Category Archives: Inspiring People

Katrina Jia Eleven Year Old Pianist Takes 1st Place in National Piano Competition

Katrina Jai at Piano (2)

 – By JoAnn Richi

Published  Apr. 5th 2012 The Asian American Times.

Katrina Jia, 11 is a shy little girl with a beautiful smile. In a long blue silk dress, and shiny new shoes, with her jet black hair neatly combed and tumbling below her shoulders she politely answers the usual questions.


Asked what she especially likes to do, her glance steals over to the massive Steinway piano dominating the cavernous studio

Under the proud gaze of her mother, and Fei Xu; her piano teacher “from her first note”, Katrina Jia appears to embrace the keyboard effortlessly playing, from memory, Scarlatti’s Sonata in E Major.

Fei Xu, founder and co-owner with his wife Hong Zhu of the New Century Conservatory are world acclaimed piano pedagogues, noted for training budding prodigies.
Continue reading

Great Escapes – Arizona’s Best-kept Secret

Robb Report Photo

The Robb Report  – Photography and Article by JoAnn Richi

For Larry Farren, the desert’s a metaphor for real life. “Mountains. Climbing up one, down another. Getting there, reaching for the top, and depending on other people.” His eyes sweep the surrounding desert. “Amazing breakthroughs happen out on those trails. People open up in ways they don’t on a golf course. Ideas flow. Things happen.”

Dark hair, darker eyes, a wrestler’s build, with a voice at once soothing and a little intimidating, Larry Farren’s an enigma. A desert lover with thriving businesses in Phoenix and Seattle, he’s a man with a mission, a company insider turned business consultant, with razor-sharp insights into what makes corporate America tick. He’s also the proprietor of a retreat center devoted to holistic health – mind, body, and spirit. Farren has a clear theory about what the average millionaire CEO needs in order to forge team-building skills among the executive troops, ignite creativity and enthusiasm for the job, and boost company morale: healthy food, a natural setting, total privacy, and the warm glow of personal accomplishment from hiking up the side of a mountain and down the other.
Continue reading

Goodbye To A Great Professor

‘Dr. Kastenbaum I Remember You.’  Keynote Address by JoAnn Richi robert_kastenbaum

A few months ago I came across the obituary for one of my professors, a man who with his incredible charm and piercing intelligence made quite an impression on me. On impulse I started typing an entry into the on line memorial guest book. It evolved into a heartfelt tribute to a man I knew for only a brief period, a long time ago. Upon reading the entry, Dr. Kastenbaum’s wife, Beatrice contracted me and asked me to speak at her husband’s Celebration of Life at Arizona State University. I did. This is what I wrote, and what I read to the assembled guests.

Guest Book Entry in Memoriam Dr. Robert Kastenbaum August 2014

I was a student of Dr. Kastenbaum, who almost wasn’t. It was just by chance that at the end of my Master’s program, a few credits short of graduating, I stumbled upon his class; Death, Dying and Society. I thought; “How bad could it be?”

It turned out to be one of the most enriching and enjoyable experiences of my graduate studies. Dr. Kastenbaum was a captivating instructor. From the moment he started lecturing he drew me in and opened my mind to thoughts and concepts that had never before occurred to me. He had a way of illuminating dark areas so often avoided and infusing taboo topics with a breathless excitement. It was his creative curiosity and innovativeness that was so intriguing, and for those of us who loved that class, his thoughts and insights have stayed with us for a lifetime.
Continue reading