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by Olivia Abbott
posted 25/08/2017

Jazz Piano Basics – Open Academy at the Con

Michael Bartolemei is Open Academy at the Con’s tutor for the ‘Jazz Piano Basics’ class. We wanted to talk with him a bit more about jazz and his instrument, piano, and what he loves about teaching.

Michael Bartolomei at Rolf Session

Michael Bartolomei at Rolf Session

How did you start playing music and what lead you to Jazz and the piano?

My Mother was a singer and Dad a drummer, so it came to pass that my brother and I would learn the piano. In Dad’s opinion the piano was the superior instrument. Understandably I am of the same opinion.
How well do you need to be able to play piano to take the Jazz Piano Basics class?

I would say a basic understanding of keys, scales and simple chord construction. The more listening to good jazz they have done the better.

What are the key skills you’ll cover in this course?

Chord structure and how to move through chord changes with good voice leading: often the difference between two chords my only be one note so what we are aiming for is to change chords with the simplest finger movements. We call this simplicity ‘good voice leading’.

Playing the melodies is a vital part in understanding a composition and “jamming” in the class. 

What do you think are the main challenges for students who may have learned the piano in a classical style and are broaching jazz for the first time in your class?

The difference for classically trained pianists is that in jazz there are many ways to play a song. The same composition can be played by both beginner and professional and be just as enjoyable for each to play despite their relative skill levels. Classical players need to listen to a lot of jazz to get a feel for the syncopation. The feel is most important and the easiest way to get it (and the most fun) is to sit back and listen to as much jazz as you can.
So you’ve done a lot of teaching both one on one and in groups what do you love about it?

It doesn’t matter if it’s in a group or an individual lesson. The biggest thrill is when you see see the students “light up” with enthusiasm.

Also, I am always hoping to leave the students with bits of knowledge, clues that will germinate in the future. I love their light-bulb moments when they realise what the hell I was on about!

WHAT: Jazz Piano Basics Class with Michael Bartolemei

WHEN: Courses Start Early October 2017

WHERE: Sydney Conservatorium of Music

To Find Out More Click Here

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