Monday, September 7, 2009

Workshop at Chetham's School of Music, Manchester

Report on Christopher Norton workshop at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, UK, August 25th 2009

With 290 or so students aged 8 - 18, Chetham’s is the largest specialist Music School in the UK and the only Music School based in the North of England. The annual Summer School for pianists is now in its ninth year. There is no other summer school that manages to cater for adult amateurs, promising children and observers! All are welcome on the course - concert pianists, international young artists preparing for top competitions, and professional music teachers. I was invited to do a presentation at the 2009 Summer School and, as I expected, I addressed an interesting mix of students, teachers and yes, observers! Here’s a cross-section of the audience:

One person I spoke to was from Phoenix. Arizona (second row up) another was not a specialist music teacher but interested in getting a Venezuelan-style scheme youth music scheme going in London. There were also a couple of teachers who played in a piano duo. And lots of students, perhaps happy to do something a little less intense than the practicing and performing they had been doing the rest of the time!

I soon realized that some of the audience didn't know who I was, let alone anything about Microjazz, so I began by giving a mini-historical overview, including my own classical piano background in New Zealand and how Microjazz came to be, so to speak. I played various pieces from Microjazz, Microstyles, the Concert Collection and Preludes and as always included some fun audience participation. Here’s one of my “students”, still looking cheerful after coming up on stage with me

Then I got onto American Popular Piano and went through the basics of this unique piano course. This always requires some audience participation, an entertaining element (particularly for the observers) Here’s a student who helped me out on the improvisation front:

This really was a flying visit, as I had to get back to Leeds to celebrate my elder daughter’s engagement (see the picture at the top!) The mix of audience that Chetham’s Summer School creates is great – students who are looking for new repertoire, teachers who want to hear something fresh on the pedagogical front and amateurs who are just interested in the whole process of piano playing and teaching. It was a privilege to be a part of this year's Summer School.

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