Today we highlight another one of the great continuing education opportunities at the 2015 AMTA conference. Remember, even if you’ve already registered for the conference itself, you can still register for CMTEs. Some sessions do have space limits, so sign up soon!



Functional Piano for Music Therapists


Josh Massicot, MM

Thursday, November 12th, 1:30-6:30pm, 5 credits


What will you be sharing?

I’ll be sharing a dynamic, organized, and practical approach to developing and broadening functional piano skills for music therapists. An overview of basic accompaniment techniques will lay the groundwork for a variety of genres (blues, gospel, rock, pop, jazz, Latin) and an exploration of the five main modes, their indicative harmonic progressions, and an approach to developing improvisation skills at the instrument.


What is your experience with this topic? 

I’m on the keyboard faculty at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, where I’ve taught courses on functional piano to undergraduate and graduate students for the past nine years. My shared passion for these skills (I have fantastic students!) resulted in an expansion of those offerings and the publication of a book. I’ve also been fortunate to co-present with local and regional MT-BCs at workshops and conferences: their feedback, along with that of my students, colleagues, and internship directors, has been invaluable in refining my approach.


Where will attendees be able to implement the information you share?  

When my students take my courses in functional piano, they are simultaneously enrolled in supervised clinical work. As a result, there is a real need for immediacy in what we’re working on in class and what’s happening in a session. I’ve worked to develop an approach that appeals practically to a large array of experiences (pianists and non-pianists both take my classes), but remains flexible to adaptation in the moment. Any MT looking to broaden their musical experiences and those of their clients would benefit from taking this course.

Tell us something that makes your CMTE unique or different.  

When I began teaching these skills to my students, I was quite frustrated with the lack of materials devoted to developing functional piano skills. Most of what I could find was either too simplistic (and lacked musical authenticity) or too intricate and obtuse. I’ve taken a multitude of skills and techniques and coalesced them into a clear approach that helps all of my students obtain the skills necessary to be convincing and authentic musicians at the instrument.


Why is this topic of interest to you?
Strengthening and broadening the functional pianism of my students and professionals has become a real passion of mine. It is so exciting to share that passion with others. I often hear back from graduates and professionals about how useful and meaningful this approach has been to them, and how it continues to influence their work as musicians and therapists.


Who should attend your class?
Anyone looking to expand their functional pianism! There are straightforward, simple techniques that anyone can utilize to better use the instrument in their work. Many of the skills that I cover are multi-layered: some are quite simple, others are more involved, and still others appeal to those who already have a strong comfort at the instrument.


What kind of information will attendees be walking away with?
I’ll share specific techniques to be a convincing pianist, accompanist, and improviser in a variety of genres and settings. Additionally, the course is highly experiential in nature: participants will get to see, hear, and execute my approach in a variety of ways: through indicative songs, ensemble performances, and music-making activities. We’ll discuss how these skills can be used and re-interpreted in a variety of settings, and I’ll share ideas for “going further” at the end of the workshop.


Preview more of Mr. Massicot’s excerpts of performances through this playlist: 


Refreshing and improving piano skills is a frequently requested topic for CMTEs – it’s easy to get a little rusty. Make the commitment now to expand your functional piano skills – sign up today for this valuable CMTE!

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