It’s been like Christmas around here as I unpack Marie Lee’s reports from the MTNA 2016 conference in San Antonio. All of them come full of information and pleasant surprises. This time she’s back with a rousing post about the concert that she claimed “was worth the entire trip!”
This is Marie’s second in a series that she is generously offering to me and the loyal and greatly appreciated readers of 88pianokeys.me! The first one (find it here) offers some great group lesson tips and her thoughts on the RMM track. -Leila
Take it away, Marie…
If you’ve attended a few music teachers’ conferences, you’ll know that traditionally, most opening concerts feature classical pianist playing classical music. While I have the utmost respect for these artists and their talent, I find it difficult to sit through 90 minutes of classical piano.
Last year at NCKP (National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy), they really shook things up with a lively concert by Bradley Sowash, with his rare combination of improvisational virtuosity and instant audience rapport. This year, I was thrilled to see MTNA follow suit with another rare combination of talents in three “cool dudes in a band.” A combination that was worth my entire trip to San Antonio!
Here’s one of Bradley’s performances from NCKP 2015.
Time for Three or tf3 for short – violinist Nick Kendall, violinist Nikki Choo and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer – is a group that defies any traditional genre classification, happily and infectiously. With an uncommon mix of virtuosity and showmanship, the American trio performs music from Bach to Brahms and beyond, as well as playing originals and their own arrangements of everything from bluegrass and folk tunes to ingenious mash-ups of hits by the Beatles, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and more.
It all started in fun at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. After symphony rehearsals, the boys would stay late into the night in jam sessions. The security guard reported them and they got called into the dean’s office. The dean’s first thought was that they were doing drugs or drinking—typical college activities—and was relieved when he heard that all they were doing was making music. Tf3 gained instant attention in 2003, when there was a lightning-induced power failure during a concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
While technicians worked to restore the lights, Ranaan and Zach De Pue (previous violinist), who were both performing as members of the orchestra, obliged with an impromptu jam session. It was very different music from the scheduled symphony, but the crowd went wild.
Since Tf3 were fellow students at Curtis Institute they have wowed media and fellow artists with their charismatic musicianship. National Public Radio said:
In person, the members of Time for Three come off as just three dudes in a band. But with their staggering technique and freewheeling genre-crossing, it’s hard not to be swept up in the force of their contagious energy.
The Wall Street Journal praised the trio’s rare blend of “spontaneity and precision,” while the Indianapolis Examiner raved,
Demonstrating their ability to deeply connect with their audience in a most interactive way, they electrified a full-house crowd.
Tf3 performed a variety of numbers to our packed hall. Some audience favorites were Black Bird by the Beatles, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, and Stairway to Heaven. Katy Perry’s Firework was mashed up with Stravinsky’s Firebird for the most unusual and emotional arrangement I’ve ever heard. MTNA teachers clapped along to Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 mixed with Fiddler on the Roof and Hava Nagila, culminating in a standing ovation. Their final number was Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons which resulted in another standing ovation and long lines out the door after the concert to purchase CDs and meet them in person.
Words won’t adequately describe this, but my favorite part was how they ended each piece. They didn’t automatically lower their bows. They waited a few seconds for the audience to have their “ahhhh” moment and soak it all in. You could have heard a pin drop. I wasn’t the only one in the audience that had goosebumps and held my breath each time they did this. Each piece was so beautifully expressed and executed that tears of joy swelled up in my eyes many times. I was captivated. It was truly heavenly!
Perhaps no one has offered a more enthusiastic appraisal of them than the great Sir Simon Rattle, chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, who said:
Simply put, they’re a knockout! Three benevolent monsters – monsters of ability and technique surely. But also conveyers of an infectious joy that I find both touching and moving. I would recommend them not only for entertainment value, but also for anyone looking to see how all types of American music can develop, when life and passion such as this are breathed into it.
Katy Perry’s Firework
Brahms’ Hungarian Dance
The next day, Time for Three offered a question/answer session. These young men are every bit as charismatic in speaking as they are performing. We learned of their very early start with music—as young as 3 years old with the Suzuki method. As a teenager, one played trash cans on the streets of Washington D.C. to earn lunch money.
All three come from a background of discipline and structure as they were growing up, crediting competitions for preparing them to “put in the work.” They told touching stories about the relationship their parents had with their music teachers and why that was so critical. Lots of audience laughter during a funny story about a previous concert with their newest violinist, Nikki Choo.
During a number onstage, Nick and Ranaan thought Nikki was wildly improvising and they were trying to keep up, when in fact Nikki revealed that he’d gotten lost. He said,
That’s the beauty of improvisation. You’re always a half step away from the right note.
The group mentioned their nervousness in performing in front of a group of music teachers but graciously thanked us several times for the service we’re providing.
The late Paul Newman summed up Time for Three’s cross-generational appeal:
To hear these three young guys is to be thankful that music was invented… If I had been able to create a sound like these kids a few years back, I might have thought twice about going into acting!
Many of their pieces are available for free if you have an Amazon Prime membership.
Don’t just listen, although listening is good.
Watch their videos.
Don’t just watch their videos, although watching is good.
Go see them live!
Do you understand the importance of TF3 to the world of music and marvel at how they knock the socks off their audience?
Do you appreciate the genuine, out-of-the-box artistry of Bradley Sowash and “his rare combination of improvisational virtuosity and instant audience rapport?”
If so, it’s time to learn from him the improv guru himself and attend 88 Creative Keys Keyboard Improvisation Workshop.
The 110% energy that you see in his performances is present every day at the workshop. You won’t be sorry that you took the time to learn from a top improviser who also is an expert at explaining the steps to play beyond the page.
If you want to attend but require some help with finances, then apply for your scholarship here.
Wondering what track is best for you at 88 Creative Keys? Bradley has the answer to that and many more in the video below.
Register HERE when you’ve got your answers.