Friday, June 29, 2012

York, UK June 2012

When I first came to the UK, in 1977, I was a postgraduate student at York University and I was first published by Universal Edition because of a recommendation from John Paynter, one of the many illustrious staff at the University music department. So it was great to come back and give a presentation in what used to be Banks Music and is now the Musicroom, York.
The Musicroom is a large city centre shop and has an extensive sheet music department, which is where I was set up, with a Roland HPi-7 piano, a piano that has a dedicated CN button and 350 of my files embedded.
One of the teachers had come, with a student, all the way from Darlington and had heard about American Popular Piano from discussions on a teacher forum.

 Another of the teachers at the workshop was 20 years old when she sung in an opera I wrote called The Song of Roland, performed at York University in 1979. So we are talking 33 years ago! She has been teaching since and has also written some delightful self-published childrens’ songs. Here she is on the left, holding a copy of the American Popular Piano Preparatory book, while the teacher on the right is brandishing a copy of the Microjazz Trios Collection.

All of the teachers who came were new to APP and were very interested by its novel approach to the teaching of improvisation, which I demonstrated in Part 1 with some help from both teachers and students. They were also very taken with the range of styles and the use of teacher accompaniments and tracks throughout the series. A number of complete sets were purchased afterwards.

Part 2 was about Microjazz and I was able to demonstrate a number of “new” products (like the Trios Collection) - most of the teachers were only aware of early Microjazz volumes. 

Two of the teachers were very interested in Piano Festivals and it seems likely that the first Christopher Norton Piano Festival in the UK may well be held in York, which would be a nice coming home touch!

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 ( 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 – - 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.

Friday, June 15, 2012

CMVR - Conservatório de Música de Vila Real, Portugal

Workshop report written by Victor Gomes

The acclaimed worldwide pedagogue and composer Christopher Norton has been last 19th May in Vila Real – Portugal, to hold a workshop in CMVR ( dedicated to his own teaching methods and music improvisation. The event was specifically targeted to the conservatoire community and a massive participation took place among students and teachers. Chris Norton, presented his most popular method – The Microjazz – and also The American Popular Piano method, in which the interaction with the students was rather appreciated.
For the event, C.N. made his full presentation on a HPi-7, combined with a FP-7 and an acoustic grand piano, all property of the CMVR. In fact, Mr. Chris Norton strongly suggested the board to use an HPi series in his workshop, once he could use very easily the ‘Christopher Norton File’ and show many of his music files and the advantages of using it through the HPi-7. 
Besides those instruments, a personal laptop was used to show some informations and videos on a data show.
Most part of the tunes he played (or showed) included accompaniments on Midi File format and also Audio Tracks, some of them coming out from the HPi-7 itself. Besides that, it was shown the benefits of using the DigiScore system to display the scores.

As a result of the huge success achieved with this event, the board of the CMVR is considering to organise a 2nd event with Christopher Norton – a Piano Festival – which will be based, for sure on Roland digital pianos/keyboards.  
All the teachers present at the workshop were so surprised with C. Norton pedagogical suggestion and methods, that they felt the need to acquire some more skills regarding the endless pedagogical resources of the HPi-7. In this meeting not only piano teacher will be presented, but all the other instrumental teachers as well.

The event was widely broadcast throughout the local media, but the echoes of such event will spread all over many other official music schools in the country. It was the very first time that an official Portuguese music school organised an event like the one. 

Christopher Norton was, as always, very supportive, highly professional, but also very happy with the success of it. He put on his website and Facebook an extensive report of the event.