Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Christopher Norton in Southern California March 2013

Christopher Norton in Southern California 9th – 16th March 2013

I’ve been to MTNA (the Music Teachers National Association) every year since 2007, not to mention the MTNA in Portland in 1987! This year, MTNA, the biggest music teacher convention in the US, took place in Anaheim, CA. Ok, it was held at the Disneyland Hotel! Here’s where I was staying:

and for those of you with an interest in such things, here’s what was on the bed of my hotel room:

So there you have it….

At MTNA, I was manning a booth that represented both American Popular Piano and Boosey & Hawkes books and I played lots of music from both series, as well as from Connections. I had a nice piano and was able to provide hands-on experience to teachers (including APP improvisation Etudes)

Scott McBride Smith and I also did a presentation on APP, which was remarkably well-attended (125 people) considering it was at 8 am! Sales were strong across all products and there was lots of interest in Piano Festivals and other events. I was also very pleased to meet up with Jovanni-Rey De Pedro, who has commissioned my new Jazz Piano Sonata, and we went through it on one of the many grand pianos available.

Australian composer (but New Zealand-born, that’s the important thing!) Elissa Milne and her mother also stopped by and were serenaded (at their request) with Christmas carols from the new(ish) Microjazz Christmas books.

It was a very worthwhile convention, with events hosted by Clavier Companion, who I write occasional articles for, and by Scott McBride Smith and Ingrid Clarfield. I also hung out with David and Olvia Riddell from MYC, Susan Geffen from Clavier Companion, Connie Wible from Seattle, not to mention Dennis Alexander, Peter Mack, Vanessa Curdett-Murtada…. And I was particularly delighted that my US “agents”, Olive and Anthony Yau, were able to come to the convention for a day and meet with me and others to plan an exciting 2014.

After MTNA, I did a number of events in Orange County and Santa Monica for local teachers. The first was at Nancy Woo’s Southwest Conservatory of Music, where I gave a well-received presentation to a group of local teachers on using pop styles. Here are 2 of the teachers after the presentation, looking forward to using the books in their studios:

Nancy Woo’s name is on the ballot for the MTAC (Music Teachers Association of California) state board of directors, so she’s not just a great piano teacher and ace music dealer!

I also did 2 sessions with Nancy’s students. Rhythm Mania was the name of the session and they played and jammed on pieces in 8 different styles. A good time was had by all.

The next day I had been invited to take a masterclass with 9 students of Sue Dibble, a private teacher based in Irvine. Sue's website is  http://ezpiano.org - do check it out. The students were well prepared and really delightful as well. Here’s one of them after the masterclass:

Sue is from Malaysia, but married to an American, so we had a really first-rate meal at an authentic Malaysian restaurant after the masterclass:

My final post-MTNA event was organised by Deborah How in Santa Monica. Deborah has been a leading light in the Carnegie Hall assessment programme and has also started a new initiative, Bravura Innovations (www.BRAVURAinnovations.com) that is hoping to help legitimise more popular and improvisatory strands in formal piano examinations.

This event consisted of a master class for 2 hours, followed by “Rhythm Mania” for 2 hours. The masterclass had students from 2 studios and they were well prepared and played very musically. The parents (and teachers I suspect) were pleasantly surprised to hear how much emphasis I placed on correct hand position and graceful phrasing. I got most of the students to try to play with a track, which they hadn’t done before. Most of them did very well in a more strict-time environment.

Rhythm Mania was a session exploring playing by ear, playing chords in inversion through a chord progression (with a backing track) playing a bass line through a chord progression, creating an idea that is repeated and “drumming” along to a teacher part or track. We used 8 pieces, from APP, Connections, Microjazz, Microstyles, MicroRock and MicroBallads. I had 20 students on digital pianos as well as some teachers and parents on pianos around the outside. A very stimulating session!

There is definitely great interest in Southern California in a Christopher Norton Piano Festival and other related events. My material is listed on the Royal Conservatory Assessment Programme, ABRSM and the Californian Certificate of Merit, so name recognition is becoming less of an issue for teachers. The next step is to persuade more Californian teachers that exploring popular styles and improvisation in this way is not daunting or even entirely unfamiliar. See you in 2014! Do check out http://www.oliveland.com/nortonevent

Christopher Norton
Los Angeles, CA 17th March 2013

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