Joe Holt's Notes Newsletter
December, 2010 
vol 6 no 9

                   Christmas Time is Here


My favorite time of year. Hope it is a good season for you as well. I always look forward to it's coming (or put, another way, the only bad part about the Christmas season, to me, is that it has an end). This year, though, it's even better. As awareness and connection deepen from the piano, it remains with me when I stand up from the bench. If I didn't know it before, I now understand that the piano is where I learn: the desk at which I sit, as a student of creation, divine will, and purpose. Perhaps you will see a smile on my face more often these days. Awareness and connection will do that to a person, and, if not always a smile, a sense of serenity (easily lost, of course, the moment my feet touch the ground). Temporal circumstances have been a mixed bag lately, but all for good. To all who have been waiting for the next move in the "Lessons for the Thoughtful Pianist" series, thank you for your patience. The roadblock (temporal circumstance) is being moved to the side, and new postings/lessons are coming soon. As you read through this newsletter, you'll see some of the cool opportunities ahead, including my solo debut at the Avalon Theatre (Stoltz Listening Room) in Easton, MD, this Saturday (12/11/10). Please consider coming, if you are in the area. It's going to be a really fun evening! Note also (below) the new "News" blog (what does a busy person do when his schedule is challenged? Take on another project!). It's a blessing and privilege to stay in touch, and connected (thru the Internet, from the piano, wherever). Read on, and catch some of what's happening...     


(PS - click on the heading for some Christmas season warmth and fuzziness)

Joe's Appearances

SATURDAY 12/11/10: 8pm

Joe performs in concert at the Avalon Theatre - Stoltz Listening Room, Easton MD

Joe's solo debut at the Avalon promises to be both Spontaneous and Joyful! Improvisations on jazz and popular standards, classical themes, and fun demonstrations, including Joe's "A.D.D. Improvisation".


SUNDAY 12/19/10: 10am

Joe is guest pianist for the Crossroads Alliance Church, Dover, DE

A service of Christmas Carols. Joe also performs several solo selections.


TUESDAY 12/21/10: 7pm

Joe performs with Beth McDonald in concert at Heron Point, Chestertown, MD

Beth (vocalist, singer/songwriter) and Joe present a duo concert of holiday favorites (and a few surprises) in Wesley Hall. All are welcome.


FRIDAY 12/24/10: 6pm (time tentative)

Joe is guest pianist for the Newark (DE) First Church of the Nazarene.

Joe accompanies Christmas Carols and performs solo selections.


SUNDAY 1/23/11: 6pm

Joe performs in concert at the Grace Church of the Nazarene, Capitol Heights, MD

"Spontaneous Joy" - Improvisations on hymns and Christian song, jazz and popular standards, classical themes, and fun demonstrations, including Joe's "A.D.D. Improvisation". Presented in conjunction with Community of Hope Church of the Nazarene, Washington, DC

FRIDAY 2/11/11: 7pm

Joe performs at the Melwood Church of the Nazarene, Upper Marlboro, MD
Joe is the featured performer for: "I'll Be Seeing You - An evening of classic love songs".


SUNDAY 2/27/11: 2pm

Joe performs for the Tri State Jazz Society - in concert at the Porch Club, Riverton NJ.

Joe's first performance for TJJS: "Stride Piano: A Continuing Legacy of Spontaneous Joy"


see the schedule

From the Mailbag/Comment Box

This is great Joe, thanks! Really joyous - never fails to make you smile.


Hey Joe,

Very nice job. Love your passionate arrangement and variations of this song. Keep up the good praises brother.

Your sister in Christ,

Karen Lafferty (Author of Seek Ye First, 1971)


I can`t speak English very well, but I want to tell you~

I like this song, and your playing is so cool!

More than all, your smile make feel good~


Lovely tasteful playing. This is how to play solo jazz piano!


I read your printed material as directed and enjoyed the confusion I felt. I have never been able to "do" anything without labels attached and now I'm going to learn!


It makes no difference if it is Jazz or Spiritual with Joe at the piano...My two favorite kinds of music,,and pianist!! What more could you ask!

Lessons For The Thoughtful Pianist

From lesson 1B: Steps to Tension and Resolution: 

In this lesson, you will be introduced to some detailed concepts, but for a larger purpose. This purpose is for you to begin seeing (hearing, and understanding) tension and release as the engine of movement in music. This movement is often subtle, but always present. Though you may never have thought of it in this manner, the engine of increasing tension - necessitating, at some point, resolution - propels not only music, but (arguably) all of life. Questions like: "How regularly would you eat a meal (resolution) if you never became hungry (tension, growing over time, eventually getting to the point where you can't ignore it)", or "How reliable would a grade school student be with homework if the assignments were never due?" should suffice to make the point. In these (and all other) examples, a series of events and/or circumstances work to create an environment that necessitates movement, or, the resolution of the building tension. Perhaps you can already sense that, although the overall concept is simple, it's application (particularly in music) can create layer upon layer of seemingly complex structure. Don't be overwhelmed by this apparent complexity of harmonic (harmony, chords, progressions...) theory. It isn't complicated at all if you understand that it all comes back to the same thing: tension and resolution. Take your time in this lesson, and read it while sitting at your piano/keyboard. Give the ideas and concepts time to marinate (this will help to bring out the flavor), rather than just plowing through. Trust me. As I often say: "I overwhelm easily. If this (music making) were complicated. I'd be stuck in the mud at the starting gate".

So let's begin simply...

In example 1, a C major scale is constructed (see lesson A1: "The Foundation and Practice of Playing By Ear" for a chart of all 12 major scales). In lesson A1, we learned that the relationships between notes (not the letter labels by which we name them) inform our ability to play by ear.

It is, of course, these relationships that provide the opportunity of tension/release, and, through which we manipulate this process...
learn more

News Headlines

Video postings from Church Hill Theatre 11-13-10 video promos for Avalon Theatre 12-11-10

Concert review - Church Hill Theatre - 11-13-10

Joe joins lecture series - "The Joy of Improvisation"

Solo debut, in the Stoltz Listening Room, on December 11 

American Cruise Lines moves to warmer waters 

Rocky Horror rocks Church Hill


read the news

From the Journal
The Joe Holt Trio.What about that? Less than a year ago, I determined it was time to make a move in order to gain access to performance opportunities not easily attainable for solo pianists, and assemble my own little group. Sure, we all put groups together from time to time and slap whoever's name to be politically expedient on them. This was different - a realization of an opportunity not only for access, but for rapport. Once in a while, the bell just goes "ding", and this time, I knew that (my longstanding friend and roommate from the Midiri touring group) Gary Cattley, and (the local drummer with the big heart and matching sleeve, with whom a deep camaraderie has developed) Mike McShane were the guys. We immediately put together the instrumental CD: "Happiness ... A Thing Called Jazz", and then a funny thing happened - we began working with vocalists. First, an unexpected opportunity to present concerts with Felicia Carter, then Beth McDonald tapping the trio for her new CD (Take It From Me) and release concert, then Karen Somerville connecting with us for a featured performance, and now Larzine, performing with the trio in concert, and last weekend in Rehoboth during the jazz festival. Hmmmm. Perhaps the camaraderie and connection between the three of us has indeed "taken". Perhaps these vocalists have felt this, and feel connected to us, and supported by us. Perhaps we're on to something ...      

posted on 10/18/10

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