One of my earliest adopters in the US was Jon Michael Iverson, who teaches at the MacPhail Center for Music in central Minneapolis (www.macphail.org) Jon has recorded lots of my music, including superb videos of pieces from both American Popular Piano and Connections, with MacPhail students. I played at his wedding concert last year and also did some presentations at MacPhail and Jon decided to launch Christopher Norton Piano Festivals in the USA in Minnesota. Here’s Jon, standing next to the poster he created for the Festivals, and also Gayle Marcus, the Willmar teacher who found the excellent venue for the Willmar Festival:
We started the proceedings in Minneapolis, with a showcase for teachers, held in a Schmitt Music store in the Brooklyn Center. There was a small but very appreciative audience and three of the teachers were so interested in the improvisation that they decided to come again the following Tuesday for a further hands-on session. This Minneapolis showcase was like my Australian presentations in January – featuring American Popular Piano, Connections and Microjazz.
On the Saturday and Sunday we had a large Piano Festival in Willmar, a city two hours west of Minneapolis. Two local teachers, Megan Gilles and Gayle Marcus, had done a fantastic job of getting students and their teachers organised for this event – there were nearly 70 participants. The event was held at a local college – we were on the main stage for improv groups:
Jon and I drove back to Minneapolis on the Sunday night, through torrential rain and almost continuous lightning!
The Monday Piano Festival was held at St Thomas, a beautiful campus in Minneapolis. I know the head of the piano department, Vanessa Cornett-Mutada (we play Draw Something on line – she’s really good!) and the facilities include a great piano lab, which we used. I had a small number of students for this day event – 14 in total – so it felt more like a summer camp and was in fact very enjoyable for me and for the students as a result.
My final event was with three teachers in Minneapolis – a hands-on improv session using American Popular Piano. This proved to be a very fruitful session and I’m sure all three teachers will now incorporate improv into their teaching programme.