Tag Archives: composer

Composer Q&A: Getting to Know Martha Mier

Blog-MarthaMierInterview_April2017_BG_Proof4 martha mier

Martha Mier is an internationally recognized composer and clinician whose educational piano music for students of all levels has made her one of today’s most popular composers. Students worldwide enjoy playing her music, including the popular Jazz, Rags & Blues series and the Romantic Impressions series. We had a chance to catch up with Martha and learn more about her start in music and teaching, her favorite compositions, and her biggest inspirations.

How did you get your start in music?
I grew up with 5 older brothers, each of whom took piano lessons, so I could hardly wait until it was “my turn!” My oldest brother was playing Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies and Chopin Waltzes when I was only 3 or 4 years old, and I was so inspired by his playing, and was greatly influenced by him.

Do you remember your very first piano lesson?
I can’t say I remember my very first piano lesson, but I remember several of my early pieces which thrilled me! One was a little waltz where I got to cross over with left hand to high C! Fun, fun!

When did you know you wanted to teach?
After teaching music in a Jr. High School for 1 year, I decided I would prefer a one-on-one relationship with students, thus began my piano teaching career. It was a wise choice.

Do you have any advice for a new teacher, or what is something you wish you knew when you started teaching?
Treat students as individuals, and tailor a curriculum to fit that particular student. Attend workshops and join local music groups to continue your education. Always be enthusiastic about the music, and your student will pick up on that enthusiasm.

Tell us about a memorable teaching moment?
Memorable teaching moments come when a student understands a concept and can then apply it to his or her playing. Those “AHA!” moments are satisfying and memorable.

How do you motivate students?
Students learn to love music by playing music that they love. I try to select repertoire that will appeal to the student, then I will know he will practice it. Studio contests and rewards are helpful, but true motivation comes from within each student.

What is one of the biggest challenges you overcame as a teacher?
Learning to be totally organized in order to stay within time limits. Planning each lesson is helpful and essential.

What inspired you to start composing?
I began composing in high school just for the fun of it! In my teaching, I would write little pieces for my students when I could not find a piece that presented what that student liked or needed.

Do you have a favorite composition of yours?
A couple of my favorite compositions of mine are 1) “Lady Brittany’s Ballad” for its romantic, modal sound, 2) “Celebration Scherzo” for its rhythmic vitality and fun octaves, and 3) “The Purple Hills of Heather” for the romantic sounds.

Do you have any advice for young composers?
My advice for young composers is to keep writing. Continue to explore and create.

What do you love about jazz? What drew you to it?
When in high school, I discovered “Blues in the Night” and “Basin Street Blues,” and I was hooked for life! It speaks to my heart.

Who are your jazz inspirations?
I am inspired by the older jazz pianists, such as Count Basie.

Do you have a favorite piece or type of music to play for fun?
I love all styles of music, and play from Classical to Jazz.

If you could have dinner with any musician, past or present, who would it be, and why?
I would like to have dinner with Chopin. I would love to learn his personality to know where his beautiful romantic style came from.

Mark Williams Tribute

Mark Williams

Mark Williams was one of the premier composers for school bands and orchestras. Co-author of the Accent on Achievement band method, he had over 200 published works to his credit. As a clinician and guest conductor, he traveled to 34 states, 5 Canadian provinces, and Australia.

Mark was a warm, kind, generous, and brilliant human being and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him or experienced his great music.

Personally, I only met Mark Williams once at the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic in 2007. With that short time, I saw a hard-working man with a great sense of humor. He even helped tear down our booth Friday evening and joined us for our tradition of deep dish pizza that night. He opted to walk back to the hotel afterwards, which surprised me because it was freezing cold and we weren’t what I would consider walking distance from the hotel. I had no idea that had been my only chance to get to know Mark, as he passed away on January 3, 2008.

As we are preparing for Midwest 2012, I couldn’t help but think back on that night, so I asked a couple of folks who knew him to write a few words about him…

Victoria Meador
Marketing Project Manager
Product Line Specialist: Concert Band, Marching Band, & Sound Innovations
Alfred Music Publishing


Mark Williams was more than a uniquely talented composer and teacher. After all, each of us aspire to be unique in our approach to teaching and composing. Rather, Mark created and thrived in his own league as a composer and teacher. His compositions helped every elementary and middle school level teacher to take their bands or orchestras to a higher level of performance and enjoyment. Every one of his clinics—and I attend ended many of them—inspired every band and orchestra director to discover the fun and educational value of letting their students play the music that they enjoyed playing, while learning important techniques that helped them to replicate the fun that they had playing his compositions and arrangements.

Mark rejoiced in the art of discovery! He had fun in discovering new ways to bring classical treasures to life. He truly enjoyed motivating experienced teachers to discover unique ways to energize their approach to teaching, and to truly enjoy that special feeling of discovery when their students really felt that they owned a new way of expressing their musicality.

I miss having the opportunity to experience Mark’s creative spirit on a regular basis. I rejoice in the many opportunities that I had to be a small part of his tremendous talents.

Danny Rocks
The Company Rocks
www.thecompanyrocks.com


One of my proudest achievements during my 35 years as Alfred’s Editor-in-Chief was the discovery of Mark Williams. Mark’s first publication was “Greenwillow Portrait” which was an unsolicited manuscript just like the hundreds of others I received during those years. It was such a special piece, and I immediately picked up the phone to tell him we would publish it the following year. That was my first conversation with Mark and his enthusiasm and excitement about band music was immediately apparent.

From that day forward I always called Mark as soon as I received what was to become an amazing string of hits that made a major impact on the success of the Alfred Concert Band catalog. I was honored to have Mark as my co-author of Accent on Achievement. Some of my fondest memories are related to having Mark stay at my house for extended periods as we planned and ultimately wrote what we both felt was the most practical and creative band method ever written.

John O’Reilly
Co-Author of
Accent on Achievement


I was lucky to work with Mark Williams at Alfred for nearly 20 years. We attended many shows and enjoyed many laughs together. Mark was the closest thing to Mozart for school music that I could think of. He was such a genius at really understanding all the intricacies of each instrument and the challenges that beginners face. That’s why his music was so popular—he wrote it in a way that made every student successful when they performed with their band or orchestra. Luckily, we still have his body of music to share with the world for generations and generations. Mark was a kind, loving and generous human being and he will be deeply missed by all of us in the Alfred family.

Andrew Surmani
Senior Vice President
Managing Director, School & Church Publishing
Alfred Music Publishing