocal soloists, as well as have me perform as piano soloist.  Thus, even before college I was not only a student of music but also a practicing performer.  Indeed, during my senior year in high school I formed a jazz trio (piano, drums, bass), and together we played a few paying “gigs”.

College Years Despite my early interest in, and life-long passion for, composition and improvisation, it was piano that I majored in as an undergraduate. During my first year in college, I studied with Edward Shadbolt at the University of the Pacific Music Conservatory in Stockton.  Under Mr. Shadbolt’s guidance I continued to develop, expand and mature as a pianist and musician.  The greatest lesson learned while studying with Mr. Shadbolt was how to relax and how to play with “arm weight”.  I learned that this is the secret to tonal control, and I have continued to develop this technique over many years of studying and performing.

I completed my undergraduate studies in piano performance and collaborative piano at California State University at Hayward where I studied under Dr. Donald King Smith.  Dr. Smith and his wife, Patricia, were master duo pianists who specialized in piano duo and duet literature. It was through him and his wife that I was introduced to this wonderful aspect of piano performance.  During this time I had the honor and privilege to play for Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of the renowned Artur Schnabel, in a Master Class.  I performed the Chopin Scherzo in B Flat Minor (Op. 31) for him, and the insights he offered me have stayed with me all these years.   After completing my undergraduate studies in Piano at Hayward, I transferred to the University of California at Berkeley to study composition.  While studying composition there, I also continued performing, both as pianist, choral accompanist, and conductor.  It was also at Berkeley where I added a keen analytical understanding of the music I was performing, and this has added yet another deep dimension to my artistry as a pianist, musician and teacher.  

Paris, Tanglewood and Beyond Prior to attending Tanglewood as a Fellowship composer, where I also met Gunther Schuller and audited one of Leonard Bernstein’s conducting classes, I had already earned my Ph.D. degree in Music Composition from the University of California at Berkeley.  During my last two years in the doctoral program from 1976-78, I lived in Paris, France with my wife, Irene, after having been awarded the prestigious George Ladd Paris Prize from the U.C. Berkeley Music Department.  During this sojourn, I composed day and night and went to many concerts where I had the opportunity to hear the music of Xenakis, Messiaen, Boulez, Berio, Stockhausen, and many other European composers, often with those legendary composers in attendance.  This experience deepened my personal connection with the masters which began with my early studies of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg and Tchaikovsky as a young pianist.  The personal connection I feel with this legacy has broadened throughout the years: as piano student of Edward Shadbolt at the University of the Pacific in Stockton (Ed had been a student of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály); as composition student under Joaquin Nin-Culmell (himself an internationally known concert pianist and composer who had also studied with such luminaries as Manuel de Falla and Paul Dukas); and as a master class piano student of Karl Ulrich Schnabel (son of renowned Artur Schnabel).

Artistic Hiatus A confluence of personal and medical concerns prevented me from pursuing my art and career, and sadly this was just at an extremely active and vibrant period of composition and performance at the beginning of my career as a composer.  By the time I had to prematurely retire from composition and performance, I already had a work released on the 1750 Arch Records label; numerous performances of my works throughout the United States (New York, San Francisco, Seattle, New Haven, Minneapolis, Dallas) and in Europe (Netherlands and Poland); and numerous awards and prizes (the George Ladd Paris Prize and Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize among others).

Reintegration It wasn’t until 2009 that those personal and medical concerns were sufficiently mitigated to allow me to resume my life’s work.  One of my current projects is Pieces From A Distant Land for Piano which comprise several volumes (“Series”).  Stylistically, these pieces range from tonal works in the Romantic tradition (Series I), to avant-garde and experimental works in subsequent Series.  It is precisely my propensity to explore and incorporate techniques from a variety of sources that has befuddled performers, composers, and audiences alike when hearing my works, and yet it is this propensity that defines my style.  While at Tanglewood, a colleague commented on this saying, “You have the fortune (or misfortune) of falling through the cracks, of not belonging to any particular ‘school’.”  Nevertheless, I unabashedly maintain my position as a “classicist and integrationist”, but beyond that, I hold this aesthetic not as a mere intellectual conceit or end in itself, but as a fundamental tenet of my compositional approach and artistry: selecting and using what I consider to be the best elements of all systems.

Current Activities I continue to maintain a busy work schedule of composing, performing and teaching.  Current projects include work on both old and new compositions, engraving and publishing my works, transferring older analogue sound media to digital format for easier distribution, and of course performing as soloist (classical and jazz), chapel musician, and collaborative pianist.  After a long hiatus, it is a pleasure to once again be a part of a music community and to work alongside like-minded folk.



I have been active as a performing pianist and accompanist for over 30 years. I earned my B.A. in Piano Performance (solo, ensemble and collaborative) at the California State University at Hayward. I have performed classical solo recitals, performed in piano ensembles, accompanied vocalists, instrumentalists and choirs, and performed jazz/pop music/happy hours. My special training and expertise as a pianist is in "classical" music covering literature from the Baroque through 20th and 21st Centuries.  I am familiar with numerous styles of jazz, swing, pop, and theater/show music, and I have regularly perform in these styles in a variety of venues. My private teaching studio practice reaches students who range in age and experience including children (4-5 years old), middle school, college and seniors.


I hold a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California at Berkeley. My works have been performed locally, nationally, and internationally. I remain active as a composer and performer. Some of my prizes and awards for composition include the Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize, the George Ladd Paris Prize, a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship at U.C. Berkeley, and the Avery Claflin Memorial Fellowship at the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood).

Music Theory & Analysis

Music Theory entails a broad range of music sub disciplines including (but not limited to) music literacy (the most basic level) and analysis (understanding the structure and form of music). For most students in the elementary and secondary school ages, music theory is essentially music literacy. More advanced and gifted students in this age group will naturally go beyond this basic level and begin to study harmony and counterpoint. Some may even try their hand at stylistic composition and beginning analysis. Whatever the student goal or level, being a composer myself I am well equipped to work with any level of student to attain his or her ultimate goal.

Ear Training

With my formal academic training in music (B.A., M.A. and Ph.D.) and years of experience as an active pianist, accompanist, and composer, I am well equipped to assist those students who are interested to sharpen their listening skills. Whether it is to prepare for college entrance or placement exams, to augment current coursework in ear training, to get up to speed with remedial training, or to learn how to listen to the structure of music, the student working with me will have full confidence that "I've been there and done that".

Sight Singing

Sight Singing as a separate discipline is really another aspect of ear training and general musicianship. Sight Singing requires the ability to hear and read music in one's head, and this is the essential ingredient for ear training as well. As a composer and pianist, I have developed this ability over many years, and to be honest, this is an ongoing activity - one never stops learning and developing. With the many years of my own development of internal hearing, sight singing, sight readying, and ear training, I am well equipped to guide those who want to begin to develop this skill, or those who want to take their skill to the next level.

General Music

It has always been my view that composition, performance and teaching are inseparable. For me, it is not possible to have one or two without the other(s). It is this holistic view of Music that enables me to be a generalist as well as a specialist. In this role of generalist I can offer guidance in a number of music disciplines which might not otherwise fit neatly into categories such as "piano" or "composition". The following scenarios are some of the areas which might be described as "General Music" and for which I could offer tutoring and guidance: (1) you love to sing but don't know how to read music, and learning how to read music would really help in your current choir assignment; (2) you don't understand "modern" music and would like to learn more about it; (3) you have heard that there is a mathematical component to music and would like to know more about this; (4) you are interested to learn how Western European music relates to music of other cultures. Though not exhaustive, this list should provide some insight into what is "General Music" and how I can address this area for you.

Music History

As a trained academic in the music arts, I have extensively studied the history of Western European music from the Renaissance (and before) to the present. I can offer guidance and tutoring in a general historical review of various periods of Western European music, or (and perhaps most importantly) a view of music history based on style, technique and evolution of Western European music through detailed study and analysis of specific works of the Masters.

Lesson details

My piano lessons cover a balance of technique, sightreading, repertoire, ear training and theory.  Aside from the actual material covered and "method" used, my lessons aim to teach students how to practice, how to listen, and how to be self-critical, and to approach their playing with both feeling and intellectual understanding.

Education and Accreditation

  • Music Teachers' Association of California: Active Member, Certificate of Merit Instructor
  • Stanford University: Workshop in Computer-Generated Music, Participant
  • California Community Colleges: CCC Teaching Credential (Music)
  • University of California, Berkeley: Chancellor's Post-Doctoral Fellowship
  • University of California, Berkeley: Ph. D., Music Composition
  • University of California, Berkeley: George Ladd Paris Prize
  • University of California, Berkeley: M. A., Music Composition
  • California State University, Hayward: B.A., Music - Piano Performance (solo, ensemble and collaborative)


Peter is a brilliant piano teacher. Not only is he enormously talented and endlessly patient but also and above all...

Dr. Lopez has been teaching at Toones Academic Music (TAM) since 2011. He has demonstrated outstanding talents in...

Dr. Peter Lopez taught piano and keyboard at the Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts Charter School in Oakland...

My 10 year daughter has studied piano under the instruction of Peter Dickson Lopez for a year and a half. We are all...

Peter does not only have an extensive knowledge of music but he also knows how to integrate the theoretical aspect...

Peter Dickson Lopez is a fantastic piano teacher! My daughter has been going to Peter for close to 2 years now. She...

Both my children take piano lessons from Peter. He sets a solid/thorough foundation of knowledge, skill building,...

Mr. Lopez is a great teacher. He teaches both my son and myself. I have nothing but good things to say about his...

Peter is an outstanding musician and piano teacher. Our nine year old son has taken lessons from Peter for two years...

I was so glad that I found Peter ... before my Music final last semester. I was so stressed with my Music final,...


more than 20 years


$50 - $59


In California, Pacific Time:

Monday 9am - 9pm
Tuesday 9am - 9pm
Wednesday 9am - 1pm
Thursday 9am - 9pm
Friday 9am - 9pm
Saturday N/A - N/A
Sunday N/A - N/A

Teaching location

Teachers Studio




Alfred Method
Bastien Method
Faber and Faber
Royal Conservatory of Music
Suzuki Method
Thompson Method

Instruments and Subjects

theory – analysis
theory – counterpoint
theory – harmony
theory – rudiments

Levels taught


Type of students

Young Adults



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