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In July 2013 Andrew made his second trip to Colorado USA. Since his first visit in 2011 teachers Jodie Jensen and Karen Bartlett have set up the organisation KEYBAND! USA, of which Andrew is Education Director.
For this trip the purpose was to advance the KEYBAND! programme within Karen's Denver studio (see pictures above) and Jodie's studio in Colorado Springs, as well as being the lead speaker at the first KEYBAND! USA national teachers conference.
Here is his report from the visit:
I arrived in Denver International Airport late last night after a turbulent flight (thunderstorms...).
I was met by KEYBAND! USA Treasurer, Karen Bartlett, who has a huge teaching studio with nearly 100 students here in Denver. She and her husband Doug are wonderful hosts, and I will be staying with them until Wednesday when we head down to Colorado Springs for the first annual KEYBAND! USA Teacher Convention.
Sunday is spent relaxing and visiting some local sights, the highlight being the Red Rocks Ampitheatre, one of the premier music venues in the world. At Red Rocks the sound from the stage is reflected off the vast rock outcrops creating an incredible acoustic where every seat is the "best in the house"!
I spend two days teaching in Karen's Denver studio. Many of the groups who attend are fledgling KEYBAND! ensembles, with several young people improvising for the very first time. Exciting stuff!
I also spend some time working individually with a number of young composers (some real talent here!) and a 14 year old boy who switches from playing diploma level classical piano one minute to working on jazz voicings the next. It's such a privilege to work with these talented and hard working young musicians.
Again I get the impression that music education in the USA far outstrips that which I have seen in the UK in many respects: typical High Schools here have full symphony orchestras that would rival county youth orchestras in the UK, not forgetting they also have jazz bands, marching bands, and more. The American education establishment has worked out what is effective in this culture and takes it to the max!
On Tuesday many of the kids who had already met me on the Monday returned, and the groups became even more full and enthusiastic. We explored improvisation in a lot more depth, with many staying for four hours of tuition with me.
The short stay in Denver was completed with a superb BBQ prepared by Doug Bartlett.
This event took place at Graner Music in Colorado Springs, and was attended by a small but enthusiastic group of teachers from across the USA, from Oregon in the North West to Florida in the South East.
The brilliant planning by Jodie Jensen and Karen Bartlett ensured that, despite jetlag setting in, I was comfortable sharing my vision for creative keyboard ensembles with this wonderful group of professionals. The conference was a major success with teachers loving the programme and committing to it moving forward.
During the conference I made some great new friends, including Tom Mapson who is regional manager for Yamaha Music in this part of the USA. Tom took a particular interest in the KEYBAND! programme, describing it as the breath of fresh air that the USA keybaord educational world needs.
Celebrating the end of the Conference a group of us visited a particularly nice restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs where we were joined by delegates and their partners, and by Beth-ann Wolfson (President of the Colorado Federation of Music Clubs) and her husband.
After a weekend of relaxation and sight seeing, my time in Colorado finished with some teaching in Jodie Jensen's Colorado Springs based studio. This again included working with some local KEYBAND groups that Jodie runs in her studio, who had a great time working with me over the two days.
I also gave a number of individual consultation lessons - again the emphasis has been on developing musical creativity and improvisation skills. It was great to again work with Jayson Elliott, a very talented young composer who learns with Jodie and is gaining State recognition for his outstanding talent.
All in all this has been a wonderful visit to the USA and I am left with a real impression that my work here has made a significant difference both for the young people I have met and for the teachers that I have worked with.
And now... back to my own teaching studio in Milton Keynes UK.