Keith began piano lessons when he was five years old.  His mother was his first teacher.  At the age of thirteen, he entered the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department, and studied piano with Milton Salkind, president of the Conservatory.  Keith was the first of only a handful of pre-college students that Mr. Salkind ever taught.  

Along with his distinguished studies at the piano, Keith also was at the top of his class in music theory, and was selected by his voice teacher to be in a vocal octet that performed frequently as representatives of the Conservatory. Other pre-college piano study includes work with Boston University professor Maria Clodes at the Tanglewood Institute. 

Keith received Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Piano Performance from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he was a student of world renowned teacher John Perry.  At USC, he was twice honored with the Gabriel Meckler Memorial  Scholarship, and received the award for Outstanding Pianist upon graduation. During these years, Keith spent his summers studying and performing at the Aspen Music Festival.

While a teenager, Keith won a long list of First Prizes in local and state competitions.  The recognition he received from these awards brought many performance opportunities.  When he was 21, he won First Prize at the Joanna Hodges International Piano Competition, which awarded him a formal London debut in 1984 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  Following this success, he signed a contract with Columbia Artist Management Community Concerts.  In 1987, he was invited to return to London to perform with the Academy of London Orchestra at the Barbican Centre, and to record Carnival of the Animals at EMI’s Abbey Road Studio, for Virgin Records.  This highly acclaimed CD also includes Peter and the Wolf with Sir John Gielgud as narrator.

By the end of 1987, focal dystonia was beginning to hamper Keith’s control of the instrument, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to meet the demands of his performing career. In 1988, canceling an engagement to perform the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto, he withdrew from his professional life as a pianist. During his seventeen year absence from the concert stage, Keith explored the various options for those afflicted with focal dystonia.   Initially, doctors sent him to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, to participate as a subject for research, and to try the experimental therapy of botox injections.  Eventually, Keith found that most effective for him is a type of physical therapy generally known as Rolfing. Although there is some improvement, Keith does not feel the same freedom in the right hand of his early years.

Becoming a passionate proponent of piano music for the left hand alone has surprised no one more that Keith himself.  The exploration of this repertoire written for the hand with which he has the most freedom has become an intensely gratifying new journey of music making.

In 2007, Keith began to accept professional engagements again, playing music written for the left hand alone.  His busy fall included playing recitals for the “Music at Noon” series in Pasadena (California), the Mountainair Arts Council (New Mexico), and the Jane Austen Society of North America. He was the featured artist at the Professional Music Teachers of New Mexico 2007 Conference.  His recital program included the premier of Verbs, Book 1 by Kathleen Ryan, written for Keith.  The success of the performance led to the PMTNM contracting Kathleen to be the Commissioned Composer for the 2008 conference, for which she will write Verbs, Book 2, which will be performed by Keith.

“The purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, 

was and is, to hold, as ‘twere,

the mirror up to nature.”

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

© 2017 Keith Porter-Snell