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How To Make Your Choir Inclusive for Trans, GNC and Queer Singers

by Caite Debevec

I failed my first transgender student.

I was in grad school and had never had a trans singer in my choir before. I was rooted in what I knew regarding voice types. I was sure that my priority would be vocal health above all else and I was determined to give the singer the best choral experience I could.

Did you catch my mistake?

Rather than centering my student in their experience, it was all about me. What could I give them? How could I improve their voice? Did I know warmups and exercises to address all their vocal struggles?

In the years since, I have curated a list of reminders for myself and other choral directors who strive to create safe spaces for transgender (trans), gender non-conforming (GNC), and queer singers.

First and foremost: It’s not about you.

This is something I tell myself before every rehearsal. While I may have the degrees and the knowledge, the tricks and tips, my primary responsibility is to serve my singers in the way they need me. This doesn’t mean I bend over backward to acquiesce their every request, but my goals for singers are secondary to the goals and aspirations they have for themselves. Allow your singer to be the captain of their choral experience.

Our students don’t owe us their story.

Your trans, GNC, and queer singers have no obligation to tell you anything about themselves. Accept the information that they provide willingly, and only ask questions if they create the space for you to do so. If they don’t share, you don’t need to know.

Trans and GNC singers reserve the right to enter a choral classroom without divulging their complete medical history.

Singers determine the quality of their own musical experiences.

Choral directors often focus on vocal health, but our concept of health should encompass a singer’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

You may have a transmasculine person who wants to sing in the tenor section, and they can only hit half the notes. Is there a chance they could hurt their vocal mechanism? Yes. Is forcing them to sit in the alto section – which is often predominantly singers who identify as female – the solution? No.

A singer’s mental and social well-being are just as important. While that trans singer may only be able to sing half of the notes, to them it may be the quality musical experience that they are looking for.

And always remember: Every singer’s quality experience will look different. One transfeminine person may want to sing alto, while another wants to sing bass. I find the best way of handling this is to say, “Feel free to join whichever section you feel most comfortable in, switch sections at any time, and let me know if you’d like some support!” This gives singers the opportunity to ask for guidance, but the freedom to explore their voices by themselves.

Accommodations for one singer often benefit the entire ensemble.

A few accommodations that have secret benefits:

  1. A good portion of my alto section is trans women who are singing the alto part an octave lower than written. Not only does that expand the repertoire I can program, but our intonation is greatly influenced by the bolstered low notes.
  2. Exercises that are specifically designed for trans and GNC voices are great warmups for the entire ensemble.
  3. When one section is learning their notes, have the entire ensemble sing along in octaves. Members who are singing an octave higher or lower than written can learn their notes without feeling like they are exposed. This also builds musicianship skills for the ensemble.

Most importantly: Trans and GNC singers are singers.

For many of my singers, their transness is a major part of their identity, but it isn’t the reason they joined my ensemble. While we make accommodations for our trans, GNC, and queer singers, be aware of “othering” them, or unconsciously setting them apart from your cis/het singers. Remember: We are all singers who want a community that makes music together.

For continued reading regarding transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer choral experiences, I recommend The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices by Liz Jackson Hearns and Brian Kremer, and A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice by Jules Balèn.

If you would like further reading on vocal health, HRT, and the trans/GNC singing experience, I recommend One Weird Trick: A Users Guide to Transgender Voice by Liz Jackson Hearns, and Voice and Communication Therapy for the Transgender/Gender Diverse Client by Richard K. Adler, Sandy Hirsch, and Jack Pickering.

Caite Debevec is a conductor, composer and educator living and working in Baltimore City. She is currently the music director for the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, the founding music director of the Baltimore Women’s Chorale, Manager of Early Childhood Education at the Maryland Science Center, and an independent voice instructor working with trans, non-binary, and GNC singers. www.caitedebevec.com IG: @baltimoremenschorus@bmorewomen

My 9+ Favorite Elvis Songs From Each Era

By: Bruce Dierbeck – Social Media Manager

Thanks to the new “Elvis” biopic, the world has caught Elvis Presley fever all over again (not to be confused with his cover of “Fever” from the 1973 Aloha From Hawaii special).

Elvis’ music career can really be broken down by 3 distinct eras. There’s the early music, which launched Elvis — if not all of rock and roll — into the stratosphere. There’s his movie music that first kept, but then hurt, his relevance throughout the 60s. And lastly, there are the live performances that kept arenas packed until Elvis left the building one final time in August of 1977.

These are a few of my favorites from each of the Elvis eras, from the biggest hits to the deepest cuts. And while Elvis never performed encores, as a “thank you, thank you very much” I have a bonus for those who read to the end.

EARLY ELVIS

“Hound Dog”

Best spun on a 45, preferably with your dog of choice nearby.

“All Shook Up”

One of our favorites from Elvis’ early years, but we thought we’d shake it up here with a fast-paced rendition from the Comeback Special.

“Are You Lonesome Tonight”

Such a sad, beautiful song. But have you ever heard the “Laughing Version” where Elvis falls into a laughing fit while performing this song live?

ELVIS MOVIES

“Love Me Tender”

From Elvis’ first motion picture, a tender love song we still can’t get over.

“Jailhouse Rock”

It would be a crime not to include this one.

“Mine”

A deep cut off the “Speedway” soundtrack, which is one of the seemingly five thousand movies in which Elvis played a race car driver. This was a soundtrack song that was never actually featured in the movie. Could it have been as big as “Love Me Tender” had it come out a decade earlier and featured in the film as opposed to being used as filler? We’ll never know. But it’s a favorite of, well, mine.

ELVIS LIVE!

“Suspicious Minds”

You can see why this was a perennial concert favorite in this sprawling 6-minute live rendition from the summer of 1970. Elvis puts his everything into this performance, leaving both the king and the crowd spent.

“Just Pretend”

A beautiful melancholic number that’s a little bit country, a little bit R&B, and therefore a whole lotta bit the kind of song Elvis loved to deliver during this era.

“American Trilogy”

One of the most iconic moments from the “Aloha From Hawaii” special, it also features a jaw-dropping flute-solo one doesn’t see much in rock concerts not featuring Jethro Tull.

BONUS: ELVIS COVERS

Just as Elvis inspired so many artists over the past half-century, Elvis was heavily inspired by his contemporaries and loved covering their music. Here are 3 Elvis covers that TCB in our eyes.

ELVIS x THE BEATLES: “Get Back / Little Sister

Did you know that not only did Elvis and the Beatles spend an evening jamming in his Hollywood living room one night in the late 60s, but that Elvis also covered a few Beatles tracks during his summer of 1970 Vegas shows? His covers of “Yesterday” and “Something” are beautiful, but it’s his mashup of “Get Back” with his own “Little Sister” that was ahead of its time.

ELVIS x THE BEE GEES: “Words

Yes. You read that right. Elvis covered the Bee Gees. And words can’t truly describe how amazing that is.

ELVIS x NEIL DIAMOND: “Sweet Caroline”

The entire planet knows every word to “Sweet Caroline” but very few know that Elvis covered this would-be Neil Diamond classic during the summer of 1970 in Las Vegas. Our thoughts? So good, so good!

Discover Elvis’ legendary catalog of music at sheetmusicplus.com

Bruce is part of the social media team at Sheet Music Plus and lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two golden retrievers. He’s a lover of all kinds of music from old school rap and classic country to yacht rock and power pop, as long as it has a catchy beat or can turn a creative lyric. He has an unhealthy knowledge of 1970s Elvis and can tell anything from the year a particular jumpsuit was worn to what night a live performance was from.

10 Favorite Broadway Songs Picked by Sheet Music Plus

We are so excited to watch the Tony Awards this weekend! There is nothing like a great Broadway musical number, and there have been so many over the decades. From classical Broadway hits to modern gems, we love to sing, dance, get sucked into YouTube rabbit holes, and get these tunes stuck in our heads. While it is difficult to narrow down just a few of these standout songs, we’ve collected our favorites from our Sheet Music Plus staff. 

It Takes Two

from Into the Woods

A classic from Stephen Sondheim.  

Seasons of Love

from Rent

An oldie, but a goodie that never gets old.

Wheels of a Dream

from Ragtime

A goosebump-inducing duet with Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell. 

All That Jazz

from Chicago

One of the best opening numbers ever. Chita Rivera understands the assignment.

You’ll Be Back

from Hamilton

Is it bad to admit that the king is one of our favorite characters?

Circle of Life

from The Lion King

Such a powerful opening number. It’s hard to not get chills.

Tonight

from West Side Story

Sondheim and Bernstein crafted some of the most timeless love songs when they created West Side Story.

Wait for Me

from Hadestown

Who would think that ancient Greece would mix so well with New Orleans and soul music?

Springtime for Hitler

from The Producers

“It was outrageous, offensive, and insulting, and I enjoyed every minute.”

Bring Him Home

from Les Miserables

Colm Wilkinson’s performance of this song is a masterclass.

The Music of Turning Red: Finding Cultural Harmony

By: Naoko Maruko – Head of Catalog Product Management at Sheet Music Plus

Think back to the first time you watched a movie and watched a character that made you think, “That’s me!” Remember the feeling of being seen and the excitement of being represented on the big screen? 

Well, I don’t. 

I was an Asian American girl who spoke with no Asian accent, only spoke English (and some basic French), and did no martial art. We did not exist in movies in the 80s and 90s and as such, we weren’t really thought to exist at all.

That’s why I was excited to see the movie Turning Red! It’s a movie about a flute-playing, high achieving, confident, Chinese Canadian 13-year-old girl named Meilin (Mei for short) Lee. Granted, I was a cello-playing, high achieving, less confident, Japanese American 13-year-old girl, but in an industry that has so little representation, East Asian folks tend to rally behind any East Asian character whenever they exist. It’s exciting to have any non-stereotypical visibility even when it is not direct representation.

Upon watching Turning Red for a second time, I realized how the movie’s music captures the journey of finding harmony between the many different facets of identity. For this movie, it is the struggle not only of growing up but balancing eastern and western cultural expectations along with showing respect for tradition in a modern societal construct.

In the opening self-introduction, Mei walks and talks over a new jack swing soundtrack. This sound is a quintessentially western sound (specifically Black-created music, with influences of hip hop, soul, R&B, funk, jazz, blues, etc.). On top of this is a melody played by a modern western flute, representing the western side of Mei. It’s used whenever she is at school, with her friends, or walking around in Toronto.

© Disney

This is juxtaposed with Mei’s familial traditional eastern influences. As Mei rushes home to be with her family, the western flute melody changes to a dizi (笛子), a Chinese bamboo flute. Traditional Chinese instruments and music styles come up frequently whenever Mei is with her family, not only representing the more traditional viewpoints but also her Chinese culture. Her mother, Ming, represents that more traditional and eastern viewpoint and is thusly represented by the more traditional and eastern instrument: the guzheng (古箏), a plucked Chinese string instrument. 

Mei discovers that she has a long family history of turning into a red panda whenever feeling a strong emotion, thanks to a wish made by her ancestor. When she initially transforms and is panicking, an erhu enters the soundtrack, often accompanied by synth. An erhu, a Chinese bowed string instrument, is rarely heard in mainstream music, much less with a modern synth accompaniment, so I found these two together to be an interesting play on east and west; traditional and more modern.

In fact, the traditional Chinese instruments often play alongside western musical entities in this movie. We get combinations of dizi and full orchestra. Guzheng and synth. Big band and dizi. It is a blended cohesive sound that incorporates both eastern and western instruments and various styles that foreshadows the peace that Mei will find with her various identities.

© Disney

At the climax of Turning Red, Mei walks away from her need for her mother’s approval and toward her friends at a 4*Town concert. Hijinx ensues and everyone ends up needing to open a door to the astral plane and deal with a big red panda situation. A ritual is performed where “The door will only open if we sing from our hearts”. For Mei’s grandma and aunties, that is a traditional-sounding Cantonese chant. 4*Town is singing and doing their boy band thing. Mei’s friends are beatboxing. The supporting music is a combination of full orchestra, Chinese orchestra, dizi, and synth. It’s the culmination of all of Mei’s identities so that she can emerge her true self.

There is often the perception that East Asian people living in non-Asian countries just arrived. The “perpetual foreigner” concept means that we are always seen as “other” as opposed to part of the societal “norm”. It is why I’ve been asked, “Where are you from? But where are you really from? But originally?” hundreds of times.

Turning Red is unique because Mei is not treated as an Other. The movie seamlessly has her belonging, which in turn normalizes her belonging. More importantly, she belongs without having to give up her cultural heritage and instead has her heritage celebrated. Mei and Mei’s music showcases how you do not need to choose sides; you do not need to be 100% something (eastern, western, traditional, modern, etc.) nor do you need to be 0% something else, because your true self may be a harmonious amalgamation of many influences. You do not need to fully assimilate and leave your culture behind to gain acceptance. You also do not need to fully live by the traditional values and expectations of a generation and/or culture. All these influences can instead co-exist and come together to create something special and lovely.

In the end, Turning Red is the soundtrack for the journey of finding cultural and generational harmony and finding peace in authentic identity. It’s also an opportunity to shine a spotlight and bring visibility to not only East Asian characters but East Asian people as we celebrate both what makes us unique and our belonging. 

BIO

Naoko Maruko is the Head of Catalog Product Management at Sheet Music Plus. She is also a professional cellist and has played with musicians such as Michael Bublé, the Trans Siberian Orchestra, and Disturbed. You can find her multi-track cello arrangements on www.youtube.com/onenaoko She is from Fresno, California. Originally.

AAPI Month Composer Highlight: Naoko Ikeda

Naoko Ikeda lives in Sapporo, Hokkaido in northern Japan, and is passionate about introducing the world to her country’s essence through music. Influenced by classical music, jazz and pop, as well as the piano works of William Gillock, her own music reflects her diverse tastes with beauty, elegance, and humor. Ms. Ikeda holds a piano performance degree from Yamaguchi College of Arts in Japan and currently maintains an energetic schedule as both teacher and composer.

Was there a moment you knew your career path would be a musical one?

Before starting piano lessons at age 6, I took voice lessons! I discovered that even as a child I loved adding lyrics to melodies, and knew that I wanted career in music at age 5. I began more serious music study when I was in junior high.

How has your heritage influenced your music career? What does your heritage mean to you?

I was born and raised in Hokkaido. Japan is an island nation and does not share borders with other countries, so it has its own unique traditions, culture, and aesthetics. The Japanese value the four seasons, and I too feel close to the signs hidden in nature and its changing seasons. Our society places a high importance on our history and our art. In fact, traditions were passed down through the generations by artists and scribes carefully copying works of art into books, paintings, music, textiles, and other mediums. My compositions aim to reflect my culture but I also interpolate those sounds with my own impressions of the world.

Do you have a favorite music piece that you like to perform? Who is your favorite musician?

I love William Gillock’s “Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style.” The collection was what started my interest in piano composition as a teenager. I love performing Debussy and Mozart. It’s tough to pick a favorite musician as it depends on the genre, but I’ve been listening to the vocal group Take 6 ever since their debut, and love their exquisite harmonies!

Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

How important do you think musical experiences are in bridging cultures?

Because of Covid-19, many musicians around the world shared live performances virtually. We were able to encourage each other through the gift of music. Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

Naoko Ikeda‘s Recent Publications:

How to Keep Your Music Students Sharp Over the Summer

While summer is a great time to relax and enjoy the vacation, it can also be a great time for music students to improve their skills and become even more proficient musicians. Below are some tips and advice for music teachers wanting to help their students practice music over the summer.

Offer a summer music program

If you’re able to keep working with your students throughout the summer (or if you know other teachers who might be), let your students know that they can continue taking lessons over the break. And if you can’t do lessons yourself, consider offering a summer music camp or other similar programs where they can keep up with their practice and their peers.

Use social media to keep your students connected to each other and to you

Not only will your students stay connected over social media, but they’ll also be able to access a wealth of resources that can improve their playing skills. Facebook groups can be private or public, and you can use them to share practice tips and videos.

You could even create a private group for your current students and alumni so that former students can offer advice on how to overcome technical challenges or share musical ideas. You might also consider creating an online course that your students would have access to all summer long.

This course could include weekly mini-lessons on topics like sight-reading, ear training, improvisation, or music theory. This is an especially great option if you have multiple levels of experience throughout your studio or if some of your students will be traveling this summer.

Encourage students to listen to music in the car and around the house

One way to keep students engaged with music during the summer is to encourage them to listen while going about their regular lives. While they’re riding their bikes, playing outside, or waiting at the doctor’s office, they can listen to their favorite songs. This will keep their musical ideas flowing even when they’re away from the instrument.

It will also help them familiarize themselves with new songs—if you have a student who has learned a new piece of music, they may have trouble remembering it. Still, if they hear it a lot over the summer (either because you gave them a copy beforehand or because they listen to videos on YouTube), they’ll be more likely to retain it when you get together again in the fall.

Encourage your students to enlist a fun practice partner

The summer months can be difficult for students to continue learning—a friend or a buddy can help keep them engaged! Try partnering up student by instrument and the neighborhood they live in. Next, have them take turns picking out music to practice together, or create a music bucket list for students to choose from all summer (bonus points if they practice all the pieces on your list!).

Give your students a chance to reflect on their music and improve their playing this summer!

Now that you’ve got the tools and a clear picture of the benefits of summer practice, it’s time to take action and make the most of your summer! The best part about these tips is that they’re not just for your students—they’re can apply to you, too. No matter the experience level, everyone will benefit from keeping up with their playing through the summer months.

Even if they don’t have time to practice every day, they’ll retain more information and advance more quickly if they keep up with practicing regularly. More than anything else, you want them to enjoy playing music and making progress on their instrument so that they’ll continue in the future. At Sheet Music Plus, we provide the world’s largest sheet music selection for all abilities, styles, genres, and instruments.

The Power of Growth Mindset in Music

By Celia Zhang

“I can’t do it!” “It’s too hard!” “I’m not good at it!”

Parents and teachers – odds are, you or your student have probably said one of these phrases in the midst of a challenge, and I absolutely empathize with you. The feeling of missing the target, especially on repeat, is truly exasperating.

However, experience has shown that a shift in expectations toward a growth mindset mentality can do wonders. No, I am not talking about lowering expectations, but instead, of altering the perspective. Switch from aiming for a target task to observing a sensation, mentality or effort. Change “fix this rhythm” to “sustain full concentration as you subdivide” for a minute. Alter “use full bow” into “observe the sensation of your upper forearm stretching”. Pivot “fix your posture” to “maintain this feeling of openness in your spine”. Now – why does all this matter?

I am not talking about lowering expectations, but instead, of altering the perspective. Switch from aiming for a target task to observing a sensation, mentality or effort.

The concept of “growth mindset” is exemplified by the Harvard Business Review as when “individuals … believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others)”. This, as opposed to a “fixed mindset” (where a person’s capabilities are preset by nature), provides the student with not only limitless possibility, but correlates results with the associated effort and learning process put in, rather than a predetermined concept of “I’m not good at it, so why bother trying?”.

In all honesty, the idea that a person may be predisposed to musical talent for whatever reason – their parent plays an instrument, they have perfect pitch, they can carry a tune – is truly insignificant if the developed work ethic cannot support this “talent”. Unfortunately, it is also this version which is most commonly sensationalized in the news, on social media and online – the idea of the rarity from birth. On the flip side of the same coin, those who may not have any reason to succeed at a musical instrument, but has a rigorous and thoughtful work ethic can often find success not only in music, but also in whatever field they choose to apply themselves. This is likely the reason for the phrase, “those who are ‘talented’ are often ‘multitalented’” – though the common error here is that “talent” becomes a misnomer for an innate ability rather than the cultivated work and learning which honed the abilities in the first place.

A fantastic anecdote which my former teacher, Kurt Sassmannshaus (Founder of ViolinMasterClass.com, and prominent violin pedagogue) once shared with me was of a conversation he once had with his own former teacher, the eminent Dorothy Delay. He asked Ms. Delay – “I see some students who can spend hours and hours on a technique or section or whatnot, and not accomplish what they set out for, while others can do it in a matter of minutes. Why? What is ‘Talent?’” Apparently, Ms. Delay gave her usual sweet smile and replied, “it’s just a mood”.

Parents and teachers, growth mindset is the key to cultivate this mood.

Celia Zhang is the Founder and Director of the Village Youth Conservatory in Boston, MA. After earning her performance degrees from the Juilliard School and Yale School of Music, Zhang continued her performance and teaching career in Boston, where her students have gone on to win top performance prizes throughout the state and solo in Carnegie Hall. Learn more at VillageYouthConservatory.com.

Follow Celia:
Instagram: @VillageYouthConservatory, @CeliaWZhang
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VillageYouthConservatory 
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDGvJDRmGgNshKG20uXhR4A

Source: https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means

5 Tips on How To Be a Musician and Succeed Into The Wedding Industry

Becoming a wedding musician can be a rewarding and fun experience to showcase your talent and share your passion for music with others.

It can also be a great way to make extra money or venture into it as a full-time career. But how does one become a successful wedding musician?

Here are some tips to help musicians who want to break into the wedding gig scene.

1. Make Sure Your Sound Is Polished and Professional

Be confident in your abilities, and don’t be afraid to show your personality through your music. Your goal is to connect with the audience and create a memorable experience for them. Ensure your voice is in top shape and have a repertoire of songs that will appeal to a wide range of people. 

Guests will be expecting high-quality music, so make sure your band or solo act is up to par. Have a backup in case of faulty equipment, and make sure your sound is well-balanced.

2. Be Prepared For Anything

Weddings can be unpredictable events, so always be ready for the unexpected. You need to be able to connect with your clients and understand their needs.

You also need to have a great attitude and be professional at all times. If the bride wants to change the song order last minute, be able to go with the flow. If you are not comfortable with the request, politely say no and explain why.

Taking direction and working well under pressure are essential skills for any musician wanting to make it in the wedding industry.

Most importantly, remember that a wedding is not the time to try out new materials. Stick to tried-and-true songs that will please the crowd and your client.

3. Dress Appropriately

You may not think about this, but what you wear can make a big impression on clients. If you’re playing at a formal wedding, dress the part.

Wear a suit or dress that is appropriate for the occasion. On the other hand, if you’re playing at a more relaxed wedding, you can be more casual in your attire.

It would also be good to do a little research on the dress code of the wedding. Ask the couple or the wedding planner what they envision for the day, so you can be sure to look your best.

4. Know What You Should Play In a Wedding Gig

The most important thing is to make sure that the couple is happy with the music selection on their special day. If they have any specific requests, prepare a mix and send it to them in advance for their approval.

It’s important to remember that a wedding is a happy occasion. The music should reflect that, so steer clear of anything too dark or depressing.

Avoid too heavy, rowdy songs or inappropriate ones as that can quickly ruin the mood.

It’s always good to have a setlist of fast and slow songs appropriate for weddings. Include a few classic pieces that everyone knows this way; you can keep the energy up when needed and give people a chance to catch their breath and relax a bit.

5. Market Yourself to Break into the Wedding Gig Scene

You can do a few things to market yourself as a musician for weddings.

  • Create a portfolio of your work. It can be a website, an online profile, or even a physical portfolio. Make sure to showcase your range and include examples of different genres of music that you can play.
  • Get involved in the wedding industry. Attend bridal shows, meet with event planners, and network with other vendors.
  • Promote your services. You can achieve this through word-of-mouth, online advertising, or even print marketing materials.
  • Play for free at a few weddings and social gatherings to get your name out there, and be sure to ask for referrals from satisfied customers.

Browse our wedding sheet music collection to find the right music to make perfect memories!

Meet Artina McCain: SMP’s Women History Month Artist Q&A

Described as a pianist with “power and finesse” (Dallas Arts Society), “beautiful and fiery” (KMFA Austin) and having a “sense of color, balance and texture” (Austin Chamber Music Center) Artina McCain, has a built a three-fold career as a performer, educator and speaker.

Recent performance highlights include guest appearances with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Oregon East Symphony, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. As a recitalist, her credits include performances at the Mahidol University in Bangkok, Hatch Recital Hall in Rochester and in 2022 her debut at Wigmore Hall in London.

Dedicated to promoting the works of Black and other underrepresented composers, McCain curates Black Composers Concerts for multiple arts organizations and is an American Prize winner for her solo piano recordings of these works. Recently, she won a Gold Global Music Award for her recent solo album project Heritage.

Currently, she is Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at the University of Memphis.

Artina McCain’s Book

African American Folk Songs Collection

Introduce piano students to unique African American history and music with these 24 folk songs arranged for intermediate piano solo.

Songs include: By and By • Deep River • Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing • My Lord, What a Morning • Ride On, King Jesus • Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child • Wade in the Water • and more.

Includes detailed notes about the songs and beautiful illustrations.

SHOP NOW >

Q&A

Was there a moment you knew your career path would be a musical one?

Yes, I went to a performing arts high school in Orlando, Florida. It was an amazing nurturing place where I developed my skills in school and through my independent teacher. 

How has your heritage influenced your music career? What does your heritage mean to you?

My African American heritage has provided a rich background of musical colors, sounds and rhythm. I grew up listening to my grandmother play piano and sing and being immersed with the sounds of the Black church. This personal heritage and upbringing has given me an enormous confidence and pride in the work I do and who I am as an artist.

Do you have a favorite music piece that you like to perform? Who is your favorite musician?

My favorite piece is any piece I’m currently playing! No favorites. I think there are so many incredible musicians who offer inspiration in different ways.

How important do you think musical experiences are in bridging cultures?

I think it’s essential—it helps us to understand and appreciate one another. It also enriches our own musical experience and progress.

What’s next for you? Are there any new projects we can look forward to in the near future?

Yes, my husband and I as the McCain Duo released an album entitled Renew. Also, I am excited to be returning to the stage. I’ll be performing at Wigmore Hall in London, touring the pacific northwest and several engagements in Texas. Excited to get back to sharing music with others around the world!

Bärenreiter and the evolution of Urtext

Petra Woodfull-Harris

Bärenreiter’s publications are recognized by their covers in all colors of the rainbow and we owe our international reputation to the extensive musicological work that forms the basis of our Urtext editions.

But what exactly is Urtext? It’s the attempt to put together a musical text that is as close as possible to the composer’s intentions. Sounds pretty straightforward – all you need to do is to transcribe the composer’s autograph into modern notation, right? It’s actually not that easy, even if there is an autograph (however, there are many that have not come down to us). This document will generally represent one, if not the primary source. But what if the composer made corrections in manuscript parts used for the first performance, or even later in the proofs for the first edition? What, if years later, the composer revised the work for a particular performance situation?

The work of an Urtext editor is much like that of a detective. ‘Source tracing’ is the magic phrase, asking questions such as: which sources to a particular work are missing but must have existed at one point? In many cases, the editor has to search for sources in libraries, archives and private collections before defining the interrelationships between all available sources and deciding about their relevance.

Urtext editions

Bärenreiter’s first Urtext performing editions were all based on so-called Complete Editions such as the New Bach Edition, the New Mozart Edition, the New Schubert Edition, started shortly after World War II in response to the ‘old’ Complete Editions of the 19th century which no longer met current editorial and musicological standards. Editorial teams made up of leading musicologists were founded, and research into the entire oeuvre of the respective composer was state-funded. Based on their many Complete Editions, Bärenreiter published performing Urtext editions, with the identical musical text. Almost the entire oeuvre of Mozart, Bach, Schubert and Händel is found in the Bärenreiter Urtext catalogue.

After much discussion at Bärenreiter, it was agreed that in order to grow the publisher’s catalogue, it was necessary to go beyond the Complete Editions. The first Urtext edition published independently of a Complete Edition was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (BA 9009) in 1996, followed by all of Beethoven symphonies. In the string area, Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata (BA 10919) represented the first Urtext edition published in 1997 independently of a Complete Edition.

The missing element: performing practice

In 2000, with the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s death, Bärenreiter published a new type of Urtext edition which stirred the musical world and brought Bärenreiter much international acclaim: Douglas Woodfull-Harris’ and Bettina Schwemer’s edition of the Bach Cello Suites (BA 5217).

Bach’s Cello Suites pose particular editorial problems as no autograph has come down to us. Instead of combining all five existing sources, the editors decided to supply players with the sources themselves as well as extensive information on historical performing practice so that cellists would be in a position to make their own informed decisions and choices. The edition not only offers a performing score in modern notation with different readings indicated within the musical text, it also provides cellists with facsimile reproductions of the sources in five separate booklets as well as with an extensive text on the genesis of the suites, the cello in Bach’s day, bowing techniques, articulation, embellishments, vibrato, dynamics, the execution of chords and scordatura.

This was the beginning of Performing Practice becoming, whenever possible, an essential component of a Bärenreiter Urtext edition.

Christopher Hogwood integrated performing practice issues in his edition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (BA 6994), published in 2000, by using as its main source the so-called Manchester Manuscript which allowed insight into how the work was understood in Vivaldi’s lifetime.

Another important aspect of performing practice is the examination of close collaboration between composers and performers. Ample evidence of this has come down to us in correspondence and annotated source material that sheds light on just how influential virtuosos were in determining the final form of a work. Clive Brown demonstrated this in his edition of Brahms’ violin concerto (BA 9049), published in 2006, for which Joseph Joachim played a decisive role, and Mendelssohn’s violin concerto (BA 9099), revised edition published in 2018, of which Ferdinand David shaped many details.

Christopher Hogwood’s edition of Corelli’s Sonatas for Violin and Basso continuo Op. 5 (BA 9455/ BA 9456), published in 2013, represents another landmark. The edition includes a contemporary keyboard realization by Antonio Tonelli (1686–1765). This arguably most important written-out example of continuo playing in the 18th century is astonishing as it contradicts prevailing 20th century ideas of keyboard realization in many aspects, e.g. with regard to its rich, full chords. The edition also provides a supplement with violin embellishments from Corelli’s time which can serve today’s players as models.

This new editorial approach has culminated in Clive Brown’s fabulous editions of Brahms’ Works for Solo Instrument and Piano as well as Beethoven’s Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violin. These editions are accompanied by unprecedented Performing Practice Commentaries. Clive Brown’s editions seek to recover some of the messages and performing practices that these composers expected their notations to convey to a performer. In the text parts of his editions, issues specific to each work as well as to general 19th century performance practice are discussed with regard to tempo, rubato, rhythmic flexibility and articulation, for example. Furthermore, string players will find information concerning vibrato, portamento, fingering and bowing.

In the early days of Urtext publishing, and even today, the idea of a ‘definitive final version’ of a work prevails. This concept, however, was to be challenged over the years. Composers for the most part did not consider their works as final and definitive but much rather were quite willing to make alterations in order to adjust to specific performance situations. With the creation of a new version, older ones were not necessarily replaced or lost their value. Christopher Hogwood first did justice to this practice by editing Mendelssohn’s Overtures (2003–2009) with their separate differing versions. The same approach was taken when Larry Todd edited Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor (2005), rendering the work’s early version of 1844 as well as the well-known later one.

Expansion of the repertoire

We are often asked how we decide what to publish. There are several criteria.

One aspect is that we are building our catalogue with key works of the repertoire. On the other hand, we aim to enhance our catalogue with selected, musically valuable, lesser-known works such as Hummel’s Sonata for Pianoforte and Violoncello Op. 104 (BA 10904), Joseph Joachim’s Fantasy on Hungarian Themes (1850), Fantasy on Irish [Scottish] Themes (1852) for Violin and Orchestra (BA 7898-90), and Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano Op. 22 (BA 10947).

What also determines our program is the musicological need for a new edition. This was the reason why Bärenreiter expanded their catalogue with late 19th century and early 20th century French repertoire. Much of this music was only available in older editions, often with many mistakes. This is how César Franck, Debussy and Ravel found their way into Bärenreiter’s catalogue.

Why Bärenreiter Urtext?

What makes our editions different from other publishers’ Urtext editions? There is not an easy, all-encompassing answer. In many cases, you will have to compare individual editions.

Generally speaking, Bärenreiter editors consult a wide circle of sources, directly linked to the composer. This approach allows for insights into performing practice issues.

Also, Bärenreiter generally does not follow the principal of unifying parallel passages. This popular editorial approach is based on the assumption that the composer expected a performer to use the same dynamics and articulation in parallel passages, e.g. in the recapitulation as in the exposition. In many cases, Bärenreiter does not agree with this practice and allows for variants to be intended as we know today how important variation, embellishment and improvisation were throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bärenreiter usually provides extensive Prefaces, often with performance practice information. This text apparatus supplies information on a particular work not to be found in books or essays. And lastly our Urtext editions – or the corresponding Complete Edition volumes – always include complete Critical Commentaries. In the Critical Commentary, the editor accounts for different readings and explains editorial decisions.

As you can see, the idea of Urtext has undergone quite a development at Bärenreiter. It is, of course, still about the correct pitch and which note the composer intended; but today it is just as much about what that note meant to a contemporary performer and how it was expected to be played.

Petra Woodfull-Harris trained as a piano teacher in Germany and gained a Master of Arts in Music Education in the US. She has worked at Bärenreiter for more than 30 years, currently as Sales Manager for North America.


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