Posted By Crystal Desch on May 9, 2012
My colleague, Cindy Harrington, and I had the privilege of interviewing Jennifer Linn – pianist, private teacher, clinician and Manager of Educational Piano Music with Hal Leonard Corporation. Versatile and prolific, she takes great pride and has much finesse in all her musical roles. She brings the joy of music to all who surround her. We hope you enjoy getting to know Jennifer as much as we did.
When did you discover the piano?
I did not start formal lessons with my mother until I was eight years old, but heard my older brother playing the piano. I remember begging to start lessons sooner, but the tradition in our area then was not to begin students until they could read well.
Who were your first musical influences?
My mother, Geraldine Ryan Lange, was my teacher for the first three years, and later I studied with Virginia Sapp in Columbia, Missouri. My band directors, Donald Rupp and John Patterson, influenced me greatly and built my overall musicianship. Flute performance was actually the degree I started pursuing at the Conservatory at the University of Missouri–Kansas City (student of Dr. Mary Posses). Then, I really fell in love with the piano once I started studying with John McIntyre. He was a true mentor and I learned just about everything I know about the piano from him. My Les Petites Impressions is dedicated to him, because as a Ravel Medal Winner, McIntyre studied all the works of Ravel with Vlado Perlmuter at the Paris Conservatory. I learned so much about the style from him!
Your Facebook page shows a picture of you speaking publicly with a photo of a beautiful young woman projected on the screen behind you. She looks like you. Of what were you speaking?
The picture was my mother’s high school graduation picture. I was presenting at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP) last summer (2011) shortly after she passed away. I was presenting a wonderful book on composition by Carol Klose entitled The Piano Teacher’s Guide to Creative Composition, and went on to show a handwritten manuscript of Mom’s composition that she wrote when she was only 10. She was steered away from composition as she went through her own musical studies, but I could see from that manuscript that she had the “creative gene.” I can only imagine what she would have written had she had a different learning environment.
How would you describe your piano teaching style?
My primary goal is to teach students to love and respect the music. Oddly enough, the piano is secondary in some ways – it is only the vehicle. Students may need to take their musical knowledge in so many different directions that too narrow a road could keep them from discovering their true talent. That said, my expectations are to uncover the student’s absolute highest bar and help them soar above it. No one can rise to low expectations.
What do you love most about teaching?
The journey… all of it! To take a student from “middle C” to Rachmaninoff is one of the greatest joys to behold! Realizing that the journey has many twists and turns, hills and valleys, means that a good teacher must be patient and always cheering for them through those rough spots. If we do our job well, the love of music (like cream) will always rise to the top.
When and how did you get serious about composing?
The spark to compose came from the stillness. From this silence came inspiration. After my husband completed his master’s at the University of Wyoming, we moved to Cody, Wyoming. I had my new baby boy (Andrew, now 24!) and the nearest music store was about 20 miles away. Needless to say, trips to pick up music were difficult, and I had three little student “cowboys” who needed some music to inspire them. I thought, “I think I can do this…” and I wrote my first collection, Yellowstone Suite – originally published by Boston Music Company, and now by Music Sales.
Have you always had a love of impressionistic music?
Certainly not on the piano, but I always loved playing the French music written for the flute. It wasn’t until later that I explored the literature of Debussy and Ravel and found it to be completely irresistible.
How is your time spent as Manager of Educational Piano at Hal Leonard Corporation?
I have a variety of responsibilities at Hal Leonard, including editing and proofing new projects, marketing, presenting at conferences, and reviewing submissions. There are many plates spinning simultaneously, and the challenge to “make it happen” keeps the job interesting!
What do you enjoy most about your position at Hal Leonard?
I like many aspects of the position, but the ability to help others create products that I know students and teachers will find useful is by far the most rewarding. There are so many talented and dedicated people that I work with (authors and composers) as well as a top-shelf production staff behind the scenes at Hal Leonard. Without their expertise, my efforts would not be realized.
Tell us something most folks might not realize about the process of compiling and editing the new classical solo piano series Journey through the Classics.
The editing process involved quite a bit of research, both in editing, searching for manuscripts or first editions, etc. While this is not an “Urtext” edition, I wanted to see the most original source possible, and that takes time. Next, I wanted it to be progressive in difficulty. Making decisions on what pieces to choose and then how to compile the pieces in a logical sequence was by far the most difficult. It would have been much easier to just put them in historical order. I wanted a collection of pieces that enhanced the sense of progress for the student. How many times have I opened an anthology, and the first few baroque pieces were among the most difficult in the book? I wanted young students to flow through the pieces with the confidence that when they turn the page, they would be able to accomplish the next step in their journey.
What do you do for fun that is not music related?
I collect hummingbirds and angels, and love hiking. We are enjoying our community garden, full of herbs, tomatoes and other great vegetables. My husband Mark is the “amateur chef” of the family, so I love sampling his tremendous creations!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
It is a privilege to have a life that is surrounded by music. I am humbled by the talent around me, and love seeing new avenues unfold in the area of music publishing. I want everyone to know just how much I respect the independent piano teacher. My mother taught piano for more than 34 years, and her mother (my grandmother Ryan) washed dishes for her piano lessons. The fruits of our labor come back to enrich not just the students we teach, but undoubtedly influence the decision to include music education in the lives of future generations. That is a powerful job.
For all collections composed or edited by Jennifer Linn, click here.
For all single sheets composed or edited by Jennifer Linn, click here.