Friday, February 07, 2020

Dream Big: An Interview with Laura Loewen and Judy Kehler Siebert

The Dream Big conference at the University of Manitoba is less than two weeks away, and I recently had a chance to ask Drs. Laura Loewen and Judy Kehler Siebert a few questions a few questions via email about the conference and its aspirations.

If you're able to get out to Winnipeg on February 20-22 and are interested in attending, you can register here. I look forward to meeting all of you there and talking about the future of our magnificent profession.

CF: Dream Big is not the first collaborative piano conference, but its aims are much broader than others in the past. Could you elaborate on your vision?

LL/JKS: Collaborative piano is an inspiring field with limitless repertoire and with vast possibilities for partnerships. We think that the only things that limit us are our imaginations and desire. It makes sense to us to hold a conference that is ambitious, looks at big issues, and dreams about the future of collaboration – this scale of conference and thinking fits the nature of our art form. This is the first Canadian collaborative piano conference that we know of, and we feel a responsibility to really honour the art form and set a template for future events. Collaborative pianists so often meet on the sidelines of other conferences or events, and it’s important for us to meet to talk about art and its place in society from our point of view. We believe that we will discover commonalities through our discussions, but we hope we also discover differences that will challenge and expand our ideas of what we can become.

There is an extraordinary group of musicians coming together for this conference; our registrants represent students, free-lance performers, private music teachers, and university professors. It’s really important to us that we create the space and atmosphere to build a community during these three days, so in true Winnipeg fashion, we have built in many opportunities to eat together, at lunches, dinners, and post-concert receptions. Also in true Winnipeg fashion, we have done everything we can to keep the conference affordable – check out our website for rates for the full conference and also for individual events.

We are so excited to welcome people to Winnipeg in a few weeks! Winnipeg in winter is an amazing place. The city really celebrates the season, and you will be able to experience the beauty of how this prairie city faces the elements. And we are even more excited to welcome you to the Desautels Faculty of Music. Three years ago, we moved into a beautiful Music facility, full of light and space – very much like our city. This is the first big conference to be held in the building, and we are so glad that it is our community that is creating this first event.

CF: The two headline teachers for this conference are Jean Barr from the Eastman School and Margo Garrett from Juilliard. Why is their presence at the conference so critical at this point in time?

LL/JKS: Both of us, along with many other conference performers and presenters, understand that we were extremely fortunate to study with these extraordinary women. They are inspiring mentors who bring a wealth of passion, wisdom, and experience to our conference. It is such a privilege to be able to host them, and through the conference to welcome other people to get to know them. The insights that they bring from their lifetimes of collaborations will be the touchstone of the conference. We need to know where we have come from to know where we can go – Margo and Jean will be able to give us a sense of the history of the profession as we dream together of what it may become.

Through our open invitation in Fall 2019, we have chosen 8 masterclass duos to perform vocal and instrumental music at our masterclass series. These duos include a diverse spectrum of musicians from students to young professionals, and the masterclasses, on the afternoons of Feb. 20 and 21, will definitely be a conference highlight. The duos will also perform in a final afternoon recital on Saturday, Feb. 22. We are so excited for the masterclass participants, because we know how amazing their experience is going to be!

CF: All of the panel discussions are somehow related to the theme of the artist within community. Why is this so important for collaborative pianists?

LL/JKS: Our entire art form is about relationships – we think that people who are drawn to collaborative piano are naturally inclined to create community. And, the act of performing music with beautiful ensemble is a strong statement about the power of community. So, in this first Canadian Collaborative Piano conference, it makes sense to us that the artist within community is one of our strongest themes. We are fortunate that Winnipeg is the home of the beautiful and thought-provoking Canadian Museum of Human Rights, (CMHR) the only museum to grapple entirely with human rights. Inspired by the Museum and the nature of our work, we decided that all of the performances at our two evening concerts would be music that was written in response to war or other forms of trauma. This music runs the gamut from responses to war, personal trauma, digitalization, and the work towards redemption. The performers have chosen music that they are passionate about, and their perspectives will be an important voice at the concert.

We have organized a curated tour of the CMHR on Friday Feb. 21, visiting exhibits that will give us a deeper understanding of the background for the music performed at the Dream Big concerts.

We are really fortunate to present our conference panelists. The extraordinary pianist Rena Sharon will talk about Chamber Music and mediation and share her research and insights. Naomi Woo, collaborative pianist, assistant conductor of the WSO, and Music Director of Sistema Winnipeg, will speak about her experiences with Sistema. Naomi joined our faculty in September and her presence has already been transformative. Christopher Foley will lead all of our discussions about the possibility of creating a Collaborative Piano Society. He has deep knowledge of the current state of our profession, and his insights gained from the Collaborative Piano Blog will inform us throughout our three days together.

And, of course, there will be beautiful music at every conference session. The evening concerts on Feb. 20 and 21, where we will weave performances and conversations together, will be fascinating and thought-provoking. On Feb. 20, Margo Garrett and Jean Barr will speak about their lives as collaborative pianists. On Feb. 21, we have a wonderful panel of Collaborative pianists, including Audrey Axinn, Daniel Fung, Christopher Kayler, and Lisa Rumpel, who will all share their experiences and vision for the future.

The performers include: Singers Ben Butterfield, Mel Braun, Tracy Dahl, Martha Guth, and Monica Huisman; Instrumentalists Minna Chung, Kerry DuWors, Allen Harrington, and Oleg Pokhanovski; and Pianists Jocelyn Dueck, Valerie Dueck, Judith Kehler-Siebert, Alexandra Nguyen, Futaba Niekawa, Laura Loewen, Steven Philcox, and Erika Switzer.

CF: What are some of your ideas and objectives for how a potential collaborative piano society could operate?

Through our conversations and round-tables, we are looking forward to conversations where we will work together to develop a collective vision of this Society. Both of us envision an organization that supports and encourages collaborative pianists at all levels. We hope to continue to hold collaborative piano conferences on a regular basis and to seek joint projects with other Collaborative Piano groups such as CollabFest in Denton Texas, which is directed by Elvia Puccinelli and Steven Harlos. Those are our first ideas – we will see how much these ideas grow over the course of Dream Big!

LL/JKS: The conference also includes a bespoke curated tour of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Could you talk a bit more about this activity and how it fits into the conference?

We have asked the guides at the CMHR to design a tour that parallels the music of our conference. If you haven’t yet visited the museum, prepare yourself for a powerful and thought-provoking experience. Located at The Forks where two rivers meet, the architecture is stirring, and the exhibits powerful and educational. The visit to the museum will give us insights into the music we will hear each evening at the conference.

CF: Dream Big is only a few weeks away! How can people still attend and participate?

LL/JKS: See our web site and let us know you want to take part in this new exciting adventure!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Dream Big Conference: Registration Info for Participants and Performers

I'm thrilled to announce that the Dream Big conference website is now live, and here is the University of Manitoba's press release officially announcing the upcoming conference:

The University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music is delighted to host Dream Big: Music Out of Bounds, a three-day conference to be held on February 20-22, 2020. Dream Big: Music Out of Bounds is dedicated to celebrating the contributions, creativity, and innovation that collaborative pianists bring to music performance and pedagogy, with keynote presentations and masterclasses from renowned collaborative pianists Jean Barr and Margo Garrett
The theme for Dream Big: Music Out of Bounds’ inaugural conference draws its inspiration from the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR), focusing on challenging, thoughtful, and empowering music created in response to times of conflict.

Through the conference’s presentations, panel discussions, public masterclasses, student and professional performances, and guided tour of the CMHR curated especially for our participants, we will examine the role of musical creation and collaboration in healing and regaining our humanity.

Eight performing groups, representing professional and student duos and chamber ensembles, will be selected to participate in masterclasses and a final performance.

We also look forward to using this conference to start dreaming of a Canadian-based Society of Collaborative Pianists; a community that supports creativity and commissions new works.

For more information, to register, or to apply for masterclasses, please visit:

Those of you on the mailing list will be receiving the official invitation shortly. If you're not yet on the mailing list but would like to be included on future mailings, feel free to contact me so I can add you.

Here are some more links for those interested in attending:

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Save the Date: Dream Big Collaborative Piano Conference on February 20-22, 2020 at the University of Manitoba

I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of the upcoming Dream Big Collaborative Piano Conference at the University of Manitoba on February 20-22! Hosted by Drs. Laura Loewen and Judy Kehler Siebert, this conference will be hosting a variety of master classes, recitals, panel discussions, as well as a curated exhibition at the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. Here's the official press release:
We are really excited about this upcoming conference, and hope that you can join us!

Dream Big: Music Out of Bounds is a Collaborative Piano Conference at the University of Manitoba, Feb. 20-22, 2020. This three-day conference is dedicated to celebrating the contributions, creativity, and innovation that collaborative pianists bring to music performance and pedagogy.

Led by Dr. Jean Barr (Eastman School of Music) and Margo Garrett (Juilliard School), two of the most influential performer-teachers of Collaborative Piano in North America, the conference will feature keynote addresses, presentations, panel discussions, public masterclasses, and student and professional performances.

The repertoire to be performed and studied at the conference will be music that has been a response to times of war, or personal tragedy. Included in the conference will be a guided tour of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights specifically designed for our participants. We will visit the Museum exhibits which highlight the themes and events that were the impetus for the music we are studying.

Gathering together in Winnipeg, the centre of the country and the home of this museum, gives us an opportunity to examine our place and influence in the musical world and in the larger society.

Eight performing groups will be chosen to participate in the masterclasses, and the conference will culminate in a final performance by these groups. Calls for applications will go out in September 2019.

We also look forward to using this conference to launch a Canadian-based Society of Collaborative Pianists; a community that will support creativity and commissions new works. The conference will provide time to dream about ways we can work together to create this society. Dr. Christopher Foley, the founder of the Collaborative Piano Blog, will facilitate these conversations.

We have worked hard to make sure that the conference is as affordable as it is inspirational.

Conference fees are: 
$300.00/ participant 
$150.00/ student participant
We believe that community building is essential and that time over meals and receptions is a big part of creating community. To support this, the conference fee will include the majority of meals during your time in Winnipeg.

We hope that you will be able to join us! More detailed information will be coming throughout Fall 2019.

Laura and Judy

Laura Loewen, DMA
Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano/Vocal Coach
Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba

Judy Kehler Siebert, DMA
Professor of Piano, Collaborative Piano, Chamber Music
Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba

(Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Dissertation on The Art of Accompanying Classical Ballet Technique Classes

A huge resource for those interested in accompanying classical ballet: Yee Sik Wong's University of Iowa 2011 dissertation on the art of accompanying classical ballet technique classes. There's a huge amount of info here on pre-existing literature, schools of ballet, pedagogical structure of classes, how music fits in, and techniques that ballet pianists are going to need.

Dr. Wong is now on staff at the Kansas City Ballet.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Happening This Weekend

Several must-see events across Canada over the next few days...

On September 13-16, Tapestry Opera presents Tapestry Briefs: Tasting Shorts, an evening of 10 world premiere mini-operas paired with food and drink. Featured singers are Teiya Kasahara, Stephanie Tritchew, Keith Klassen, and Peter McGillivray led by musical director Jennifer Tung. Featured composers are August Murphy-King, Ian Cusson, Rene Orth, and Benton Roark with texts by librettists Daniel Solon, Lila Palmer, Kanika Ambrose, and Colleen Murphy.

Facebook event listing


Happening across Canada on Saturday on Saturday, September 15 is Mysterious Barricades, a series of free and live-streamed concerts in recognition of suicide awareness, prevention, and hope. Concerts will be happening in St. John's, Halifax, Sackville, Montreal, Ottawa, Montreal, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Kelowna, and Vancouver. If you can't make it in person, watch the live stream

Here's Beth Turnbull talking about her husband's suicide and the mission of Mysterious Barricades:

Facebook page with all event listings

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Worst Advice

Wise words from emilyplayscello: if you're in a position of power and giving advice to younger musicians, you can tell them about the challenges of a life in music without straight-up discouraging them from entering it. Emily's video:

Another point that Emily makes after 5:39 is that it's the younger people in the profession who will bring genuine change to the field that will make it a more supportive environment. Let's enable them to succeed.

The worst advice anyone gave me? Here are two examples:

Well-known composer:
You pay too much attention to quality of tone at the piano to ever have a career in contemporary music.
Senior administrator:
You don't strike me as the kind of person who would be interested in graduate school.
Of course we get shitty advice along the way. The important thing is to be able to recognize it and move on. But when you've spent lots of time in the profession and know the lay of the land, offer advice that people will admire you for one day.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Your Teaching Website Needs Online Registration

Here are two different scenarios playing out with parents trying to find a new teacher for their child's music lessons.

A parent is looking for a new piano teacher and all they have to go by is a phone number so they'll enter it on a list on their phone and then call once they have time to call because no one has time for phone calls any more. Then when their prospective piano teacher gets the call, they're busy so they'll have to check messages later, write the message down and get back to the prospective parent once they have phone time but prospective parent isn't answering calls so they'll have to leave a message and the next round of phone tag begins. Two days later they connect.

Let's try that again with online registration.

The parent goes to the teacher's website, clicks on the "Register for Lessons" button, enters relevant info on their child and the piano teacher gets back within a few hours and the initial consultation is set up for the next day. Done.

This is why your website needs that very basic feature - it will quite literally put you ahead of other teachers in your area in the queue for getting more students. Being more easily findable and contactable will result your studio getting more students, many of them traveling larger distances.

Both My Music Staff and Music Teacher's Helper have these features on all their packages, and are worth the investment. Best wishes for the new academic year!