GMTA State Conference November 2-4, 2023 Shorter University - Rome, GA Website
The annual GMTA State Conference is an amazing opportunity for members to spend a weekend absorbing some of the best lectures, performances, and pedagogy classes in our teaching profession. Programs are headlined by some of the most accomplished educators in the country, with plenty of educational 1-2 hour classes on various topics, including repertoire, teaching styles, method books, practice improvement, composers, etc. Highlights include: one pedagogy headliner session, masterclasses for strings and piano, chamber recitals, solo piano recitals, orchestra performance with the GMTA Concerto Competition Winner, live performance from a commissioned composer.
The 2021 GMTA Conference has far surpassed my expectations and I can’t thank the good people at GMTA for doing such a marvelous job on every detail of this event. I have left feeling incredibly inspired and am looking forward to next year's conference.
Presentations - Conference presentations are usually 45 minutes long. They reminded me of a brief college course or lecture, but even better—cuz we’re older and wiser now. (Plus, no homework; simply utilize all your newfound knowledge as you wish.) Two presentations usually occur at the same time, except those by the conference headliner. I had to choose wisely which to attend. The topics were incredibly varied, so I chose those that applied to me or intrigued me most. I attended 10 presentations. I won’t discuss them all, but I do want to mention some—just to give you an idea.
Dr. Beibei Lin’s Ear-Training for Students was one of my favorite presentations of the weekend. She was a wonderful speaker, down-to-earth, and kept things entertaining and educational. She discussed the similarities between ear-training and language (The Mother-Tongue). Students should be immersed in it from day one of lessons, even before they learn their intervals. She gave plenty of wonderful examples for us to try with our youngest or oldest.
Dr. Owen Lovell’s Improving Audio Quality for DIY Recordings was incredibly helpful. Many teachers record their students for immediate playback, so it's important to have something that is easy to use and not cost a fortune. Dr. Lovell approached the topic from the most basic level, where I comfortably fit. Prior to the seminar, he purchased several different budget- and user-friendly recording devices (some stand-alone, while others simple iPhone attachments). He recorded the same sample of music on a Yamaha Disklavier grand piano. During the seminar, he played these samples for us so we could hear the differences, starting with an iPhone by itself. It's true, iPhones can often make pianissimo's sound like forte's. I’ve already ordered my Shure iPhone Mic. It wasn’t the best option from his presentation, but for my budget and level of tech-savvy-ness—I am thrilled and can’t wait to try it!
Another outstanding presentation was Dr. Cameron Fuhrman’s Developing Independent Artistry in Our Students, where she used theoretical analysis of the pieces to help guide how to best shape/interpret the phrases. Not only was she insightful, but she also showed how to apply these concepts in performance, playing several bars in a variety of ways to illustrate her point. Afterward, she performed the short pieces in their entirety—three Scriabin Preludes!!!
Dr. Robert Henry gave a presentation on How to Teach Bach’s Prelude in C (yes, THE Prelude in C). As usual with Dr. Henry’s presentations, he takes the ordinary to the next level.
Martha Hilley, former President of MTNA, was this year's conference pedagogical headliner. She gave three different presentations, all spectacular, ranging from theory to simple improvisation tricks for beginners, classroom activities for the young ones, and rhythm development away from the instrument. She certainly knew how to work a crowd! There were some truly special moments when she put a room full of music teachers on the spot for an impromptu rhythm exercise.
Performances - If you love live performances, you won’t be disappointed at the conference.
Thursday evening, Dr. James Mellichamp performed a full concert on Piedmont University’s Casavant Frères pipe organ, which he designed! Dr. Mellichamp has designed over 50 organs for various institutions and he also happens to be the President of Piedmont University. What can’t he do?
Friday afternoon, we heard GMTA’s commissioned composition: Evaporating Echoes from composer Garrison Gerard. It was performed by the UGA Contemporary Chamber Orchestra. This piece utilized traditional instruments in VERY non-traditional ways.
At the GMTA Auditions Winners’ Recital for College Level Students, a solo violinist blew me away!
Friday evening was the conference recitalist performance from pianist Dr. Jasmin Arakawa. She gave an exciting Beethoven’s Eb Sonata, Op. 27 No. 1, and a fiery Chopin Sonata in Bbm, Op. 35. The second half of the concert was a complete surprise, fueled by lesser known composers. The pieces were fun, virtuosic, and rhythmically intriguing!!!
Saturday was the piano Masterclass with Dr. Arakawa making another appearance as the clinician. On stage were the 11th grade GMTA Auditions winners. All four students were unbelievably advanced.
The GMTA Auditions Winners’ Recital followed next and ended the conference. They truly saved the best for last! As much as I love all that the conference has to offer, including the amazing professionals and educated talents from which we get to learn so much—this is the moment that solidifies why we are all there to begin with: the students. Don’t expect an ordinary student recital; these young talents are on another level. If you attend for nothing else, this is it!
GMTA Perks - Throughout the conference, there were giveaways at the start of every presentation. There was also the main raffle of gift baskets that local chapters donate. You can purchase as many tickets as you please and the proceeds go to student awards and scholarships.
The GMTA Hospitality Room was also a nice perk! It was available everyday with coffee, waters, sodas, and tons of snacks.
Piano Works set up a room with purchasable music, all 20% off. This included an entire section of Federation music. Fortunately, I happened to have my shopping list on my phone!
GMTA Family - Private teachers, pre-school teachers, college professors, you name it—there are so many amazing teachers wanting to get to know you! It was such a welcoming atmosphere. The connections and friendships you make could prove to be invaluable. Everyone was happy to share their stories and experiences.
The Friday dinner banquet was fancy, but without all the formal wear. Great food, better company. The GMTA Teacher of the Year was awarded and recognized, along with two newly certified teachers.
After Dr. Arakawa’s performance that same evening, we were invited to the President’s house on campus for a reception of wine, beer, and a beautiful array of finger foods that were absolutely delicious.
I hope that by sharing these experiences, many of you will consider attending next year. It is truly worth the effort and with a little planning ahead, not too stressful on your studio. I urge you to keep an eye on next year’s dates and location and plan out a way to take the time off. I heard from a few school teachers who were able to get their expenses covered by pitching it to their administrators convincingly. Just a thought!
One should never stop learning. This is a wonderful way of finding new ideas and inspiration, not just for private piano teachers, but also for those who work with pre-reading, group classes, or other instruments.
I regret not taking more pictures than I did, but I have posted a few below. I have also made a short video featuring clips of all of the Auditions winners.