Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wagga Wagga

The APPC – Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference – was held in Wagga Wagga this year and I started my mini-tour of Australia there. I haven’t been in Australia in a music education capacity for a very long time, probably over 20 years, so it was great to see to what extent my work there in the 1980s has continued to bear fruit.

The first session I did at the conference was a masterclass with students from Wagga Wagga and Griffith. They played pieces from Microjazz and Microstyles as well as Latin Preludes and I was able to guide them to better hand positions, phrasing and dynamics so that they all felt a little more assured as public performers. The idea that a technical solution can create a better musical result cannot be over-stressed!

During the Convention, I did literally dozens of one-to-one sessions with teachers, particularly on improvisation, using American Popular Piano, but also repertoire sessions on Microjazz, Connections and APP. I met New Zealand teachers who competed against me in the 1975 Christchurch concerto competition and a teacher who was at school in Timaru with my wife back in 1969! There was a lovely Kawai piano in the exhibition room, so I played with lots of teachers:
and interacted with students:

The main session for me was a Keynote Lecture entitled “An approach to teaching improvisation that works!” and it was absolutely fully attended by a very responsive crowd. I got 2 students to help me throughout, both local girls and the way they blossomed as improvisers on stage was a source of astonishment even to them. Here they are, concentrating hard:

This was a dramatic launch of APP in Australasia and its repercussions will be felt in the months ahead. Teachers here, as in California, are very interested in incorporating improv into lessons – they have just been waiting for a way of doing it that works for them as well as for the student. And the consensus seemed to be that they have found it at last. Here is the audience at the Keynote Lecture:

I was also delighted to find myself sharing a bill with Murray McLachlan, Head of Keyboard at Chetham’s School of Music and head of EPTA in Europe (and a great pianist!)

and also Dr Siaw-Sing Koo, a colleague from Singapore who I got to know in Oakland. I was also delighted to meet and hear Jovanni-Rey de Pedro, an outstanding pianist and clinician who alerted us all to the wonderful compositions of Friedrich Gulda. A rich and varied programme and lots of great conversations made this a memorable conference.

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