The composer for December is…Martha Mier!
Martha Mier is a pianist, piano teacher, composer, and clinician and currently resides in Florida. I met her briefly at MTNA (Music Teacher’s National Association) in Baltimore in March 2017 as she was presenting newly composed material. Her “Jazz, Rag & Blues” series are hugely popular with many of my students, as it introduces students to the idiom in an accessible and musical way. Below are a few of my favourites:
Level 2: Just Struttin’ Along
From Mier’s “Jazz, Rag & Blues, Book 1”. This piece introduces students to a blues swing, which beginner students may find initially challenging. Swing is something that is taught by “feel”, so the student must be able to feel the long-short rhythm in the eighth notes. This piece features repetition and spans three-and-a-half octaves across the keyboard, so students must be able to anticipate and move to the next keys in time.
Level 2: Ragtime Do-Si-Do
Also from Mier’s “Jazz, Rag & Blues, Book 1”, this piece starts with a broken diminished chord, creating a sense of mystery and anticipation. Then launches into an energetic ragtime-like feel, with a bouncy left hand, and the melody in the right hand. It briefly turns the melody in a minor at 0:30.
Level 3: Interlude
From “Romantic Sketches, book 2”. This gorgeous piece is layered and alternates between minor and major sounds. It also introduces students to the idea of rubato in music (stretching out or speeding up certain parts of the music to create a sense of expressiveness).
Level 6: River City Blues
From Mier’s “Jazz, Rags & Blues, book 5”, this slow and bluesy tune has an active left hand that moves back in forth on the keys in a “stride” style. Be careful not to play everything loud; listen to how this pianist highlights interesting parts of the melody with dynamics: