Composer of the month – Debra Wanless


Composer of March…Debra Wanless!

Background

Debra Wanless is a pedagogy specialist who is the principal and founding member of the Northern Lights Canadian National Conservatory of Music. This music conservatory is unique in that it features only Canadian composers; therefore the content is entirely Canadian! She is also the founder of a piano pedagogy symposium called “Summer Sizzle”, which I attended in 2015 in Mount Forest, Ontario. I first met Debra at her Summer Sizzle workshop, and was very impressed by her knowledge and ideas for piano pedagogy. She led a workshop on inspiring ideas for developing reading skills in students, and another session on polyrhythms (playing different rhythms in each hand). This year, Summer Sizzle is back in Mount Forest, and guest clinicians include Christopher Norton, Nancy Telfer, Wes Froese and Debra Wanless.

Popular Pieces

Debra’s pieces can be found the the Northern Lights and Making Tracks Series, Contemporary Idioms (from Conservatory Canada), RCM Popular Selections, (Cow Cow Boogie). I also use her books, Keyboard Harmony to introduce students to playing from lead sheets. She has also written a series of piano method books called “Let’s Begin“. As the use of modes becomes more and more common in today’s music, I have tried to find resources to understand and teach this concept, and her books “Demystifying Modes” and “In the Mood for Modes” have been easy to understand and use with my students. Students are introduced to the modes, and given opportunities to improvise using the mode and learn pieces written in the mode. Below is my signed copy of “In the Mood for Modes”:

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