MTNA 2019 (3): Sunday, March 17

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Sunday the 17th was the first full official day of the conference (not including the optional “Pedagogy Saturday”). That means the exhibit hall now open open, and there were a couple showcase sessions (sponsored sessions) scattered throughout the day.

For this year’s conference, my composer friend Paula Dreyer had asked me if I would be willing to be part of her team working at her Little Gems for Piano booth in the exhibit hall. I happily agreed, and enjoyed helping out a few hours each day at her booth! I also helped with Paula’s first-ever showcase session.

8:00am Little Gems for Piano: Rote and Pattern Pieces That Motivate and Captivate: Spark The Love of Music With Simply Beautiful And Expansive Repertoire For All Levels!, by Paula Dreyer

Paula Dreyer gave a wonderful presentation about her compositions for young pianists and why/how to use rote pieces in your teaching. She has a number of books of rote pieces for students now available, plus an early advanced suite called “Under a Flamenco Sky”.

Paula’s first releases were Volumes 1 and 2, later coming out with her Primer Level book which is based on the technique sequence of Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey method.

Paula’s latest release is the “Advanced Primer” book — a collaboration with Marilyn Lowe to create rote pieces in alignment with Marilyn’s MLT-based Music Moves for Piano method. I bought two copies while at the conference, and can’t wait to try them out with my students. Because the pieces are all to be taught by rote (by imitation, using the eyes/ears), the book is suitable alongside any method series you might be using with your students. The book is unique for having creative prompts for improvising/changing the piece, allowing students to come up with their own titles, and providing small boxes for students to add their own drawings.

Visit to learn more about Paula’s music. Hardcopy books as well as digital studio licenses (for most items) are available there on her website.

9:15am Plenary Session: Keynote by Alan Walker

This plenary session was definitely a highlight of the conference. Alan Walker, author of several important and wonderful biographies of musicians — most recently, Chopin — gave a wonderful talk about his experiences as a researcher and writer, and shared some of his insights into Chopin’s life. Alan is a wonderful writer, and great speaker, too. It was enjoyable to listen, and enjoy his wonderful sense of humor as well. Here’s the link to his new book: Chopin: A Life and Times, by Alan Walker. I’m pleased to see there is an audiobook version available! I’m adding it to my “to-read” list. 🙂

11:00am Celebrating Excellence: The Innovative Principles Of Piano Teacher Education 60 Years Later, by Sara Ernst, Amy Glennon, and Rebecca Mergen Pennington

Sara Ernst, Amy Glennon, and Rebecca Mergen Pennington presented about Frances Clark’s teaching legacy in America, exploring how her philosophies remain relevant to today’s students. After summarizing Frances Clark’s philosophies, they presented an interesting timeline of piano pedagogy history and explored the current norms and available resources as far as piano teacher education goes.

At lunchtime, I joined up with Amy Chaplin ( and D.J. Smith, friends of mine both from Indiana.

1:00pm The Bastien Family: A Tribute to Jane and Jim Bastien, by Lisa and Lori Bastien

After lunch, I chose to attend the Kjos Music Publishing showcase — which was an incredibly touching presentation celebrating the life of Jane Bastien (1936-2018), presented by her daughters, Lisa and Lori Bastien. It was both enjoyable and moving to see old photographs and hear stories from Jane’s growing up and young adult years — as well as about her husband James. Jane was a devoted piano teacher and authored such a multitude of teaching resources. The Bastien family has been quite a force in the piano teaching community over the years! Here’s a link to the Bastiens’ latest piano method.

2:15pm The Elephant And The Blind Wisemen: Exploring Sound Through Multi-Sensory, Whole-Body Processes, by Jessica Johnson and Midori Koga.

Jessica Johnson and Midori Koga presented a session demonstrating ways to help students of all ages to experiment and explore finding their own voice and their own sound as musicians.

Teaching “the whole student” means teaching body, mind, and spirit. Only with all three is learning truly powerful and transformative. And so, we honor the experiences of all the senses, both internal and external: sight, hearing, smell, visualization, taste, touch, and internal proprioception. Jessica and Midori shared a number of videos demonstrating how they integrate these modalities through interactive activities with students. The unique voice arises from the Singer, the Voca-Gesturer, Dancer, Conductor, ConDancer, and Actor.

For the rest of the afternoon, I helped Paula Dreyer with her Little Gems for Piano booth in the exhibit hall. It was fun talking with teachers, and Paula’s books did marvelously! She sold out of nearly everything by the end of the conference.

Here’s a photo of Paula’s whole team! Paula Dreyer, Grace Lee (of the Note Quest app), Marilyn Lowe, and me.

After helping Paula close up the booth at 5:30pm, I hung out with my friend from Northwest Ohio, Heidi Clausius, in her hotel room. Heidi and I are currently co-presidents of the Toledo Piano Teachers Association and we like to call ourselves “partners in crime”! 😉 We compared notes about which sessions we planned to attend for the rest of the conference and talked until it was time to head to the OhioMTA dinner meet-up.

Our OhioMTA dinner meetup was held at 7:30pm at a restaurant called The Safari Room. We had a good turnout, including a special guest: Peter Simon, President and CEO of the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) program. We went around the room so each person could introduce themselves. It was fun to learn about each person, and we shared lots of laughs.

The service at the restaurant was wonderful, but it took a long time to receive our meals. Still used to being on Eastern time, I found myself quite tired by 8 or 9pm — so after dinner I took a Lyft ride back to my host’s home and went straight to bed!

Check out my notes from Day 4.

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