Finding inspiration in the writings of Carol Montparker
by Oak Hill Studio
In an effort to stir up fresh ideas for my piano teaching, I have come across numerous piano teachers who have various blogs and websites filled with unique, fun, inspirational ideas that seem to flow nonstop through their creative fingertips. Often I am encouraged and helped by their thoughts and ideas. However, to be honest, it can turn the other direction and zap me of energy and motivation if I allow myself to go down a mental road of thinking that if I’m not juggling 25 creative ways to incorporate 55 important piano pedagogy techniques then I’m not being the best teacher I can be. I can quickly become overwhelmed by all of the information and ideas available!
But sometimes gems can be found, as was the case when I recently stumbled across pianist / teacher/ artist / author / nature-lover, Carol Montparker. Her love for each of these things (that I happen to love also) led me to immediately request one of her books from inter-library loan. I ended up with A Pianist’s Lanscape. She has a gentle, straight-forward writing style that gives a clear glimpse into her interesting musician/artist’s life. It’s the type of book that I like to read in small bits and savor. She seems the type of person that I would like to spend time with over coffee–very personable, creative, inspiring.
The first chapter of the book is entitled Nature and Music, and introduces the close ties between her love for nature and music:
I have come to think of myself as both a naturalist and musician. Certainly I have found a great source of spiritual strength in both realms, and probing the relationship between the two has been an ongoing preoccupation and pleasure for as long as I can remember. Apparently even as an infant, I looked up into the trees and murmured to the rustling leaves. Now, my first love, nature, can subvert my work at the piano, for example, when a red fox emerges from the woods and catches the corner of my eye, or a bird song seems more beautiful than anything I could ever play.
The thrush, in particular, has a song that moves me as much or more than any music. He had been missing from our property for a few years, although he stopped to sing and forage en route to more densely forested areas. Of late we have left our wooded tracts alone, neither tended or pruned, and it is almost too wild to walk there; the overgrown thicket not only attracted the fox, but brought back the thrush, and I take it as a compliment and a blessing. More often heard than seen, he is relatively plain, with speckled breast and umber plumage. But his full-throated, intermittent phrases, delicately ornamented, slightly and infinitely varied, render me a captive audience; I stand motionless wherever I am while his song reaches me over the trees and across the green expanse of lawn from his podium branch. No mere grackling, clucking, chirping, or whistling of ordinary birds, this fluting is what many years ago I told my little girl, Kim, to strive for in her music-making.
Later chapter titles include, “An Artistically Nourishing Environment,” “On Playing Chamber Music and Concertos,” ” Students I’ve Known and What They’ve Taught Me.” (Besides performing, she also teaches in her home studio.)
I have only read the first five chapters, but have found so much that has encouraged me both personally and as a piano teacher. I can tell already that this is a lady of widely varied passions and interests, and from what I’ve read so far, it would appear that she has found a way to balance them and live a life that allows her to enjoy them fully and share them with others– a goal that I would like to set for myself!
I’m really looking forward to reading her latest book entitled, A Pianist’s Journal in Venice. The description from her website says that the book is, “an exploration of how three modes of expression: music, painting, and writing coalesce into one inspired attempt to capture the magical atmosphere of Venice.” Included are several of her watercolor paintings.
You can read more about Carol Montparker and view some of her artwork, as well as listen to her piano music, at www.montparker.com.