Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 NMTA Guest Artist: The luckiest people in the world

This week, music teachers from across the state will join together for a sharing of ideas, performances, and premiers. You can read interviews with the guest clinician and commissioned composer here and here, and now, a little bit about the guest performer: Mark Salman.

Salman has performed around the world and “is perhaps best known for his expertise on Beethoven, having performed the complete cycle of the thirty-two piano sonatas on both coasts as well as in 18 broadcasts on KING-FM in Seatttle.” He also has performed recitals celebrating Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, and Franz Schubert. 

Attendees at the NMTA Conference this year will be treated to Salman’s performance of:
  • Mendelssohn's  Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14
  • Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 54 in F Major
  • Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 101 in A major
  • Chopin’s Mazurka in C# minor, Op. 6 #2
  • Chopin’s Mazurka in C Major, Op. 24 #2
  • Chopin’s Mazurka in C# minor, Op. 50 #3
  • Liszt, Czarda Macabre
  • Liszt, Valle d’Obermann (which is from his Year of Pilgrimage, First Year, Switzerland)
Salman also shared with LincolnCMN about some of the composers that he has performed the most, the emotion and drama that draw him to the works of Beethoven and Liszt, in particular:

Mark Salman - 2014 NMTA Conference
Guest Artist
photo courtesy of NMTA
“I've always felt very close to the works of Beethoven, and have performed them constantly throughout my life. I've always been drawn to Beethoven's comprehensive world - his music has drama, every range of emotion and is intellectually endlessly fascinating and complex.  Every time I come back to a piece of his music after several years I find I experience it anew, and find many new levels of meaning in it.  
Liszt is a composer that I have also spent a great deal of time with. Although on the surface a very different composer in style from Beethoven, I'm drawn to him for many of the same qualities. His music has everything in life in it, and he was more open to every facet of life experience in its full intensity than any other composer, and performing his music is a wide ranging and intense emotional experience. The intellectual underpinning and complexity of his music is often overlooked, but like Beethoven's works, I find my experience of his music to be fresh and new every time I come back to it.”
Aside from those great composers, some particular teachers and pianists that greatly  influenced Salman were “David Dubal, a professor at Juilliard, from whom I learned a great deal  about how to look at music in the context of other arts and general life experience, and…the opportunity to meet and play for Vladimir Horowitz, in whose presence I felt his connection with the long line of composers and pianists from Rachmaninoff going back to Liszt and Beethoven, and his feeling of duty to always do his very best in recreating the music of these great composers whose traditions he had inherited.”

Salman’s words for teachers everywhere, and especially for the teachers that he’ll be meeting and performing for in a few days at the conference are that they should “tell their students that they are the luckiest people in the world — they are able to live in intimate contact with some of the greatest works of art that humanity has ever produced, and live in daily contact with the great minds that produced these works.”

Let us never forget the privilege of being connected to the great artists who left us the amazing music that never ceases to move us as Salman’s performance is sure to do this week!
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Monday, October 6, 2014

2014 NMTA Guest Clinician: Learning from one another

A few days ago, readers were treated to the interview with composer Kurt Knecht as he shared with us about the cello sonata he wrote for the upcoming conference. Today, we get to read an interview with Gail Berenson, the guest clinician at this year’s NMTA Conference (conference details here).

Gail Berenson - Guest Clinician for the
2014 NMTA Conference
photo courtesy of NMTA
Berenson, Professor Emerita at Ohio University, Athens, is a past-president of Music Teachers’ National Association (MTNA) and enjoys performing and teaching pedagogy. For this conference, she wants to help get teachers “thinking about how they approach their teaching from the various perspectives we will be discussing.” She adds, “in many cases, what I say will simply reinforce things that teachers are already doing.  I hope I might also provide a new way of viewing other ideas.  I certainly don't have all the answers, but in the open discussions we will be having, I hope to be learning as much from those in attendance as they do from me.”

With her background as a music teacher and past president of MTNA, Berenson is a big supporter of these professional organizations:

“I sincerely believe that one of the important aspects of being a professional is belonging to and supporting one’s professional organization.  MTNA has in turn  helped nurture my growth as a musician and pedagogue.  Since joining, as a very young faculty member still in my early 20's, I have always had the utmost respect for MTNA and the many services it provides its members, and have taken advantage of most of those services.  I attend local association workshops, state and national conferences, each event providing the opportunities to learn from a wide range of talented and dedicated clinicians and performers.  Aside from my formal studies, these educational experiences have resulted in countless positive changes in my teaching and my playing.  I read the American Music Teacher and MTNA's eJournal, two superb resources.  Having the privilege of taking on various leadership positions, it has enabled me to develop leadership skills and learn a tremendous amount about people and about myself.   Most of all, I treasure the many friends that I have met through MTNA, many of whom have become lifelong friends.  Having attended more than 30 MTNA National Conferences, returning each year feels like a fabulous family reunion! Becoming active in both MTNA your MTA state association, you will have the lifelong support of a professional partner.”

Surely, many teachers in NMTA can relate to and agree with Berenson’s positive experiences working with these organizations. Besides state conferences like the upcoming one, how many times teachers are presented with new ideas and ways of thinking about things—whether they are sharing and learning from one another or from the many guest speakers brought in for events.

And who ultimately benefits from MTNA and NMTA events?

“My students are the ultimate beneficiaries of all the pedagogical information I have heard at these meetings and workshops.  Even after all these years, I still come away with something new to integrate into my teaching.  Additionally, students benefit from the many MTNA and state association-sponsored student activities that provide numerous opportunities for students to perform in recitals, master classes, competitions and to receive feedback in non-competitive events. Collegiate students can form collegiate chapters, forging bonds with their peers and initiating meaningful projects that will benefit their community and help them grow as professional musicians.  They will have a network of colleagues and resources that follow with them wherever they their careers take them.”

Berenson’s own music experience began with piano lessons at age six: “I was good at it and enjoyed playing the piano.  As I got older, I especially loved making music with others.  I played violin in the orchestra, sang and played for the choir and accompanied all my friends and peers in solo and ensemble contests.  In fact, they often had to work the contest schedule around my performances since I was playing for so many students.  When the time arrived for me to select a major in college, it seemed to be a natural decision  - I would major in music.  It is interesting that neither of my parents had musical abilities, but both my sister and I ended up being professional musicians.  My sister is a violinist in the Atlanta Symphony (she also plays piano/keyboards for their pops concerts) and is highly in demand as a freelance accompanist in the Atlanta area.”

By participating in the conference and many other opportunities provided by NMTA, not only teachers benefit—we never know in how many ways music teachers affect and inspire their students.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

2014 NMTA Conference: Kurt Knecht's colorful composition

Kurt Knecht has featured in interviews and reviews here quite often from his performances to premieres of his compositions. This year, he is the commissioned composer for the NMTA Conference. Last year, Libby Larsen’s Ghosts of Old Pianos, a solo piano piece, was the commissioned piece for the conference.
Kurt Knecht - 2014 NMTA Commissioned Composer
photo courtesy of Kurt Knecht

This year, NMTA members will be treated to a cello sonata with piano accompaniment. The title of the piece is “El cafĂ© iridescente.”

“…each movement is named after a color, so:  1. Rojo 2. Azul 3. Perla 4. Morado”

As you might guess from the language of the title and movements, “the whole work is based around Latin rhythms.” Knecht chose to focus on Latin rhythms for a number of reasons:
“I think part of it might come from growing up in Tampa where I was constantly exposed to Cuban culture, so I kind of heard those rhythms growing up. Also, as an undergrad, I was enthralled with any sort of Latin rhythms. I loved Jobim and the whole bossa nova thing. I loved Ginastera. I loved those Saudades do Brasil by Milhaud, and I played in jazz bands where we would do Latin charts. So, it seemed time to concentrate all of that in one piece.”

Hopefully the audience will enjoy this “super fun music.” Knecht says, “most of it is not too heavy or serious. I think there is a problem amongst composers now with this issue. Beethoven wrote a lot of light music, but we never think of that because his ‘light’ works haven’t survived history as well.” Perhaps the music won’t “survive history” as well, but right now, it can be enjoyed and inspire musicians and students to enjoy music right now.

Knecht also described a little bit of the process that went into the creation of this piece:

“As far as the process, it’s not really standardized. When I was in school, one of my composition teachers used to say, ‘You throw more music away than any of my other students.’ He said that because I would be working on a string quartet or something and one week I would have 100 measures of a movement written, and the next week it was replaced. He would say, ‘What happened to the other movement?’ I would say, ‘I’m not using it.'

The truth is, I save all of that stuff. When I get a commission, I will often look back through those old ideas and rework them. In this case, I had sketches for these movements written from 10 years ago. I completely reworked them. Tried the re-worked version with Justin Lepard who is playing them with me. I listened to the reworked versions and decided that the first three movements needed a complete overhaul again. 

So, to answer how long it takes…Every piece takes my whole life long to write, but checks and deadlines are an incredible tool for focusing years into minutes.”

Hopefully you’ll get the chance to hear this fun music, this culmination of Knecht’s whole life, from Tampa to undergrad to today, but meanwhile, enjoy some of his other works over at his youtube channel.

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