Monday, November 17, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Jonny Peiffer

If you have never seen Jonny Peiffer play - stop everything you're doing and go - go now. One of PMAC's piano instructors and PMAC's ONLY Latin Percussion and West African drumming instructor, Jonny plays amazing music from all over the world. Basically, when you're around Jonny and his music - you can't stop moving your body to the beat. From leading his 20+ Afro-Beat Orchestra, SHANGO, to playing his own tunes in Sojoy, a jazz septet, to teaching here at PMAC - Jonny doesn't just make music, he lives it.

PMAC: What is your teaching philosophy?

Jonny: I often feel a bit like a guide on a magical journey, one during which at every vista there is always music. I am there to point out all the things there are to notice about each scene. But it’s a choose-your-own-mystery tour - each student is on their own path, I just try to help them find it and show them how to knock away all the obstacles on that path. There are so many paths and they are all wonderful. There is the journey of discovering a particular tradition, like Afro-Cuban music or Detroit Funk and Soul, among many many others. There is the journey of discovering composition, creating original music. There is the journey inward discovering the artist and voice within ourselves, and outward being better able to communicate that voice with the world. There is the journey of becoming better connected with our instrument. And there are even more journeys than these! I travel these paths all the time and I’m happy to bring others with me and show them what there is to see and hear and feel, and hopefully instill a lifelong sense of curiosity and wonder along the way. All of these adventures start with discovering the instrument we have that allows us to communicate this magical language of music.

PMAC: What inspired you to become a musician?

Jonny: I don’t think it ever occurred to me that being a musician was something I had to become that I wasn’t already. I was probably banging out rhythms on my carseat on the way home from the hospital. My father always had his drum-set in the basement and I could play it as soon as I could grasp sticks. My grandparents always had a piano or organ of some sort and as soon as I could reach the keys I could make it speak. And in my teens when I was introduced to performing with rhythm jazz tap dancers and other performing artists by my aunt Drika, it was just further evidence for me that there is nothing I would rather be doing. So when it came time to leave the steady and comfy life of clocking in and clocking out for the much more ambiguous lifestyle of the artist it just felt like a home-coming.

PMAC: Along with piano, you specialize in Latin Percussion and West African Drumming - what led you to that?

Jonny: Dance. By luck of birth I am closely related to jazz tap master Drika Overton - she is my wonderfully talented Auntie D. I first heard her arrangement of Dizzy’s A Night in Tunisia when I was still in the single digits and I was completely mesmerized. She later got me in tap shoes and many of her pieces of choreography were in a Latin vein - she was the first person to teach me about the ‘clave’. And when I would start attending her Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festivals, I would take the West African drum and dance classes. And then she started to have Afro-Cuban artists at the festival, and Brazillian Samba dancers and musicians, and a Peruvian cajon percussionist, and on and on. And I could not get enough. So it is through Drika and dance that lead me to these absolutely joyous art-forms.

PMAC: What is your favorite album of all time? Why?

Jonny: There isn’t just one. Paul Simon’s Graceland was one of the first cds my grandparents owned and I would listen to it all the time when I would visit them as a child. That album is perfect. I used to have Getz/Gilberto on vinyl when I was in high school and I loved the way that recording sounded, and I could sing along with all of Getz’s solos. That album was the first to get me fascinated with solos that were so memorable that you couldn’t help but sing them, and also got me really interested in studio sound and how a recording really effects me. I feel the same way about Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil and Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth - they are like old friends and I can sing along with all of their solos. And the latter two also got me interested in, and ultimately hooked on, composition and arranging, because the music on those records was so different than anything I had heard before. And I have a special place for Joni Mitchell’s Blue. It was the first album I learned pretty much note for note. And it still sounds fresh and raw - somehow that album feels like a really accurate, barely contained documentation of a wild animal, like getting to see a Great Blue Heron up close. It’s still exciting to listen to. And I haven’t even mentioned Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left <—-except right there. So many!

PMAC: If you were a visual artist, what would your medium be?

Jonny: Sculptor, maybe, or installation artist - I like building things and bringing disparate ideas or disciplines together and seeing how they work together. But it’s funny to think of ourselves in terms of labels or being confined to one or two mediums. I barely identify with being called a musician, because I am also a dancer, and I write poetry, I’ve been a cook and an artisan French-style baker, among other things. My favorite artists are people like Ai Weiwei and Phillipe Petit. Ai is a sculptor, but he also creates massive installations and is involved in architecture, film and photography, and activism in a major way, among other things. (For anyone who has not seen his film Never Sorry, I highly recommend it.) Petit is famous for traversing the Twin Towers back in 1974, but he is also a clown, a playwright/screenwriter, a fine visual artist, a (retired, I think) pick-pocket, and an author, among other things. They are important to us because they do the things we thought could never be done, and they do so in such a light-hearted way. Those are among the lodestars that guide my course as I lower the keel and hoist high the mainsail.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Kibbie Straw

If you are looking to study the flute, Kibbie is your girl. Down to earth and all around welcoming, Kibbie makes everyone in the room feel warm. As our only flute instructor and our Adult Flute Choir instructor, she knows how to work with anyone - from beginner to advance, child to adult, she can do it all. Always smiling and laughing, Kibbie makes any room she's in feel like home.

PMAC: What is your teaching Philosophy?

Kibbie: Making music should be fun and I’m here to help students improve so that they can enjoy playing a wider range of music with good technique.

PMAC: Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Kibbie: Peggy Vagts at UNH is a wonderful teacher because she pushed me, encouraged me, and introduced me to a bigger world of flute music. Since I was 24-years-old when I finally decided to make teaching flute my profession, she had a lot of catch-up work to do with me, poor dear.

PMAC: When did you start playing? How did that lead you to where you are now?

Kibbie: I started playing in fourth grade and always enjoyed it. It was what I looked forwards to doing in school and when I got home from school. After high school, it was my escape after some horrible days in retail for six years. Getting my music education degree at UNH was amazing because I got to play more than ever and was surrounded by others who shared my love of music. My time at UNH reminded me why I started playing, why I still played, and what I wanted to pass on to my students.

PMAC: What are you listening to right now? Does it influence your playing?

Kibbie: I listen to a wide range of music from Mozart to Muse, but it all boils down to whatever puts a spring in my step or relaxes me, depending on my mood. Music is my caffeine and my glass of wine, so when I play I try to play more than just the notes on the paper. Emotion and story-telling are a very, if not the most, important part of music, and the music I choose to listen to reminds me of that.

PMAC: If you were a visual artist, what would your medium be?

Kibbie: Since my current full-time job is trying to be the best stay-at-home mom I can be, which is heavily influenced by my mom and how she has always made every season and holiday feel special and exciting, I’d say my visual art medium is seasonal/holiday home decoration. The Christmas Tree Shop is my Michael’s.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Roger Goldenberg

Roger Goldenberg is a man of many talents. First studying geology at the University of New Hampshire in the 70's, Roger's path has lead him here - to Portsmouth and it's rich, art filled culture. PMAC is lucky to have him - a community man who was a part of the very beginning of Art-Speak, has served on the board with PMAC, teaches classes here at PMAC and is a living, working artist here in Portsmouth. Roger teaches our adult art classes here at PMAC, and having taught paint and drawing at the University of New Hampshire in the late 90's - he is more than the right fit to do so!

PMAC: What is your teaching philosophy?

Roger: I have enjoyed sharing my knowhow with others as far back as I can remember.  I get great pleasure seeing others excel, whether students or colleagues; to see a sparkle in their eyes when they absorb a new piece of information or skill. I have always been open, sharing tricks of the trade. I believe in nurturing and have never been a big fan of the ‘paying dues’ method of teaching. 

I remember my first experience in a formal teaching setting at the University of New Hampshire. I was just out of graduate school, and I was hired to teach per semester in either introductory drawing or painting. I was keen on sharing my personal breakthroughs with these students; overcoming the fear of the white page, embracing fearlessly the messiness of process (and enjoying it), learning ‘what to do with all the lines,’ while drawing and the search to find ones voice. I was surprised at how much psychology was involved wtih teaching in the classroom. My biggest challenge was to make each student feel at ease, comfortable with taking risks, making mistakes and messes and to teach them to trust in me, themselves and in the process of making… to relish the creative process and find satisfaction in hard work, trusting that no-matter-what, the result would be positive. 

My approach is to nurture students, meet each one at their own level, to help them feel at ease and to find solutions to the challenges in front of them on the easel.

PMAC: You created a program called In Ears and Eyes. Can you explain what that is?

In Ears ‘n’ Eyes is a creativity workshop designed by me and Matt Langley that builds upon two truly American art forms: Jazz and Expressionist painting. In Ears ‘n’ Eyes explores the common language between visual art and music, offering students and professionals in all fields, hands-on experience creating artwork based on my visual jazz approach to painting and improvisational jazz music.

As In Ears ‘n’ Eyes art and music educators, we stir participant’s imaginations with the process of invention as they work collaboratively to develop conversations in painting and music. By balancing extemporaneous improvisation with structured creative play, In Ears ‘n’ Eyes engages the creative instincts of all involved while using the process of collaborative art making to build self-confidence, trust and respect for each other.

Participants are led in discussions about creativity and will explore their own creative processes through hands-on experience. They are guided in ensemble activities as they explore the audible and visual language of communication through imagery, color, symbolism, composition, rhythm, and sound.

In Ears ‘n’ Eyes students will strengthen their skills in creative thinking, leadership and self-expression as they work together with peers and adults, composing paintings and scores, and conducting ensemble activities. The creativity experienced in an In Ears ‘n’ Eyes workshop strengthens life skills that each will carry forward into their daily activities.

The In Ears ‘n’ Eyes creativity workshop is open to ALL students of ALL ages. We offer creativity workshops in schools, communities and corporations.

PMAC: What is important about the relationship that music and visual art share? 

All art and music genres are avenues of expression. They communicate ideas, moods and feelings. The arts have the power to create lasting impressions in our minds while satisfying our souls.  All arts are examples of shaped releases of our innate creativity. 

My art making is based on improvisation and through my love for jazz music I came to call my work visual jazz. I realized that my paintings and jazz share qualities; color, shape, texture, movement, rhythm, tempo, tone, mood, form and the list goes on and on. Exploring this relationship has exposed me to a wonderful world of collaborative art making. I have a hunch that ancient cultures didn’t separate art forms like we have done in our day and they were once one language. Why not explore conversations between visual jazz and jazz music? The combinations are limitless! 

PMAC: To you, what is the most rewarding thing about creating art?

Making art and music is what I was meant to do. 

PMAC: Who was your favorite teacher? 

Roger: As a youngster I didn’t enjoy school. I found it dull. I kept pursuing an education none-the-less. While having been disappointed by many teachers in my day, I have many favorites, some contemporary: Matt Langley, Chris Klaxton, Zach Lange; some from the distant past: Wally Barker, Wally Bothner (two Wally’s), John Laurent, Margo Clark, Mara Witzling, Charlie Leighton, Mr. Barbieri, Mrs. Morrisette.

PMAC: How did he/she influence how you create today? 

Roger: Each of these teachers inspired me to work to my fullest potential, brought joy and enthusiasm to their subject matter; saw in me abilities that I often didn’t realize I had. 

They helped me build self-confidence and to trust in my abilities and intuition.
They saw Me.


Rock Band is one of PMAC's most innovative and popular programs. Whether a weekly band rehearsal throughout the school year, or a week-long summer camp, this program builds musicianship through the music of today. Fall Rock Bands are already rehearsing (come hear them at The Press Room on Saturday, December 13 at 1:30 or 3:00pm), but we're working on growing the program this spring with more bands, so e-mail if interested.

Led by Nick Phaneuf and Mike Effenbeger, both of Tan Vampires fame, PMAC rock bands provide opportunities for teen and pre-teen musicians to learn how to run their own band. PMAC rock band is not just for guitarists, bassists and drummers - we welcome wind and string instruments too! And for younger children who want to learn rock and pop in a group, we now have Junior Rock Explorers.

In Fall of 2014, PMAC launched its first songwriting band. Though bands have always written original music at PMAC (see Summer Recording info below), this band is entirely focused on composition.

Every summer, each band in PMAC's Rock Workshop records one original tune along with performing two other covers. One of PMAC's longest standing youth programs, Teen Rock Camp started as a two-week workshop in the summer of 2005. As our 10th Rock Anniversary approaches, the rock program has truly flourished into something wonderful - a year long program that has been fine-tuned to specific age groups, types of rock and more. We now offer two weeks of Summer Teen Rock, along with one week of a junior rock camp (for our mini-rockers), weekly rock bands that meet during the semester, pre-teen rock ensembles and junior rock ensembles. Not only do these ensembles help kids practice their own skill set, but it is an environment where they learn to work closely with others.

We encourage all families who are interested in PMAC Rock Band to talk to Katie, Mike Effenberger, and Nick Phaneuf. We are always looking for new young players to join PMAC bands!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Amanda Waite

Amanda Waite brings a wonderful new twist to PMAC: Science. Math. Engineering. She does it all. Our house mathematician, Amanda adds the science element into our S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Program. She helps her students look at art in a new and exciting way, encouraging them to find the art and creativity in subjects where they may not have found them before. A math teacher at Portsmouth High School, Amanda believes that math is in everything we do - and makes sure her students have a hands on approach to how creativity and science can relate to one another.

PMAC: What is your teaching philosophy?

Amanda: I believe that learning should be integrated and relevant to my students lives. Learning should be hands on and fun. I believe that math is in all parts of life and it can be learned and demonstrated in many different ways and in many different disciplines. All students can learn math and find a way to connect to it.  I want my students to learn and then create and apply their learning. 

PMAC: How do science and art correlate? Why is it important to bring them together?

Amanda: Our world is surrounded by mathematical concepts. I believe that math is a universal language that can be communicated and studies through other disciplines such as art, architecture, and science. Science, technology, engineering, art, and math are already intertwined; it is my job to make my students aware of and learn through these connections. Civil engineers and architects use art and design as well as structural and strength properties in their planning of bridges and buildings. Scientists study the beauty of nature and can explain that beauty with mathematical concepts. Homeowners use art and design in choosing flooring for their homes while they use math to calculate the amount and cost of their choices.

PMAC: What is your favorite medium?

Amanda: Numbers

PMAC: Is your family Artistic? How did that shape you?

Amanda: My dad is an engineer and I grew up watching him be creative and design and build. I am similar--a mathematician with a creative sense.

PMAC: If you were a musician what would your instrument be?

Amanda: I am learning to play guitar.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Anna Nuttall

This week's faculty spotlight Anna Nuttall, PMAC's queen of creativity.

If you know Anna Nuttall - you KNOW that when you are around her, you are going to have FUN. Bringing creativity to the forefront of any situation, Anna keeps you engaged and ready to paint, draw, design, think, name a few! Encouraging her students to use their imagination, think outside the box and make every piece a masterpiece, Anna's classroom is always flowing with positivity and art. As someone who is very close to the community, over the past 15 years Anna has been doing many things to strengthen Art in the Seacoast: teaching youth students at Little Harbour Elementary and now Portsmouth Middle School, serving her community as a board member of Art-Speak, serving PMAC as the past Director of our Visual Arts Department, and serving as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts for the Portsmouth Public Schools.

PMAC: What is your teaching philosophy?

Anna: Visual arts is both my profession and my personal passion and I feel lucky every day that I am able to work in an area I’m so passionate about!  I love working with youth and teens, and am continually inspired by their incredible deep thinking, creativity, perseverance and motivation, and I am honored to be able to part of that process.  

I see the visual arts is a language of expression, and form of recording and communicating that has been part of humanity and society, since the beginning of history. We create works of art not to match the couch, but to celebrate, record, and express our lives as individuals and as members of our communities. 

I believe that we all are artists, and we all can visually communicate thoughts, ideas, feelings, opinions and experiences in a unique way that other forms of communication cannot.  Conversely, I believe that the visual arts is not only a language used to express, but also one to interpret and interact with our world – art is a universal language. This, and our image-rich culture, makes visual literacy a critical area of learning for youth and for us all!  For these reasons I believe strongly that teaching and learning in the visual arts is a critical element to a holistic education for young and old alike.

Through providing thoughtful and dynamic arts experiences I always hope to encourage curiosity, imagination, creativity and innovative thinking that can reach our youth’s many interests – be it art or any other subject area, and even several at once!  Science, history, literacy, math and more all have inherent artistic connections, and I love teaching integrated arts projects!. The visual arts provide processes through which to investigate, analyze, interpret, problem-solve, construct and create in an exciting way, and these skills serve us in many ways beyond just art-making.

Like learning to read, write, walk, or perform math computations, art is a teachable and learnable way of thinking, set of skills, and way to practice creativity and critical thinking. It isn’t magic, nor talent that ‘makes an artist’. It’s inspiration, curiosity, creativity, motivation, and hard work –and we all are born with that! Coupled with our beliefs, passions, and lives art becomes a wonderful way to share, learn and engage with our environment and community. Art is not ‘a thing’ but a way of thinking.

PMAC: Who is your favorite artist (or top three!)?

Anna: Honestly, I can’t name a favorite artist or even top 3. Like movies, books, music(ians), and other creative genres and folks, I find that they reach me, teach me and move me in many different but equally important ways. It may be their technique that amazes me; or their incredible concept, unique voice, message, or mission that engages me and makes me think more deeply. I am often drawn to artists who have an original voice and who work with forms of abstraction, as I love seeing what the artist can translate from his or her surroundings (or mind) versus accuracy in copying our visual world. I love work that also has multiple layers of meaning, or ‘puzzles’ to solve while viewing it –I like to be challenged by art. It is always wonderful ‘getting lost’ while looking at a piece of work.

PMAC: What is your favorite medium? 

Anna: I enjoy mixed-media adventures, often using printmaking as a foundation and then working inks, pastels, watercolor, and even stitching and metal into the piece. That said, many art mediums intrigue me and I am constantly exploring and experimenting with new ones, and non-traditional applications of tried and true mediums. For me that is one of the glories of teaching art, that we teach many mediums, styles, and methods of artistic thinking. If I do not keep exploring, then I couldn’t in good conscience push my students to take creative risks.

PMAC: If you were a musician, what would you play?

Anna: I like to think I am a musician, just a very, very, very beginner one! In a past life I loved playing saxophone, and I currently practice piano. I had always wanted to learn how to play piano when I was a child so I figured ‘it’s never too late’ and started up a couple years ago with lessons.  I am looking forward to more lessons with Mike Effenberger. For me the hardest part is the theory, but that’s also the part I especially want to learn! I want to be able to play anything I can read!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Claude Fried

This week's faculty spotlight is Claude Fried, PMAC's very own low brass instructor!

Claude Fried's heart is as big as his instruments. As PMAC's one and only low brass guy, he specializes in those heavy, honking and tonking instruments that provide vital support in any band. Whether you want to learn tuba or trombone, bass trombone or baritone, or play in his brass ensemble, Claude is your guy. After performing in countless ensembles, orchestras (including as principal trombonist with the NH Philharmonic in 2012), big bands, little bands, chamber ensembles and more, Claude has hopped on over to PMAC to teach you something about low brass - and do it all with a smile!

PMAC: What is your teaching philosophy?

Claude: I've learned that catering to enthusiasm and results is the best way to teach music universally. I believe strongly that if you teach with a set "philosophy", it means that the student's specific needs and wants are not at the forefront of your mind. Every professional musician and instrumentalist thinks about and plays music differently which proves that there are many ways to successfully learn and execute playing at a high level.

PMAC: Who is your greatest musical influence?

Claude: There's no easy way to answer this question. I adore music of all genres played by all sorts of different people. Sometimes hearing a beginning player stumble through and improvise on a blues can be as interesting and engaging as a professional who makes it seem like second nature. Hearing a funk or rock drummer play a groove can be as interesting as hearing a brass quintet play through a recital. Instrumentalists that inspire me are devoted to the music they play, so I could easily say that musicians of the Seacoast are generally more inspiring than the young mechanical prodigies who sound like everyone else and are auditioning for orchestral positions.

That being said, I hold very high esteem for composers and songwriters - those who not only tell the story, but are the authors too. Mahler, Bruckner, Brahms are some of my favorite orchestral composers and inspirational "authors."
PMAC: What was your first instrument? What lead you to what you are playing now?

Claude: My first instrument was piano - I didn't like it; it cut into my baseball time. My second instrument was alto sax - I didn't like it; my 5th grade colleagues played very loud, very wrong most of the time. My third instrument was percussion - that was awesome. I probably might still be a drummer if my band director in HS didn't desperately need a trombone player. I started playing trombone on a suggestion and a whim. I didn't like it at first (I used to make fun of the trombone players in my HS band because they played the goofy-looking instruments) until I heard a recording of Bill Watrus play A Time For Love. From that moment on I was in love with what a trombone could do and sound like. I started exploring other trombonists and was even more impressed with classical players like Joe Alessi, Jim Markey, and Jorgen van Rijen. That propelled me into conservatory training and classical focus.

PMAC: What are the advantages to playing a low brass instrument? What is you favorite part about it?

Claude: At the same time that I picked up trombone, I started playing electric bass in a funk, soul, r&b band with some local 50+ musicians. It started with coffee house jams and soon turned into the band that inspired my musical life more than any other singular thing - "A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That, and We Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody." We began getting regular gigs and notoriety: bass lines started flowing through my bloodstream.

When that band stopped performing (when I went to college) I still had the bug for the low end and for the groove but never had an outlet. I picked up bass trombone for a while in school which was pretty cool and much closer to what I was craving, but it wasn't the same. I started playing tuba in school too which was great, except I wasn't good enough to hold a group together so my interest faded.

A couple years later when I moved to Dover and saw the Soggy Po Boys play for the first time, the itch came back in full force and while Mike Effenberger was holding down the bass line undeniably well with his left hand, I was beyond inspired to bring back my passion for the bass. The following week I brought a borrowed tuba to the jam and sat in with the curious (and forgiving) band members, I haphazardly played a few tunes, and the rest is history. My favorite part of playing low brass is the versatility - the fact that I can play Saint-Saens and Beethoven on trombone in an orchestra and then hurry back to Dover to play the gig with the Po Boys the same night.

PMAC: If you were a visual artist, what would your medium be?

Claude: Clay.
(That's mostly a joke because I'm writing this at 3am and have no idea how to answer that.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Steve Roy

This week's faculty spotlight is Steve Roy, PMAC's very own acoustic string instructor extraordinaire! 

PMAC's Steve Roy is a man of many talents. You'd need two hands to count how many instruments he plays and many more hands to count all the bands he's in. Steve teaches acoustic string instruments galore here at PMAC, from the big ol' upright bass, to that teeny little uke. He also leads PMAC's Bluegrass band and our two Ukulele Circle Jams (one for teens here at PMAC and one for adults - it's at The Press Room!) and does so with great excitement and joy. If you don't know much about Steve, or you've never been around him, you're certainly missing out!

PMAC: What is your teaching philosophy?

Steve: Lately, I keep saying over and over during lessons that the more different ways you look at something, the better picture you get of that something.  This has been a huge part of my own personal musical learning process, and a direct result of playing a variety of instruments in a variety of bands of a variety of genres and styles. I also believe that music should always be fun, but there is work to be done, but it should be fun, but there is work to be done.  Fun work.

PMAC: You travelled a lot this summer for music. Where, geographically, has music taken you over the years? What is your favorite place?

Steve:  Yeah, this summer has been a busy one, with a lot of traveling.  I've been really fortunate to do a lot of touring with a lot of different bands, and it's brought me all over the USA, Canada, and Europe as well.  A lot of my favorite places are based on the friends that I've made there.  The area of the Southeast USA including Johnson City, TN and Asheville, NC has an amazingly rich musical culture with plenty of great musicians and good friends.  
       More recently, I've been teaching at a lot of music camps that take place mostly in the summer.   Most of the camps that I've been teaching at are Bluegrass/Old Time/String Band camps where most of the students are adults and the other teachers are touring musicians from all over the US and Canada.  My favorite one is Nimblefingers Bluegrass and Old Time Music Workshop in Sorrento, British Columbia.  This past summer was my 7th year teaching there, and it's an amazing group of students and instructors in a gorgeous setting.  Last year, I had the fortunate experience of teaching with the Aloha Bluegrass academy, which holds camps for kids on various islands in Hawaii.  I completely fell in love with Hawaii and it's music and culture, and brought back with me an intense fondness for the Ukulele.  Also, this summer I taught at the Kluane Music Camp in Whitehorse, Yukon.  It was pretty close to the solstice and the sun was still out at midnight.  
       The more I travel to other places, the more I realize what an amazing little area the Seacoast is.  The quality and diversity of musicianship here is quite amazing, and I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.  

PMAC: What is your favorite genre of music? How does it influence you?

Steve: I like all types of music.  I like really good music and really bad music.   My main areas of study have been Jazz and Bluegrass/Old Time Sting Band music.   Both of these styles are highly refined, technically and harmonically, and have ended up being the lenses through which I've dabbled in other styles.  Jazz has given me an understanding improvisation, and how certain pieces of the musical puzzle fit together, and Bluegrass has given me an understanding of timing, technique and the voodoo involved in unlocking the tonal secrets of acoustic instruments.  Hawaiian music is my most recent flirtation.

PMAC: What are you passionate about that isn't music? Has this influenced your music at all?

Steve: Before becoming a full time musician, I had a career as an archaeologist for five years, and studied archeology at UNH before that.  I have an intense relationship with history and anthropology, and music is an amazing barometer that helps illustrate humanity through time.  The more I can connect the music to its own historical context, and to the greater timeline of history, the more meaning that music has to me.  Plus, an understanding of the music of a time period enriches my perception of time period itself.  Good times.

PMAC: If you were a visual artist, what would your medium be?

Steve: Does dancing count as visual art?  Watch me dance! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Faculty Spotlight: Gianna Alden

This week's faculty spotlight is Gianna Alden, PMAC's Suzuki Violin teacher. 

Gianna, who is one of our newest faculty members, is no stranger to PMAC. An active participant in our Jazz Adventurers (she sings!), Gianna also brings her son to lessons here and is well versed in our school. We're happy to welcome her to our faculty to teach Suzuki Violin - an early childhood violin method that she specializes in and has taught for the past decade. A former teacher of Suzuki at Rye Country Day School, Gianna has been an early childhood educator in the Seacoast for the past 15+ years. Gianna received her Suzuki certification from Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford.

We asked Gianna a few questions about herself, here are her answers:

PMAC: What is your teaching philosophy? 

Gianna: I believe all children have the ability to learn the violin at an early age through the use of the Suzuki Method.  This method involves the parents, child, and teacher working together in a nurturing and encouraging environment to allow the child to learn at his or her own rate, building on small steps so the child and parent feel successful.  Learning an instrument also builds a child's character and confidence and is such a wonderful gift a parent can give their child.  We also use games and humor to make learning fun!   "Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart", Dr. Suzuki.

PMAC: Who is your biggest musical influence?  

Gianna: My Suzuki violin teacher , Mrs. Barbra Embser, at the Hartford Conservatory of Music.  She taught me about  hard work and persistence and provided a love for music that I would not have had.

PMAC: What is your favorite album?  

Gianna: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

PMAC: If you were a visual artist, what would you choose as a medium?

Gianna: My medium would be acrylic paint on a really big canvas!

PMAC: What led you to play the violin?   

Gianna: My teachers told my mom I needed to be challenged outside of school and maybe should try music.  She saw an add in the paper for Suzuki Violin lessons and that was that!