Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Minnesota June 2012

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:
 Jon also created an excellent website – www.thechristophernortonproject.com - that details how Festivals work and includes nice photos and video clips. Do check it out.
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:
 and in the college choir room, with a lovely grand piano, for the masterclasses:
 The combination of improv groups and masterclasses meant, as I have discovered before, that there was a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere when it came to the Gala Concert and the relaxed nature of the event was much appreciated by the many parents and friends who came along to support their children.

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.
 I was able to provide almost one-on-one improv sessions, which were really fruitful, and we used a lovely grand piano for the masterclasses, which I was able to give without too much pressure of time per student. We got some truly spectacular results, all of which were in evidence at the Gala Concert, held in the gorgeous concert hall back at MacPhail.
 I attended a wonderful concert last evening. It was at Antonella Hall, MacPhail. Christopher Norton had conducted a clinic for piano students of teachers in the Twin Cities and MN. Students worked on improvisation with Chris. The Gala Concert consisted of students performing their pieces with Christopher. The music was, as many of you know, jazzy, uplifting, fun, and includes some difficult rhythms. For those of you with piano students, please consider this clinic next year when Christopher returns.

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.

No comments: