Linda Kennedy, an amazing teacher from Arkansas, has been adopting a composer every year for 11 years! Her program has been such a success that I have asked her to write an article about how other studios and organizations could “Adopt a Composer” as well. If you have follow up questions for Linda, I would encourage you to contact Linda or contact me so that we can have a follow up Q and A! Thank you Linda for writing such a wonderful article for all of us to consider.
by Linda Kennedy
“Adopt”, verb, <Latin adoptare, choose> To take as your own; to form a relationship.
For the past eleven years my students and I have “adopted” an American composer of pedagogical piano pieces. The program includes correspondence with the composer through the school year, the commissioning of a piece, and a “Celebration of Creativity” recital event in May at which the composer is always present and at which the commissioned piece has its debut performance. This recital features only music by the composer and original student compositions. It is followed by a shorter session during which the composer shares his/her thoughts on music and composing and performs for us. We conclude the morning with a luncheon/autograph party with finger foods provided by the parents and an opportunity for students and parents to speak with the composer and have their music autographed.
The musical inspiration we have received from each composer is beyond measure, and in return we hope we have given each of these highly accomplished (and wonderfully genuine) people a huge hug of appreciation for all they do for our budding musicians. We are also able to give his/her music a good bit of exposure through a wide variety of festivals, recitals, and competitions in which we participate each year.
Our composers and commissioned pieces over the years include:
Timothy Brown, “Toccatina”
Glenda Austin, “Sizzlin’ Salsa” (8 Intermediate level solos in Latin style)
Kevin Olson, “Four Arkansas Travelers” (a piano quartet)
Martha Mier, “Arkansas Suite” (4 Intermediate level solos)
Phillip Keveren, “Urban Heartbeat”
Catherine Rollin, “Carnival for Two” (duet)
Dennis Alexander, “Prelude and Toccata”
Robert Vandall, “Flying Fingers”
Alexander Peskanov, “Little Rock Suite” (a collection of 12 trios – 6 hands at one piano – based on Arkansas themes)
Melody Bober, “Rhapsody Brillante”
Kevin Costley, “A Walk Through Time Suite” (3 intermediate level solos)
I would like to encourage teachers to reach out to a composer they admire and respect, either through their own studios or through their local or state music teacher organizations. Model your event around the unique strengths of your students or organization. To help finance the event, charge an appropriate activity or participation fee, or in the case of an MTNA affiliate, apply for a grant!
Of utmost importance before contacting your composer – have a good plan! And then, be flexible to accommodate whatever particular strengths your composer can bring to your event. Know in advance what your budget can handle and work within your means. If I can be of help to you as you brainstorm ideas to customize an event for your studio or MTA, feel free to contact me.
Linda Dale Kennedy, NCTM