Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Celebrating Living Composers

20140414-102115.jpgWhat a great time I had at this year’s MTNA National Conference in Chicago. This was my third MTNA National Conference. The biggest highlight for me was certainly having the opportunity to present a Showcase session for Music Teachers Helper! It was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed sharing my tips. It was also great to meet many people afterwards at the booth. Many people said they were already using Music Teachers Helper, and I was glad to be able to answer some questions regarding various scheduling and billing features. If you missed the showcase (there was an iPad giveaway!), you may like to check out the presentation slides I created (minus the fun animations and transition effects).

If you are a regular conference attendee, you no doubt know that at any given one time, there are usually many different sessions going on at the same time, sometimes as many as 9! This makes it very difficult to choose what session to attend! This year, I made a point to attend different sessions than the ones I normally would have chosen. I also made a point to meet people whose names I recognize. I made new friends, including MTH Marketing Director, Andrew Nicoletta and fellow MTH blogger, Leila Viss. It was also very nice to take a mini vacation from my usual teaching routine. 🙂

One trend I have noticed at recent conferences is the celebration of original compositions by living composers. At the 2012 Conference in New York, I heard the east coast premier of Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Two Pianos, Op. 117 – with Liebermann himself in attendance! At the 2013 conference in Anaheim, CA, the opening concert by the Ahn Trio included many works by contemporary living composers, commissioned by the trio. This year, I attended the session “From The Pen to the Premiere” for the first time, and heard beautiful new chamber music commissioned by MTNA Collaborative Commissioning Project, featuring new trios by acclaimed American composers Phillip Keveren and Wynn-Anne Rossi.

Both trios encourage the study of chamber music that is accessible to intermediate level musicians. Skyscraper19947241 by Wynn-Anne Rossi is a trio for clarinet, alto saxophone and piano. Petite Voyage by Phillip Keveren is written for trumpet, trombone and piano in F Major.  You can read a full review of Wynn-Anne’s Skyscraper here. I think this is a wonderful initiative of MTNA, to commission new works by composers of our time. This is definitely a session I will be attending in future conferences, and next time, I am going to get autographs of the composers I meet to show my students (thanks to a new conference friend, Melody Lee Stroth for that idea!)

If you have read some of my previous reviews, you already know that I am a big fan of Wynn-Anne Rossi’s works! I finally got to meet her in person, and she is just like her music – full of spirit, creativity, light, and positive energy! I attended her session for one of Alfred‘s three showcases, and it was so much fun to hear her talk about her new series “One of a Kind Solos.”

This new supplementary series comes in four books, from Elementary to Intermediate, and represents a personal journey with music. Wynn-Anne talked about where she got the inspirations for some of the pieces, and how she was trying to think of things that were meaning to her when she was a kid. Each piece has a story behind it, and challenges the student with musical as well as technical surprises such as odd meters, unusual modes, and various pianistic devices. Here are some examples:

  • Spaghetti – sing the lyrics and play as fast as you can – fingers intertwined
  • Weird Invention – Wynn-Anne’s uncle had a garage full of inventions – explore unusual harmonies such as augmented intervals
  • Sparklers In the Night – Wynn-Anne hosted a candlelight recital for her students that lasted 7 hours! They watched a movie, had pizza, and then at midnight they lit sparklers and went outside in deep snow and danced around a pine tree and made wishes for 2014 – full use of the pedal to create rich harmonic effects
  • Banana Popsicle – kids love glissandos up and down the keyboard!
  • Bach in a Minute – tribute to Bach’s life as a busy musician – playful tribute to J. S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
  • Peace Sign – pianistic writing, fits in the hand easily, introduces syncopation
  • Perilous Journey – based on LH syncopation
  • Morning Prelude – “comfort music” that you just want to play
  • Boogie Bash – jazz based chords
  • Asymmetry – presence of asymmetry in art and music – mix symmetry and asymmetry, the imbalance of which makes the piece beautiful – 5/8 and 7/8 time signatures
  • Jazz Train – jazz is mostly Legato with sprinkles of staccato and accent
  • Ancient Ruins – encouraging slowing down and finding personal interpretation

00-4237400-42377As you can see, the series is full of variety, and the composer wishes to guide the students into an adventurous musical world that is full of discoveries. Students explore different moods and find their own one-of-a-kind journey in music.

You can view sample pages of some of these new solos on the Alfred website.

Do you encourage students to play music by living composers? One of the best ways to get to know new works is by attending conference sessions where the composers talk about their journey with creativity. It is not too early to start planning for the next conference! Music Teachers Helper will be at the next MTNA Conference in Las Vegas in 2015. I hope to meet  you there!

About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]



    I will have to check out the “One of a Kind Solos” series for my young students. Good read!

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