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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about Four Paws Music, my always-bare feet, my availability, commissions, and other matters cheerfully answered here! For technical info on the web site's construction, click here.

General questions and questions about music Questions about bare feet ("paws"!) Your Question (and answer) Could Be Here if you email me

Q: How did the name Four Paws Music come about? Does it mean anything?
A: I wanted a unique name to use as my "publishing company" for my music, with domain name and web presence to go with. I had several choices, but Four Paws Music was the immediate favorite. It reflects my habit and preference of performing (and, indeed, living) with feet bare, that is, using all four paws. The name also immediately suggested a theme for the graphics and logos, i.e. bare footprints. Four Paws also sounds a bit like "for pause" which connotes the soothing, restful potential of music. Also, Four Paws goes well with my affection for animals, especially cats. [Back to top of page]

Q: Do you teach piano lessons?
A: This is about the only thing I currently don't do. All of my available musical time is currently spent performing and composing.[Back to top of page]

Q: Will you accompany me?
A: Certainly! I am very busy, but one of the things I am busy with is accompanying! If I am free on the day of your event, I would love to work with you. I have recently done individual voice and instrumental recitals, concerts of many sorts, auditions, competitions, and NYSSMA. Please note that I now perform barefoot exclusively. (At my last NYSSMA, several clients of the Barefoot Accompanist received perfect scores, and two went to All State.) For fees, rehearsal location (my home) and other information, please email me at info @ fourpawsmusic.com. [Back to top of page]

Q: Will you play organ at my wedding, or piano at my party?
A: Yes! I always enjoy playing for weddings. Please note that at most churches, the official organist of the church has right of first refusal for all events at the church where the organ is played. If you prefer that I play for you, you may have to pay the regular organist their standard wedding fee (i.e. in addition to anything agreed on with me). In some cases, if the regular organist knows me, this requirement may be waived. My typical fee for a wedding is $150-$200 depending on complexity of the service, distance, etc. I also can provide light classical, Broadway, and ragtime piano for social events. Again please email info @ fourpawsmusic.com. [Back to top of page]

Q: Can I commission you to compose a piece for a special occasion, or for me or my ensemble to perform?
A: Absolutely. If you would like choral music or songs, you can suggest poets or texts that you like. You can also indicate what instruments might be used, if any. As much lead time as possible is helpful. (A single song might be done in a matter of weeks. A choral piece or song cycle might take six to nine months.) Commission fees depend on how extensive a piece is desired. In one case, I wrote a choral work for the wedding of two friends, and the commissioning fee they offered was an all-expenses-paid weekend for my wife and I at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, NY, including meals and babysitting for our children! Please email info @ fourpawsmusic.com and if possible include "Commission" in the subject line. [Back to top of page]

Q: Are those your footprints (and handprints!) in the banner graphics and logo?
A: Yes! All of the graphics are based on scans of my own genuine hand and footprints. [Back to top of page]

Q: I was at a concert and read in your program bio that you go barefoot year round, indoors and out, even when it snows. Are you serious?
A: Absolutely! In colder weather, I go outside less and drive some places I might ordinarily walk or bicycle, but even in snow I try to minimize my use of footwear. (Several people have said to me that they read in my bio that I go barefoot year round, but they didn't believe it until they saw me in the parking lot afterwards, and/or my footprints in the snow.) [Back to top of page]

Q: Do your feet ever get cold?
A: Rarely. Not never, but rarely. Putting it another way: When I go for a barefoot walk in the winter, can I feel that it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit out? Yes. Would my feet and I be happier if it was 70 out? Of course. Would I be more comfortable in shoes? No, not really. (The thing that I find amusing is that, even among my acquaintances who know that I am a pianist, nobody ever asks me if my hands are cold!) [Back to top of page]

Q: Why do you go barefoot?
A: There are any number of reasons, which I can summarize quickly:
  • Comfort
    This one is obvious, right?
  • Health
    The closed, warm, damp environment of shoes contributes to the growth of disease and fungi. Also, shoes interfere with natural walking motion and can cause physical deformities in the feet.
  • Spirituality
    Bare feet have long been associated with spirituality, humility, and piety. Moses on Mt. Sinai and St. Francis are two famous examples. Touch, and the laying on of hands, also has powerful associations in many faiths. Our feet have as many nerve endings for touch as the hands, and when we walk barefoot, we are laying hands (no, feet!) on the earth and feeling the spirit of creation in a very direct and powerful way.
  • Practicality
    Bare feet are washable, waterproof, inexpensive, and get more durable the more you use them. Plus, I never have to worry about finding a matching pair of socks, or forgetting to bring my performance shoes to a concert!
  • Safety
    My sense of balance and traction are much better when barefoot. Bare feet have no laces to trip on or get caught in escalator steps. The ability to sense and react to walking surfaces more than makes up for the occasional splinter.
  • Economics, Respect for Environment
    Used shoes are nearly impossible to recycle and are a significant component of landfill waste. Manufacture and marketing of shoes requires significant monetary and environmental resources. On the other hand, I can unequivocally state that my bare feet were not manufactured in a sweatshop, and almost certainly will not wind up in a landfill.
  • Respect for the property of others
    Bare feet are quiet, and gentle to surfaces; they do not cause heel or nail marks in hardwood floors or scuff marks on linoleum. Since they do not have a deep "tread" it is easier to wipe mud or dirt off them when entering a building.
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Q: Why do you perform barefoot?
A: Comfort is again one of the simplest reasons. Now that I am barefoot full-time, during the occasional rare exceptions, my shoes are intensely irritating distractions every moment I have them on. They would be doubly so during a performance. In fact, the very last time I wore closed-toe shoes to play a recital, I ended up spraining one of my toes!

Unlike most church organists, I have never been able to tolerate official "organ shoes". I am too much the pianist, and like to feel the instrument. For years I used to play organ in my socks. However, socks are really too slippery for this purpose. Bare feet are much closer to the proper amount of slip vs. grip, especially now that I have the leathery soles of a full-time barefooter. (In fact, if I kept my feet confined in shoes most of the time, they would be too sweaty and sticky to pedal with bare, so it is partly because I am a barefooter that my natural soles work so well at the organ.)

On piano, once I began playing barefoot regularly during rehearsals, I noticed that I had a much greater sensitivity to feedback from the damper mechanism in the sole of my foot. My pedaling, particularly the releases, was much less precise when anything came between me and the piano. Because of this, I have insisted upon being barefoot in all of my concert appearances since early in 2002. [Back to top of page]

Technical Info

This area under construction. [Back to top of page]
Last modified October 15, 2004.
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