By Nicole Elliot
Carol Matz is a well-known composer and arranger of piano music. With over 25 years of piano teaching experience, she currently serves as a Keyboard Editor for Alfred Music Publishing. Carol works from her home studio in South Florida and has a real passion for inspiring her students. We caught up with Carol recently and asked her a few questions about her writing.
Which of your publications means the most to you, and why?
I would say my Famous & Fun series is the closest to my heart. These are books of supplementary piano arrangements in different categories (such as Christmas, Classics, Pop, Duets, etc.) written in levels from Early Elementary to Intermediate. Now, I may be a writer, but I’m a teacher first. For years, when I looked for supplementary arrangements for my students, I was frustrated by the lack of consistent leveling within each book. So with Famous & Fun, I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that all the arrangements fall consistently within each level, and that teachers can easily use them along with any method they might be teaching from. My own students really have fun with these books, and enjoy playing pieces they know, along with their regular studies.
What inspired you to start writing teacher-friendly pop arrangements?
As a kid, I was a serious piano student, but I actually quit for a while at the age of 12. I really wanted to play rock and pop, but so many of the pop piano arrangements available at the time were simply too difficult or not pianistic. My mom, a pianist herself, was heartbroken that I wanted to quit, but I promised her I wouldn’t stop playing. Well, I kept my promise to her, and in fact, she had a hard time getting me away from the piano! I spent months playing from a Beatles fake book, and from this experience I learned so much about chord structure and how to create my own arrangements from a melody line and chord symbols. I think that if I didn’t take this detour into learning the styles I loved, I would never have returned to the piano. So playing pop and rock actually saved me as a piano student. This personal experience shaped my passion for arranging popular music that is inspiring and fun for the student, yet also pianistic and carefully graded level-wise, so that teachers can use it in their studios.
What is your ultimate goal when composing for early-level piano students?
My main goal is to create a piece that students will simply love to play, perhaps one they’ll choose for an upcoming recital. I like to write pieces that fall easily under the hands, so students can feel confident performing them. Everyone feels good about what they can do well, and if I can write a piece that helps boost a student’s self esteem, then I’ve really accomplished something special.
What’s playing on your iPod right now?
I have a very eclectic taste in music. My iPod is loaded with Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, lots of French piano music (especially Ravel), Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Bach, and a wide range of indie/alternative artists including Beck, Elliott Smith, The Shins, and lots more. Lately I’ve been hooked on the retro-soul act Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings… great stuff!
Who were your musical role models?
As a young female musician, I always looked up to successful women in music. As a teenager, I loved the rock group Heart, headed up by two sisters, one of whom is a fantastic guitarist. It was groundbreaking at the time. They really paved the way for so many female artists. I think young girls nowadays don’t even think about there being any barriers for them in the music world. We even have Daisy Rock Guitars, a company that creates guitars and basses especially geared towards getting young women involved in music. Nowadays there are dozens of female artists that will serve as role models for the next generation. I think it’s a wonderful thing.
Thanks to Carol for sharing some great insights and stay tuned for more interviews from our Composer Spotlights series!