African-American Concert Pianist Composes Music for Dogs

Dawn Richard, Howard University News Service

Concert pianist Karen Walwyn is now composing and selling music especially for dogs.  Photo courtesy of Karen Walwyn.

WASHINGTON — Concert pianist, composer and Howard University professor Karen Walwyn is now composing and selling music especially made for dogs.

“I am the only concert pianist who has recorded classical solo piano music for pets and am making these recordings available through a series of albums called Classical Music for Pets: “Left Home Alone,” “Naptime” and “Leisure Time,” said Walwyn.

Walwyn’s inspiration to create music for pets started with her own German Shepard, Miles. While practicing piano in her basement, Miles, two years old at the time, was sitting next to Walwyn’s feet as she practiced Schumann. Walwyn, who usually does not sing, began singing and Miles went to the door, clearly displeased with the singing.

“I had never sung before, but I can’t tell you to this day what made me do this! I was just being silly, but it was so funny to see what he actually did.  He got up, came over to me, smelled my breath, looked at me, with horror in his eyes, and left the room,” said the pianist.

Interestingly, when Walwyn went back to practicing Schumann, Miles came back and sat by her next to the piano again. It was then that she new this could possibly turn into her next musical project.

“He came in, and sat right by my feet where had originally had been sitting and didn't move until I had finished. I got curious after that, and some years later, I started my project,” said Walwyn.

Like people, Walwyn understands that not all dogs may have the same taste in music. Depending on their current circumstances, they may like a different genre of piano at the time.

“Some dogs may have a stronger temperament that might feel more balanced by works from the Baroque period. Other dogs may be experiencing a loss because one of the pets may have passed. A more soulful style, like Chopin nocturnes, may be more of a comfort for a time,” said Walwyn from her experiments thus far.

Walwyn is planning on selling the series of albums called Classical Music for Pets at the upcoming Super Pet Expo at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia from Mar. 16-18.

Walwyn is a recording artist for Albany Records and a tenured faculty member in the Howard University Department of Music. She has recorded five albums, mostly influenced by African American classical composers.

“When I perform concerts, I can tell if the audience has genuinely enjoyed the concert not just by their words but by their facial expressions, the emotions in their voices as they speak to me…the concert program that I choose is carefully planned as it usually tells a story and as a result I choose the pieces through temperament, texture and tempo. I do the same for the pets,” Walwyn stated.

The series of albums, Classical Music for Pets, can be bought online at www.classicalforpets.com.