2015 Creative Pianist Workshops


Sessons below that say "LAB" are followed by a 50-minute lab directed by workshop leaders for participants to apply session content in a keyboard classroom setting with access to dozens of digital keyboards and headphones. 


Essential Ideas: Teaching the Arts of Improvising, Arranging, and Composing (LAB, Thursday, 11:15-12:00, Magnolia A)

Many of our students want to create music of their own—after all, that is what is done in other art forms. Over the past four decades, the presenter has made a gradual transformation from “piano teacher” to “creativity educator” who teaches the Four Arts of Music. In this talk, he will share essential ideas about learning and teaching these vital arts that he has gleaned through forty years of “trial and ear.”


Creative Practicing and the Art of Interpreting (LAB, Saturday, 2:15-3:00, Magnolia A)

"Repetition is the mother of skill.” Yet, too often, the pieces we are practicing become stale with all that repetition. Learn a collection of "creative practicing techniques" that can transform mechanical repetition into fresh, creative activity. These techniques also cultivate the ability to make creative and artistic interpretations of musical scores. Explore additional ideas and techniques that invite creative responses to scores and promote personal freedom in the art of interpretation.


ForrestKinneyForrest Kinney, NCTM, is the author and composer of 19 books including the Pattern Play series on improvisation, the Chord Play series on arranging, and Creativity—Beyond Compare. He is a pianist who regularly gives concerts and presentations for music educators. His arrangements are now in over 40 publications.


Understanding Chord Symbols (LAB, Thursday, 2:15-3:00, Magnolia A)

One of the biggest challenges beginning pop/jazz improvisers face is learning to construct and interpret chord symbols. This session provides a straightforward explanation of the principles, common practices and variations found in contemporary chord nomenclature.


Going Further with Lead Sheets (LAB, Saturday, 11:15-12:00, Magnolia A)

So you can already play the melody and chord symbols on lead sheets…now what? Learn creative techniques to personalize your interpretation. If you can do it, you can teach your students to do it!


BradleySowashComposer, performer, multi-instrumentalist and educator Bradley Sowash is known for his creative music-making instructional books published by Kjos Music and as the co-founder of 88 Creative Keys improvisation camps for piano students and teachers.



Finding the Time to Be Creative (LAB, Friday, 2:15-3:00, Magnolia A)

Offering creative opportunities during jam-packed private or group lessons can be a challenge. Discover tips to engage pianists of any age in activities on and off the bench that will spark musical imaginations when time is at a premium.


LeilaVissLeila Viss owns a creative-based, tech-savvy piano studio. She’s an organist, accompanist, blogs at 88pianokeys.me, writes for Clavier Companion and authored The iPad Piano Studio. With Bradley Sowash she cofounded 88 Creative Keys Camp.

Behind the Music: Finding a Common Theme in Creative Composition and Performance (Saturday, 11:15-12:00, Grand Ballroom IJ)

This session will demonstrate an approach to piano instruction that applies Heinrich Schenker’s theories of generative musical analysis to performance and composition. Creative activities begin with a “skeleton” consisting of a descending melody harmonized by primary triads. This structure is elaborated with added levels of rhythmic and melodic motives. Repertoire is similarly taught using the “skeleton” in reverse. Students see immediate relationships between their own compositions and repertoire, allowing for reinforcement in an authentic musical context.

WilliamsBenjaminBenjamin Williams is a composer and Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Mississippi College. Williams earned degrees in Music Composition from The University of Akron (B.M and M.M.) and The Ohio State University (D.M.A.). He is married to violinist Emily Williams.



RushingMichaelMichael Rushing is Assistant Professor of Piano at Mississippi College, where he coordinates the Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy and directs the Taylor School, a community music program. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina (D.M.A.) and Mississippi College (B.M., M.M.).

Stayin' Alive: Creative Recital Formats to Keep Your Studio Fresh for Today's Students (Friday, 9:00-10:00, Grand Ballroom IJ)

This session will present five new recital formats that you will be able to implement in your private studios this year. Attendees will see music come to life with real video examples of each format from the beginning stages, all the way through to the final performance product.  Examples include 1) Keyboard Jam: Students perform on multiple pianos/keyboards in a “jam” session creating popular music arrangements as seen in the highly popular “The Piano Guys” videos. 2) Pop Showcase: Students perform pop songs with a live rhythm section including guitar, bass, and drums. 3) Collaborative Recital: Students experience performing in an accompanying setting by collaborating with students studying voice or instruments other than piano. 4) Chamber Recital: Create small chamber groups with students in your studio who play other instruments, or by teaming up with another studio. 5) Arts Fusion Recital: Students present their own artwork at the recital to correlate with their musical performance.  Examples include asking students to paint, create a sculpture, create a video, or compose poetry for their piece.  Students have room to get creative in all of our format examples!

Learn how to create meaningful and creative performance opportunities that go beyond the grand piano through step-by-step instruction created for each setting.  From Keyboard Jams to Arts Fusion performances, these recital formats will allow your students experience many new forms of musical expression, inspiring everyone along the way.

KristinYostAuthor, clinician, and mentor, Kristin Yost is a sought-after presenter in areas of music business and popular musical genres for independent music teachers.


ToddvanKekerixTodd Van Kekerix is active pianist and teacher on the faculty at the New School for Music Study. He also teaches at Kean University and maintains a private piano studio in Hoboken, NJ.





Ryan Greene currently serves on the faculty at Centre for Musical Minds. He is Associate Director for NCKP and oversees digital management for Clavier Companion magazine. Ryan holds degrees from Southern Methodist University and Butler University.