By Peter Leggett, Walker West Music Academy
On May 19th, Walker West Music Academy welcomed Minneapolis based jazz pianist Mary Louise Knutson. As a graduate of Lawrence University Conservatory, she has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Slide Hampton, Richie Cole, Von Freeman, and Billy Hart; and toured with Smoky Robinson, the Osmond Brothers, Engelbert Humperdinck, Debbie Duncan, and in spring 2012, with the Doc Severinsen Big Band. She regularly appears with the JazzMN Orchestra and her own trio, recently releasing her second CD, In the Bubble. A former instructor at Carleton College, Mary Louise frequently conducts workshops and master classes as well as maintaining a private instruction studio.
This clinic was sponsored by the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education with the support of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and provided young piano players the chance to learn the history of jazz piano and learn to develop some preliminary techniques for jazz improvisation.
Ms. Knutson began by discussing the history of jazz through audio clips of jazz piano greats like Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Herbie Hancock and even avant-garde innovators like Cecil Taylor. Students had the opportunity to hear the progression of jazz piano from its ragtime heritage all the way up to its modern styles.
Following this component of the clinic, students were given the chance to learn about jazz technique on the piano performance with Mary Louise. Ms. Knutson worked with the group for more than an hour providing insight on how to better develop their improvisation skills. One highlight was the opportunity for Walker West students John Blanda, one the of the Academy’s top improvisors to perform for Ms. Knutson and the group!
Please visit www.WalkerWestMusicAcademy.org for more photos of the clinic.