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This past September, at the eighth annual Summit for MTNA Leadership in Cincinnati, Ohio, the attendees considered the philosophical position of our MTNA competitions in specific reference to the Senior Piano Competition. In 2001, a competition task force made several revision recommendations to the Board of Directors, and one of the most significant changes accepted by the Board was to move the senior concerto requirement to the division and national levels, with the state competition being only the solo literature component. The primary reasons for this change was to encourage more student participation and simplify the logistics. By making the state competition less demanding, the leadership hoped to involve more students and teachers in the educational benefits of competing. The division and national were to serve as showcases for the talented students who won their state competitions. The first year of this change was 2003. We are now in our third year under the revision, and the results have been beyond our expectations. Entries in Senior Piano in 2002, when the concerto movement was required at all levels, numbered 223 nationwide. This year's entries in Senior Piano totals 359 students, a 61 percent increase in participation since 2002. This change does not alter or affect the prestige and high standards of the competition at the division and national stages, but it does expand and enhance the pool of entrants at the beginning of the event. We are supported generously by piano sponsors, and they share the Board of Directors' enthusiasm for the increased student and teacher involvement and participation.

This past fall the State Executive Board of the North Carolina Music Teachers Association forwarded a proposal to the national State Presidents Advisory Council (SPAC) requesting reinstatement of the Senior concerto requirement. There was a full discussion of the issues at the SPAC meeting during the leadership summit. When the vote was called, the SPAC elected, by a modest margin, to confirm and continue the current stages of the competition, which adds the concerto at the division level. This vote also confirmed that the impressive growth of the competition was a desired outcome.

The MTNA Board welcomes the continuing dialogue about how difficult our competition should be at the state level and the optimal number of participants. There are obvious growing pains as more students enter. When a pre-determined number of entries is reached, MTNA may want to allow preliminary rounds, followed by a final round at the state level.

Our vision for MTNA also includes expanded participation in collaborative performance. A task force is currently working on various initiatives including expanding our competitions into the area of piano duets, four hands at one piano. After terminating our organ, percussion and guitar competitions because of minimal participation and financial considerations, the MTNA Board is exploring positive actions to offset these eliminations. Many states have impressive piano ensemble programs, with Texas, Ohio and Indiana being prime examples. A national piano duet competition program would offer balance to our excellent solo competitions and would provide added emphasis on music reading and collaborative performance. Memorization would not be required. In this spirit, we are showcasing the Texas piano ensemble program at the 2006 MTNA National Conference in Austin, Texas. This program features local association piano ensembles with 10 or more pianos. The students rehearse for months and gain the musical and social benefits found in band, symphony and chorus ensemble participation. The potential for a lifetime of music making may emanate more naturally from collaborative music-making involvement than from the exclusive study and perfection of solo literature. Since we will have a room of 10 pianos available in Austin for the National Conference, we are also planning piano-teacher reading sessions. The objective is for teachers to experience first-hand, a variety of materials for teaching duets. Duet composers will be invited to conduct these interactive sessions. We hope teachers making music together will become a popular conference tradition.

Take advantage of the coming holidays for performing traditional seasonal music in ensemble. Let's "Duet" for our students and the future of music making.

--Paul Stewart

National Conferences

March 25-29, 2006 Austin, Texas
March 23-27, 2007 Toronto, Canada
March 29-April 2, 2008 Denver, Colorado
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Title Annotation:In Unison; Music Teachers National Association
Author:Stewart, Paul B.
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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