Joan Harkness is a pianist, author, and teacher with wide-ranging interests in music education, the music of many cultures, and contemporary concert music. The piano has been the centerpiece of her musical life from the time she was able to reach up to the keyboard as a toddler. A graduate of the Juilliard School and the University of Kansas, she has performed extensively, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City, and the Festival Internacional de Puebla and Festival Cultural Zacatecas in Mexico. Joan is co-author, with composer/soprano Anna Dembska, of two books: 'You've Got Rhythm: Read Music Better by Feeling the Beat' (2002) and 'Piano, Body and Soul: Learn to Play and Become the Musician You Always Wanted to Be' (2003). She and her husband, artist Bachrun LoMele, live in Pinehurst, California, where their home is minutes from Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks-a delightful place to play the piano. The Banjo A virtuoso pianist and composer, ladies man and true celebrity, Gottschalk played thousands of concerts worldwide. The banjo is an African instrument re-created and played in America by slaves, but it also became the instrument of choice among Ethiopian minstrels-white performers in blackface. Despite it's unseemly pedigree, I get a kick out of playing The Banjo! Fire-Flies A dedication: to all the fireflies inhabiting the fields and gardens of Nebraska, I remember and dream of brilliant sweet summer evenings, diamond-netting flashing, suspended between darkened earth, darkened sky. . . To A Wild Rose Edward MacDowell was a master of the piano miniature. 'To A Wild Rose' is like a tiny sweet portrait, which you might find inside an antique locket at the second-hand shop on a lucky day. Cool Jump Bell, Dark Clouds, Tremulous In 1993, the poet/lyricist Beatrix Gates was calling around NYC, looking for a female keyboard player to perform in an opera composed by Anna Dembska. Bea left a message for one of the ladies on her list, but the answering machine was that of my friend Alex Colinas. Sure it was a wrong number, but he thought I might be interested. Since then, Anna and I have collaborated on numerous projects that have taken us from Maine to Mexico. And together we have just written and published our second book, 'Piano, Body and Soul: Learn to Play and Become the Musician You Always Wanted to Be,' from which these modern miniatures are taken. Sonata in E major Some people like to claim that this sonata is light-weight, even pastoral. Maybe, but now that I live in the country myself, I'd say that 'pastoral' is not without it's drama. Is there nothing more death-defying than hummingbirds jousting around the feeder or more overwhelming than an ant colony moving into the house? Country living and this sonata won't make the evening news, but maybe it's all the drama you'd ever really want! Intermezzo and Ballade Brahms' music seems to be in my blood. I love the melancholy, brooding melodies and expressing them through my body at the piano. But what is he trying to say? Can a melody actually express an emotion? Why does music affect us so? And ultimately, what is music? Intermezzo and Scherzino Mexicano Considered the father of Mexico's national music, Manuel M. Ponce wrote hundreds of pieces, from his most famous, 'Estrellita' (Little Star), to piano concertos. A great friend of the world-famous guitarist Segovia, Ponce wrote a mountain of music for him. These two piano miniatures gently evoke the sound and atmosphere of guitar music. Maple Leaf Rag Joplin, the King of Ragtime, took his compositions very seriously. His method, 'The School of Ragtime,' admonished students to 'never play ragtime fast,' and provided all manner of warm-up exercises to master the art of syncopation. But once you can play them, what fun! Danzas Cubanas Have you seen or heard Buena Vista Social Club? It's a glorious CD and video of Cuban music and musicians, sure to induce sweet happiness in your heart. The music of Cervantes makes me just as happy. Starting at age ten, he composed dozens of danzas, Cuban-style dances, for piano. Refined and elegant, they are a delightful addition to the classical repertory. Tango I met Veronique Jeanmarie, a fiery, talkative, brilliant actor and filmmaker from Los Angeles, when we both served as ushers at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. We hit it off, together deconstructing education and reinventing the arts before, during, and after our usher duties. At the time, I was in a state over my perceived inability to compose my own music. Not willing to let me feel sorry for myself, she insisted that I compose a piece for her film, Drowning, that she was making on her ushers salary. Much to my own surprise, I did!