Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Jennifer Linn, a multi-talented pianist, teacher, composer, arranger and clinician, who holds the title of Manager-Educational Piano for Hal Leonard Corporation. She is the author of Piano for Kids-a book for beginners who want to learn to play the piano (or keyboard), and want to play the popular songs they know and love.
As a clinician, she has presented workshops, master classes, and Hal Leonard showcases throughout the United States, Canada, and India. In addition to her composing and arranging for the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library.
Jennifer also was the editor and recording artist for the award winning new Journey Through the Classics series, the G. Schirmer Performance Editions Clementi: Sonatinas, Op. 36, Kuhlau: Selected Sonatinas, and Schumann: Selections from Album for the Young, Op. 68.
Her teaching career spans more than 30 years and includes independent studio teaching of all ages, as well as group instruction and piano pedagogy at the university level.
She received her B.M. with
distinction and M.M. in piano performance from the University of
Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Conservatory of Music where she was the
winner of the concerto-aria competition.
She was also named the alumni of the year for the UMKC Conservatory of Music in 2013.
Norm: Good day Jennifer and thanks for participating in our interview. My pleasure.
When did you first become interested in music and what keeps you going?
Jennifer: My mother was a musician and taught piano for many years, so my childhood was filled with piano music and singing for as long as I can remember. Music is its own reward, that is what keeps me going. Whenever I get discouraged, I go back to my piano and play, which brings me back to the magic. Music is a forever friend.
Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today?
Jennifer: The biggest challenge for me is keeping the right balance in life–balance in everything! I’ve learned that being a perfectionist can get in the way of creativity and personal growth. Letting go of “perfect” has been a game changer for me, and has allowed me more freedom to risk a dream or two.
Norm: What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your career?
Jennifer: I never dreamed that I could be a published composer or have the opportunity to edit the music of other master composers. That’s a dream come true for me.
Norm: If someone were to decide to hire a private piano teacher, how do you go about finding a good one and what questions should you ask when interviewing prospective teachers?
Jennifer: That’s a great question Norm. Many piano teachers now have their own websites and parents can now search for teachers in their area to get a glimpse into a teacher’s studio personality and organization. They can ask for referrals from their local music store or school music teacher, and ideally look for a teacher with a degree in music. Parents may not realize how incredibly important the first two years of piano study can be, and wait to find a “good teacher” until they see if their child has any “talent.” That’s the biggest mistake a parent can make! Find the best teacher with the best credential, ask for an interview, and make sure the teacher’s personality is a good fit for their child.
Norm: What do you like to do outside of music that contributes to your musicality in order to rejuvenate your creativity?
Jennifer: I have joined my church choir, and for the first time I am learning how to really sing. I’m reminded that learning something new is one of life’s greatest joys!
After the harried Christmas season, we love to go to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and snowshoe, hike, and look for wildlife! Being in a beautiful place, and experiencing nature has always been the “reset” button for me. When my brain has some breathing space, usually a new melody or fresh musical idea comes rushing in!
Norm: What exactly is your role as Manager-Educational Piano for Hal Leonard Corporation and what is the Hal Leonard Corporation?
Jennifer: I have a variety of duties that include product development in the educational piano area, editing music publications, presenting workshops for piano teachers, writing books like Piano for Kids, and some marketing duties as well.
Norm: What motivated you to create the Piano for Kids book? What was the process in creating the book and could you tell our audience a little about the book?
Jennifer: The highly successful book Guitar for Kids, by Bob Morris and Jeff Schroedl was the catalyst and so the question was raised to me, “why not Piano for Kids?”
Most piano methods use folk songs and the author’s original compositions to teach kids how to play the piano and to read music. Piano for Kids is different because it teaches kids how to play and read using the popular songs kids already love. The melodies of Beauty and the Beast, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Let it Go (from Frozen) and Over the Rainbow are familiar to children and they are motivated to learn the songs quickly.
Some methods can be cluttered with instructional verbiage, but Piano for Kids has clean, simple page layouts with clear and direct instruction. Every new song builds on concepts they have learned in previous songs, so kids can progress with confidence. The book includes access to audio tracks online, for download or streaming. It also includes PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, pan left or right–available exclusively from Hal Leonard!
The greatest challenge in putting this book together was first of all choosing the songs, and then arranging them in a way that would be progressive in theory, notation, rhythm and technique. The music comes first in this method, and the instruction is sequenced in a sound pedagogical manner.
Norm: What do you hope to accomplish with the book?
Jennifer: I hope the book will attract more kids to the piano! In the beginning of the book, there is a page titled, What Kind of Piano Do You Have? On this page students will see a variety of keyboards and pianos ranging in size from 61, 76 , and up to 88 keys (full size) as well as the traditional upright acoustic piano or grand piano. The message here is that piano is for everyone. Every piece in the book can be played on any one of these instruments. Parents don’t have to invest thousands of dollars before introducing their kids to the piano.
Norm: How has been the feed-back up to now concerning the book?
Jennifer: So far, the feedback from Piano teachers has been extremely positive. They are thrilled to see a method book that incorporates popular music into the teaching rather than separating it from the instructional process.
My piano teacher friend from Australia messaged me, “Hi Jennifer–I can HARDLY WAIT to see your new book...one of the most exciting concepts to hit the market in a while...”
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about Piano for Kids?
Jennifer: Readers can go to the HAL LEONARD WEBSITE and view sample pages and hear sample audio.
Norm: What is next for Jennifer Linn?
Jennifer: I am working on a companion songbook to Piano for Kids, presenting some piano workshops in Atlanta, Oklahoma and Texas, and editing new music created by Hal Leonard’s many wonderful composers.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Jennifer: I wish you had asked me about my musical family! My husband has been a High School band director for over 30 years, my son is a free-lance jazz musician in New York City, and my daughter is beginning her Masters degree in choral conducting this fall and will marry yet another musician this December! You could say the Linns are devoted to music! It’s been a great life so far, and while musicians may not ever be wealthy, we are rich.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Jennifer: Thank you for this opportunity Norm.