The Day I Met Phillip

MARY ASHENDEN has taught piano for over 20 years, as well as having taught classroom language and music at high school in Adelaide. Her passion is to share the joy of music with her students, with a view to enabling them to become lifelong independent learners who also explore making their own music. When she’s not teaching, she’s in the garden, walking her Kelpies, or drinking very good coffee with her husband!

Sunday 14 July 2019 was a cold, wet, and windy day here in Adelaide, but the atmosphere inside Winston Music was warm and cosy. The event which had me driving through pouring rain and road weather alerts was the Phillip Keveren tour!

I had initially decided I didn’t need any more books on my shelf… fat chance! Phillip gave us a sampler of the books in The Phillip Keveren Series. And then he began to play them! With over 100 books in this series, my sampler soon had notes scribbled throughout. Must get this for myself, must get this one for a student, another for myself… Six books later, and they’re all just for me. And they’re all on my piano, not on the shelf!

Phillip has an amazing ability to arrange well-known music in different styles. We all know To A Wild Rose from AMEB Grade 5 Piano For Leisure Series 1. He’s married this with Can You Feel The Love Tonight! They seamlessly weave in and around each other in Disney Songs For Classical Piano (Piano Solo level, which is approximately AMEB Grade 5). Billy Joel, Elton John, ABBA, Coldplay, The Beatles, and Queen all take on a new twist as he blends their originals with a classical style, in each artists’ For Classical Piano book. Beautiful arrangements of hymns and worship music also feature in the Treasured Hymns for Classical Piano and Hymn Medleys books. The music sounds rich at every level, including the Big Note and Easy Piano levels.

Then there’s the Bach Meets Jazz Piano Solo book! At the Adelaide workshop, Phillip played through his arrangement of Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 847. What a stunner! I love that throughout this book, he has also given us the chord symbols.

Not only did Phillip treat us with his brilliant playing during the workshop, but he spoke about the inspiration behind the music, too. We got a glimpse into his life, with some lovely stories about his children and grandchildren and their musical journeys. It was also lovely to meet Phillip’s wife, Lisa, who travelled with him.

During the workshop, Phillip also spent some time discussing the importance of improvisation being introduced early in lessons. As a composer for the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library (HLSPL) method books, he emphasised how students can play their own music from the very beginning. When he played the very first improvisation piece in HLSPL Piano Lessons Book 1, a light went on for me. This was the very same accompaniment I’ve used in every first lesson for over 20 years. I hadn’t made the connection that it was Phillip who composed it. On the journey home, I hit play on Spotify, only to realise that Phillip Keveren was featured in all of my favourite music playlists!

Meeting Phillip and hearing him talk about his compositions was an invaluable experience. Having the sampler, too, was a particular benefit for this workshop. I gained an in-depth understanding of his repertoire, and am looking forward to my students enjoying all of these new books.

MARY ASHENDEN has taught piano for over 20 years, as well as having taught classroom language and music at high school in Adelaide. Her passion is to share the joy of music with her students, with a view to enabling them to become lifelong independent learners who also explore making their own music. When she’s not teaching, she’s in the garden, walking her Kelpies, or drinking very good coffee with her husband!

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