Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MTNA Convention 2011 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) is a nonprofit organization of 24000 American independent and collegiate music teachers. Its annual conference has become a fixture in my calendar – this year it was in Milwaukee, home of beer (Millers and Coors are manufactured there) Harley-Davidson and Hal Leonard Music Publishers (my distributors in North America) Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, it has many older-style buildings that give it a grandiose feel.
As with earlier MTNAs, I was there with my colleagues from Novus Via Publishing ( Clarke MacIntosh and Scott McBride Smith. We had new publications to publicise – Skills and Technic books for Levels 3-5 of American Popular Piano – and Scott and I also did a presentation bravely entitled “Making Piano Cool – again!” The presentation went very well and I know we made a number of new converts.
The teacher beside me in the photo is Roslyn Weinstein, from Montreal, one of my Facebook friends who keeps up with all I’m doing (and of course helps me to keep up with she’s doing) and is always pleased to meet up at these public events. I saw quite a number of “friends” and even added some while at MTNA.

I feel as though we (Novus Via) are really getting somewhere – many teachers from various parts of the States came up and said that they have been having great success with American Popular Piano. Students like the pieces, the improvisation aspects are proving stimulating and appealing and the skills are working as an instant ear-training and sight-reading tool-kit. Positive reviews and press coverage and helping, but it’s the word-of-mouth aspect that is proving to be the most effective method of spreading the word about the series.

Here’s a picture of me playing with a student of Scott McBride Smith – she is a very good (national level) classical pianist who found sight-reading American Popular Piano ensembles exciting and surprisingly different from anything she’s ever done before.
At the conference, I also arranged to be a guest at the Minnesota annual music teacher conference on the 6th and 7th of June – I have quite a following in Minnesota (hey, somebody has to!) This will be preceded by a major CN Piano Festival in Toronto (May 6th and 7th) and followed by appearances at the MTAC conference in California in late June. America is becoming like a second home!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Toulouse, France

Apparently, there are not many French music dealers that are big enough to host a music workshop – LeCroquenotes in Toulouse
( is one of them, largely because they recently bought the shop next door and therefore have both a sheet music showroom and a little “concert” area next door, including a piano. LeCroquenotes (isn’t that a great name!) is in the heart of Toulouse, a delightfully quaint French town which also happens to be the home of Airbus Industries. Cathy Aubriet was the young, enthusiastic promoter of this workshop, which was billed as How to teach with Microjazz. Here’s Cathy:
Although I haven’t been to France on promotional visits very often, Microjazz has been on the market for so long (28 years!) that it has become quite well-known in France. A number of the teachers at the workshop were familiar with solos and duets from Microjazz and at the beginning of the workshop I was asked to sign what must have been an 1980s edition of Microjazz Duets. A number of the teachers (including their teacher) were from a local Conservatorium and were very interested to hear what publications have appeared since Microjazz. Here is the Toulouse Conservatorium teacher with one of the local teachers:
I began by describing the beginner books – Microjazz for Absolute Beginners and Microjazz for Beginners – with help from one of the teachers acting as my “student” - I played teacher accompaniments to the very easy student parts. I then played a number of pieces from the Microjazz Collections, some with the new, sparkling backing tracks that are included with the new editions. I also showed recent Youtube clips of students playing pieces from the series.

Then I went on to Microstyles, which was a new publication for the group, playing Metal Merchant and In the bag (the latter with enthusiastic help from a non-pianist in the audience) I then went on to talk about the “improvisation” books Improvise Microjazz and The Easiest Way To Improvise. These proved to be of great interest – a desire to learn how to improvise and teach improvisation seems to be universal!

Demonstrations, from me and with video clips from students, of the Concert Collections and Preludes concluded the presentation, along with references to, American Popular Piano and the websites associated with my material. I also referred to the Christopher Norton Piano Festivals, which were of interest to the French teachers as well.

I had a rich Toulouse-style lunch before the workshop (they do like duck products in this part of France!) and the town itself was delightful, with unusual churches a feature. Take a look at this for example:
The reactions to the range of material were very positive and the dealer was very happy! I hope to see my Toulouse teachers again before too long.