Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beverley Music Centre, Beverley, Yorkshire, UK

Beverley Music Centre has been serving the musical needs of people in east Yorkshire for over 30 years. The thriving music shop is near the town centre and has a wide range of sheet music as well as musical instruments and CDs . What about this for a
quaint shop front?
Beverley Music Centre

This was a well-organised event and was a good-sized group which included one young (12ish) student, who helped me out with both a duet and some work on APP Preparatory Skills.
Beverley audience members

I also had a non-player up to help out (very impressively) with In the Bag from Microstyles (he’s in the centre of the group photo)The audience were very friendly and attentive and were most interested in both American Popular Piano and in new Microjazz books like MicroLatin and MicroRock. As with other stops on this tour, the improvisation elements were of particular interest and indicate that attitudes to improvisation are changing, even among music teachers!
Beverley teachers (and student)

Thanks to Rosalind Willoughby and the staff of Beverley Music Centre for hosting such a happy occasion.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The King’s School, Grantham, UK

The King’s School in Grantham can trace its lineage back as far as 1329, making it one of the oldest schools in the UK. Isaac Newton and William Cecil are among the many illustrious old boys. Music thrives at King’s. There are unparalleled opportunities for performance, whether it be as a soloist or as part of a small or large ensemble. Over 200 instrumental lessons take place each week and approximately a third of the school learn to play a musical instrument. There’s a big band and a soul band. Justin Dixon, the head of music, invited me to do a workshop on keyboard improvisation. 26 boys took part and quite a few played for me. Here’s the whole group:

King’s School improvisation workshop

I began by playing a bluesy improvised piece from Jazz Preludes, with track, which went down well. Then I asked the boys to listen to 3 snippets of piano improvisation – from Oscar Peterson, Jamie Cullum and Lyle Mays. This got us into a discussion about what the relationship is between what students play and what they listen to and we also touched on what sort of music they might want to improvise.

Then we were straight into improvisation on Intercity Stomp, using Improvise Microjazz as the source material. Various students helped me and did some good improvising very quickly. Here’s me with 2 students hard at work:

Students improvise with CN

I then moved onto A Day in Majorca and I showed the students how you can build up left hand chords, then a right hand solo, using The Easiest Way To Improvise.

Finally, we went onto American Popular Piano, using Spider Blues from Level 3 and Happy Times from Level 6. There were some quite startling results from the students who played and the rest of the group found it informative and, I think, entertaining.


The participants enjoyed trying some freer improvisation, using grace notes, pedal notes, tremolo and other tasty devices. I hope many of them will go away thinking that they can definitely start to improvise and that they have some tools for that purpose as well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Millers Music Centre, Cambridge, UK

Millers Music Centre is one of the longest established companies in Cambridge and is believed to be the second oldest music shop in Britain. They have a great selection of sheet music as well as a wide range of musical instruments. This was a Saturday morning workshop and we held it in the dining room of a local hostelry. It was a small but enthusiastic group and they still got the full show. Here’s Miller Music Centre’s very enthusiastic sheet music specialist (and this was after the presentation):
Miller Music Centre sheet music man

I did my usual American Popular Piano and Microjazz double presentation. One of the participants works in Hertfordshire and said the same presentation would be of interest to teachers of piano employed by the county. Watch this space! Here he is:
A Royston teacher

He’s holding a copy of MicroRock - this is part of a new series, so far consisting of Microswing, MicroLatin and MicrRock. The pieces in each book start really easy (in 5-finger position) and progress to no more than Grade 3 in difficulty. They have great backing tracks as well.

This was my second visit to Cambridge in 2009 and I hope to be back again in the future to see how people are getting on with all the new material.