Peter Dickson Lopez


  • Not only is he enormously talented and endlessly patient but also and above all contagiously enthusiastic when it comes to music.
  • Dr. Lopez is wonderfully friendly, witty, sincere and a caring human being. His personality is delightful. He is sensitive, flexible, respectful and admired by parents, students, and peers.
  • He developed a great rapport with the students and with the parents. The students showed excellent progress under his direction.
  • He is a very progressive, patient, and effective teacher that the kids enjoy.
  • [Peter] has been extremely patient with [our daughter]. She only has access to practice on a piano every other week and Peter has modified his teachings to accommodate her limitations.
  • My daughter has developed her skills both playing the piano and in terms of the theory side and thoroughly enjoys her lessons with Peter. He goes above and beyond.
  • Peter does not only have an extensive knowledge of music but he also knows how to integrate the theoretical aspect with the practical one.
  • [Peter] is enthusiastic and can pick out the needs of each child quickly. My husband was very impressed with how positive he is with the kids.
  • Mr. Lopez is ... a very accomplished pianist who knows how to translate talent into educating his students. He is also a very understanding and approachable person.
  • Peter really knows how to relate to children, recognize their individual strengths/weaknesses and motivate them in their piano study.
  • Peter is a GREAT TUTOR. He is very patient and knowledgeable.
  • He is a great mentor and really cares and thinks from my perspective.
  • Great Tutor for Finale Keyboard Interfacing and Recording ... (September, 2013)
  • Thank you for all your patience ...
  • We are truly fortunate to have met you ... You are the best!
  • Thank you for being such a supportive teacher ...


Press Release - Brief Bio


About Peter Dickson Lopez


Teaching Philosophy


Music Genealogy



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

College Years
Despite his early interest in, and life-long passion for, composition and improvisation, it was piano that Peter majored in as an undergraduate. During his first year in college, Peter studied with Edward Shadbolt at the University of the Pacific Music Conservatory in Stockton.  Under Mr. Shadbolt’s guidance Peter 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”.  Peter learned that this is the secret to tonal control, and Peter continued to develop this technique over many years of studying and performing.

Peter also sang with the A Cappella chorus at Stockton, going on tour with the group throughout the Pacific Northwest, and it was this experience, under the direction of Dr. J. Russel Bodley at Stockton, that Peter began to develop a close affinity for and appreciation of the voice and choral music. Indeed, having not ever sung before (but apparently having a good enough ear to sing a cappella), Peter was actually rather surprised that Dr. Bodley graciously admitted Peter to this elite group. This turned out not to be the only time that an established musician saw potential in Peter.

Naturally Peter could not let go of his compositional instincts while at Stockton, and not surprisingly this actually got him into trouble in his harmony class. His harmony teacher returned one of his assignments with red ink all over, finally declaring in exasperation, “I cannot grade this assignment – it is way too complex!”

Peter completed his undergraduate studies in piano performance and collaborative piano at California State University at Hayward where Peter 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 Peter was introduced to this new world of piano repertoire. During this time Peter had the honor and privilege to play for Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of the renowned Artur Schnabel, in a Master Class. Peter performed the Chopin Scherzo in B Flat Minor (Op. 31) for him, and the insights he offered Peter became an essential part of his approach to piano performance practice. After completing his undergraduate studies in Piano at Hayward, Peter transferred to the University of California at Berkeley to study composition. While studying composition there, Peter also continued performing, both as pianist, choral accompanist, and conductor. It was also at Berkeley where Peter added a keen analytical understanding of the music he was performing, and this added yet another deep dimension to his artistry as a pianist, musician and teacher.

Paris, Tanglewood and Beyond
Prior to attending Tanglewood as a Fellowship composer, where Peter also met Gunther Schuller and audited one of Leonard Bernstein’s conducting classes, Peter had already earned his Ph.D. degree in Music Composition from the University of California at Berkeley. During his last two years in the doctoral program from 1976-78, Peter lived in Paris, France with his wife, Irene, after having been awarded the prestigious George Ladd Paris Prize from the U.C. Berkeley Music Department. During this sojourn, Peter composed day and night and went to many concerts where he 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 Peter’s personal connection with the masters which began with his early studies of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg and Tchaikovsky as a young pianist. The personal connection Peter feels with this legacy (see Peter's Music Genealogy) 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 Peter from pursuing his art and career, and sadly this was just at an extremely active and vibrant period of composition and performance at the beginning of his career as an emerging composer. By the time Peter had to prematurely retire from composition and performance, Peter already had a work released on the 1750 Arch Records label; numerous performances of his 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).  See a full list of Peter's honors at that time here.

It wasn’t until 2009 that those personal and medical concerns were sufficiently mitigated to allow Peter to resume his life’s work. One of Peter’s projects from this period 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 Peter’s propensity to explore and incorporate techniques from a variety of sources that has befuddled performers, composers, and audiences alike when hearing his works, and yet it is this propensity that defines his 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, Peter unabashedly maintains his position as a “classicist and integrationist”, but beyond that, Peter holds this aesthetic not as a mere intellectual conceit or end in itself, but as a fundamental tenet of his compositional approach and artistry: selecting and using what he considers to be usable tools from a variety of systems and integrating them into his own personal statement. One can see the broad spectrum of influences which Peter has internalized by considering his Music Genealogy which spans widely disparate sources from ultra-rational determinism to controlled improvisation and randomness and much in-between.

Current Activities
Because Peter had to discontinue his work at the time he was an "emerging" composer, he naturally assumed he could begin where he left off.  However because of his age and the many lost creative years in the interim, Peter soon discovered that it would not be so easy for him to regain his footing as a composer.  Once again he was to find himself "falling through the cracks", belonging to neither a class of "emerging" composers or a group of established composers (professional, university, or other mid-career composers of any repute) as he had no body of work to show for it.  Despite such difficulties, Peter's indefatigable spirit continues to guide him in his current projects as he forges ahead in his characteristically mild but independent way.

Such projects include work on both old and new compositions, engraving and publishing his 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.   
© Copyright 1968-2014 by Peter Dickson Lopez. All Rights Reserved.