Stephany Tiernan

Chair Emerita and Professor
Affiliated Departments

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Stephany Tiernan is a composer, pianist, author, teacher, educational leader, and Steinway Artist. She has been active in the presentation of new music since the ‘70s and is chair emerita of the Piano Department and a professor at Berklee College of Music. She has been teaching composition, analysis, and piano for over 40 years and has influenced many of the successful composers and pianists of today. The author of a book and video on contemporary piano technique called Contemporary Technique: Coordinating Breath, Movement, and Sound (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard), Tiernan developed this technique as a continuation of the groundbreaking work of Madame Margaret Chaloff. This approach to piano technique has been used by thousands of pianists worldwide.

Tiernan has performed much of the world’s greatest contemporary piano music in many of its prestigious halls. Performances have included music by Charles Ives, John Cage, Henry Cowell, and many others. She has performed and recorded much of her own piano music, and her works are often inspired by her interest in and studies of Irish culture and language. Tiernan has used visual imagery, poetry, ancient sean-nós singing, Celtic symbols, festivals, and holy places for her inspiration, creating pieces that connect her to her Irish roots. Her piano compositions, including a piano quintet, are featured on her CD Hauntings: Scream of Consciousness. Dedicated to the art of improvisation, her collaborations with internationally acclaimed jazz pianist JoAnne Brackeen resulted in their widely acclaimed piano duet recording, Which Is Which, which eliminates the boundaries between classical and jazz piano playing.

Career Highlights
  • Pianist, and accompanist for numerous instrumental, dance, and vocal performances
  • Composer and performer of 20th-century piano music
  • Private lessons with Margaret Chaloff
  • Steinway Artist, performing much of the world’s greatest contemporary piano music, including music by Charles Ives, John Cage, and Henry Cowell 
  • Composer, performing and recording much of her own piano music, often inspired by her interest in and studies of Irish culture and language
  • Presenting new music since the ‘70s involving both interpretation and improvisation in contemporary piano music, with strong jazz influences
  • Author of book/video on contemporary piano technique, Coordinating Breath, Movement, and Sound (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard)
  • Featured piano compositions on her album, Hauntings: Scream of Consciousness, and her improvisation collaboration with JoAnne Brackeen, Which Is Which, which eliminates the boundaries between classical and jazz piano playing
  • Chair Emeritus, Berklee College of Music
  • Steinway Artist
  • School Name
    The New England Conservatory of Music
    State or Province
    Master of Music (M.M.)
    Field of Study
    Date Degree Received
  • School Name
    Berklee College of Music
    State or Province
    Bachelor of Music (B.M.)
    Field of Study
    Date Degree Received
In Their Own Words

"Good pianists know how to make the instrument sing—to make the piano an extension of themselves. They have a technique that allows them to freely explore the full breadth of expressive devices available to them on a grand piano: dynamics, pedaling, articulation, tempo, phrasing. They also must have a musical imagination, so that they can interpret, improvise, and shape music in a creative way."

"Glen Gould, Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, and Art Tatum are just a few of the pianists I recommend all students listen to. They were piano explorers and musical pioneers. They perfected their craft, and this allowed their imaginations to soar. I also recommend students listen to their favorite singer, to learn how to phrase and make the piano sing."

"I probably teach each student differently, and former students might all have different opinions on what my style is. I teach what I think the student needs, in the way that the student can learn. This is the wonderful thing about private lessons. Everyone is so different in terms of what they need."

"Teaching makes me feel energized and inspired by many of my students. I love to see them improve and catch on to new concepts. I love to see them light up with the recognition that they are doing something better or different or new. It makes me feel useful."

"I’ve taught at Berklee for more than 25 years, and I’ve seen the Piano Department really change over time. Years ago, Berklee was primarily a jazz school, and the focus was on improvisation. Although most piano students at Berklee still want to play jazz, many want to immerse themselves in other contemporary styles and to include synthesizers and other keyboards in their playing."

"Learning to make the piano sing by focusing on building a strong, expressive, and powerful piano technique will free the student to explore their own musical identity in any style and provide them with a full understanding of the expressive capacities of the piano."

"The development of a disciplined practice routine will ensure a constantly improving technical and musical result by laying down strong foundations and guidelines for self-teaching, reflection, analysis, and exploration in the practice room."