2012 MTNA Conference -Sunday Morning – Alfred Music Publishing: The Colors of Music: Instructional Materials for Developing Pianists

The conference has begun! The exhibitor showcases are a great way to find out about new materials, glean new teaching tips, meet today’s composers, and (of course) pick up free materials!

Tom Gerou hosted this first session by Alfred Publishing.

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It began with a performance by Tony Caramia of his arrangement of America the Beautiful from his book, Jazz Performer: American Treasures.

Next up was an overview of a new series by Alfred – Classics for the Developing Pianist – by Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Phyllis Alpert Lehrer.

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Ingrid shared a bit of the background of the series. It is the outgrowth of a graduate course she and Phyllis have been teaching for many years. The series includes five books of the top 100 classical pieces.

The series has three primary objectives:
1. Easier to learn.
2. More fun to practice.
3. Result in a more musical performance.

How is this accomplished?
* Alternative fingering.
* Additional dynamics to contribute to greater shaping, balance, and voicing.
* Additional pedaling and tips for more effective pedaling, including una corda, half pedal, etc.
* Tempo ranges.
* Articulation and ornamentation choices and explanations.

They proceeded to play some of their favorite pieces that illustrate some of these highlights.

One of the presenters’ points was that there are many urtext editions available for the “purists” who only want the composers’ original markings. They feel that their series provides helpful assistance for teachers and students who could use additional input on how to play as musically as possible. In particular, the pieces incorporate many dynamic markings (even up to three at a time in Schumann’s Knecht Ruprecht) to help pianists understand appropriate voicing.

The next presenter was the popular Melody Bober. She was joined at the piano by two others to play Irish Circle Dance from Book 4 of the series, Grand Trios for Piano.

She also gave a brief overview of the new Theory for Busy Teens books.

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Ever the creative one, Melody introduced another new book with help from her student “Bobbie” Vandall (a.k.a. Robert Vandall) who broke his arm skateboarding. The new series? Grand One-Hand Solos for Piano. He experienced an amazing accident reversal partway through the session, enabling them to demonstrate pieces for each hand. 🙂

The pieces are just as engaging as we’ve come to expect from Melody’s compositions! She recommended using them even for unique sight-reading experiences with uninjured students.

The final presenter was Dennis Alexander.

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He began by stating that one of the most exciting things for young students is to learn how to create a musical sound, to voice their pieces beautifully. He likes to work with students to discover the “heart” of each phrase. He grabs a pencil, plays the phrase, and asks the student which note is the most important. It might be the highest note, the longest note, the last note, or something else. They mark the most important note with a small heart and then place a crescendo leading up to it and a decrescendo leading away from it. He has the student find the “heart” of every phrase in a piece so that they can learn to play it beautifully.

He shared another technique he called “ovals.” This refers to them learning to feel the shape of an oval in the air with the motion of their wrist. He had the audience try this by placing their right hand on their left arm and moving in a small oval shape – moving up with the phrase, then around and down with the descent of the phrase.

One of the main points of the technique books is to create beautiful sound with beautiful motion. With this in mind, they’ve designed a series of Technique books to correlate with their Premier Piano Course.

After sharing some of these tips, he moved into playing excerpts from the complimentary book each workshop attendee received, Premier Piano Course Pop and Movie Hits Book 6. His rendition of You Raise Me Up was lovely! And everyone had fun singing the theme from “New York, New York” while he accompanied. 🙂

He concluded the session with a run-through of the three Splash of Color books. This workshop was a wonderful and musical start to the conference!

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