Sunday, July 17, 2011

MTAC, Oakland, California

I was delighted to join my colleagues Clarke MacIntosh and Scott McBride Smith at this MTAC convention, ably assisted by Richard and Isaac Holbrook and Charles Hung. I did 4 presentations at this conference and the reactions from the audiences indicated that American Popular Piano is really starting to make an impact. The 4 sessions were:
1. Vertical harmony
2. 5 easy steps to improvisation
3. A showcase on American Popular Piano with Scott McBride Smith
4. An improvisation workshop
Vertical Harmony was a session on recognizing chords. I began by asking audience members to come to the piano and play major and minor chords, with all their attendant inversions. What I was trying to do was get the audience to “spot” which inversion and also to demonstrate how re-voicing a chord can make a world of difference. We moved to 6th chords, 7th chords and 9th chords and time ran out as we got to maj9/6, to the obvious disappointment of the crowd. They wanted more chords!
I will create a section on vertical harmony for the website (www.americanpopular in the very near future.
The 5 Easy Steps To Improvisation was a very well-attended session and I had a 9-year old student on stage throughout, who demonstrated very assuredly each point that I was trying to make in regard to clapping a beat, clapping and playing a rhythm, using more and more notes in that rhythm and using new rhythms (and notes) as well as grace notes, pedal notes and chords. There was lots of audience participation and I’m certain that all of the teachers went away thinking “I could do this!” The feeling of sheer joy was there again and this photo from the Novus Via booth, which shows a student improvising with Isaac Holbrook, was typical of students’ reactions to improvising for the first time:

The showcase also went very well and the audience found the inclusion of a young student, again doing some simple improv, a very telling addition. Here is the young player in question, pictured with me and Scott at the Novus Via booth:
My final session brought 2 girls back from the Saratoga improv sessions. They played for the audience and were once again playing both expressively and in their own unique way. I also added a third player, a young student who had come to the booth the day before and been given an extended lesson in improv by the composer. She also did really well.
I did lots of playing on the stand and the picture below shows me at the piano, with the full range of APP books behind me. By the end of the Convention, the books were virtually all gone. We’re on our way!

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