History in the Making at MTNA 2014! Part One

If you want the complete rundown about all of MTNA's conference sessions this year, you'll have to rely upon 2014_logosomeone else. (Check out Bradley Sowash's blog about it here.) I was privileged to be part of some extremely exciting events and found myself too occupied to attend as many sessions as I would have liked. I did manage to capture a few pics AND some priceless videos. Let me fill you in.

Part One: Improvisation Saturday

With a dream team headed by George Litterst and MTNA Jazz/Pop Track Chair Bradley Sowash, Saturday was a day of HUGE, HISTORICAL firsts for conference goers and MTNA.

Three simultaneous streams of sessions within the improvisation track led by world-class improvisation experts made it mighty tricky for attendees to choose. As I obviously could not attend all of them, let's hope others who attended will share what they learned.

First Historical Event at MTNA 2014 Conference

I do not claim to be an expert improviser as the other presenters slated for the day but yes, I do improvise and continue to develop my skills. As part of the leadership team for this unique track, George and Bradley invited me to speak as a teacher who creatively teaches creativity. I was honored to  share my thoughts and ideas for group improvisation on and off the bench. The highlight was seeing a room full of teachers dancing, yes, grooving to Pharrell Williams' Happy.

Piano Teachers Movin' and Groovin'?

Yes. My Strategy in a Nutshell

kevin-james-hitchAs an introduction I defined improvisation as creativity and stressed that creativity is essential to education and self-expression. These arguments were coupled with a hilarious scene from the movie Hitch featuring Will Smith as a cranky love coach suppressing Kevin James' "expert" dance moves.  With this combination, it was pretty easy to talk everyone into standing up and moving large motor muscles with a "one-note" body improv before moving to the fine motor tasks at the keyboard.

To best understand my logic and persuasive tactics it may have been better for you to be at the session in person but I have proof my efforts worked:

Fact #1 even the illustrious Wendy Stevens of ComposeCreate.com who claims she does NOT dance was up and grooving.

Fact #2 the video below featuring participating attendees.


(The handout for this session can be found by clicking here.)

Second Historical Event at MTNA 2014 Conference

Attendees Improvising with the Presenters?


Yes. Here's the Innovative Plan

The intent of the Improvisation Saturday was to provide attendees with hands-on experiences through interactive sessions. Thanks to both Yamaha and Kawai, two rooms were well-equipped with top-of-the line digital keyboards.  To top off the day, it was decided to host a jam session where participants could not only see expert improvisers in action but, in addition, try his/her hand at improvising right along with them.

To my knowledge of past MTNA conferences (which is limited) there has not been an event quite like what you will witness in both videos. You will see:

1) Attendees simultaneously creating music with session leaders beyond the page.

2) A fusion of Yamaha and Kawai reps throwing down riffs with utter abandon.

Make sure to watch both--you do NOT want to miss a minute of either!

"O When the Saints" led by Bradley Sowash


"Let it Be" led by Philip Keveren


(Stay tuned for Part Two of MTNA happenings coming shortly)

Like what you see?

Want to learn to play away from the page?

Then make sure to sign up for one or all of the events below!


PS: Here's Bradley Sowash's take on the day with more detailed  info on the sessions.

Clavier Ad Jan 2014


88 Creative Keys in Ohio or Colorado


SMU postcard


Southern Methodist University Institute for Piano Teachers in Dallas