Joe Holt's Notes Newsletter
March 2011
Vol 7, No 2

Over the something and through the other thing ..

From a review of a recent concert:

"Direction. Getting from point A to point B. How we get from those two points varies according to the individual. For some, the quickest route serves best, not attractive for sight-seeing, but saves time. For others, taking in some scenery, and an escape from the busiest highways with its congestion, short-tempered drivers et al allows for a more pleasant drive.

Then there's Joe Holt..."

Over the months and years (for some of you), I have shared (some of) my evolving understandings of "point B", and the paths I've taken. That you are interested is a blessing to me, and I'm grateful. As I finish this newsletter, I'm about to leave for another concert. And, as my be the case on any given day, my (view of) the path tomorrow may be quite different from today. Still enjoying the ride, though. Here are some points on the path (best as I can figure it out)...


Joe's Appearances

solo piano performances:
 SATURDAY 3/5/11: 8pm

Joe performs in concert at the Darlington Arts Center, Garnet Valley, PA

Joe performs for the monthly Coffeehouse series: "Spontaneous Joy". A wholly improvised concert, from classical themes to jazz standards, to entertaining demonstrations of musical improvisation (including Joe's A.D.D. Improv), and original music from "Stories Without Words


SUNDAY 4/3/11:3pm 

Joe performs, solo piano, in concert at the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown, MD

Joe performs hymns and spirituals, classical and jazz improvisation


Joe performs with:


SATURDAY 3/19/11: 7-10pm

Joe performs with the Shore Jazz Trio at Beseme, Lewes, DE


Shore Jazz returns for 2011! John, Mike and Joe kick off the season.


SATURDAY 3/26/11: 8pm

Joe performs with/accompanies Karen Somerville at the Mainstay, Rock Hall, MD

Karen pays tribute to the legendary Billie Holiday in: "Just Call Me Billie". 


special event: 

 SUNDAY 4/24/11: 10am

Joe and Brian Whitaker present: "He's Steppin' Out" at the

Crossroads Allaince Church, Dover De.

A special Easter Sunday performance with music from Joe's original CD; "He's Steppin Out" .


see the schedule





Mailbag/Comment Box

Joe, this is SO...and I mean SOOOOOOOOO good !

Absolutely love it !


This is so good. Loved the way you articulated the difference between note playing and playing by ear (my strength is the latter). You have a real teachers spirit - listening to you speak is a joy and makes the lesson easy to take in. Looking forward to learning lots.


I'm really getting into how you seem to give words to what happens instinctively when we make/compose/perform music. Such a fitting name. "thoughtfulpianist" indeed.


Sorted through our CDs on Saturday. Sitting on Sunday listing to some of your older recordings that you did with Chris. Totally enjoyed them.


 I had the great pleasure of seeing you at the Stoltz Listening room in my home town of Easton. I look forward to listening to you play again.



I loved this! Could have listened all night!




Lessons for the Thoughtful Pianist

From a comment thread on the YouTube video: Lesson 1A - "The Foundation, and Practice, of Playing By Ear": 



this is great, I am actually trying to learn to read music, people think that playing by ear is a "magical gift." Maybe by some point it is. But I remember working so hard at it as a teenager, and listening to Bach chorales on cassette in the kitchen with my ear mashed against the speaker, and running to the piano, and either yes I would get it, or no I wouldn't and have to go back to the cassette... it is definitely nothing magical ;-) and *not a little* frustrating... but learnable, for sure



Your comment is great, too :)

That nearly every toddler learns to verbally communicate before learning to read or write, simply by living in the environment where that happens should be all we need to know. Thanks!



Good point!! I do recall, before the more intensive ear training, that I got a tiny toy electric organ for Christmas when I was 7. I had no idea what it was good for and was so disappointed ;-) but I randomly started at the top note, a C, and with one finger I plunked my way down all the white keys in succession, and-- surprise, it sounded like "Joy to the World"!! Fitting song for Christmas day! THEN I got interested! but like you say that is a normal way to start ear training



This is interesting, as I received my second toy piano (this one with 2 octaves of real black and white keys) at 5, and remember plunking out Jingle Bells (first) with one finger. 45 years later, I'm still on that same path of growing in expression, and that's what's it's about, right?


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News Headlines

Concert review - Tri State Jazz Society - 2/27/11


Lessons for the Thoughtful Pianist now available

Joe to perform "Spontaneous Joy" at the Darlington Arts Center

Joe accompanies for 2011 "Women Helping Women", at the Prince 

Transcription of "Sunny Side of the Street" posted


Joe's 2011 YouTube channel now open


read the news

From the Journal

After the concert last Sunday night at the Washington Grace Church of the Nazarene. I felt as warmly accepted and connected as could be, in an entirely African-American congregation. Also obvious was (is) God at work. The Pastor, in introducing me, read aloud a letter I had written a few weeks before, addressed to the church board. It wasn't intended for that purpose, and as such it felt somewhat out of place. Here is an excerpt:


"Thank you for the opportunity to come and present God's (general) revelation at Grace Church in a few weeks. I am a Christian musician, and as such, one who strongly believes that all organized sound (just as anything else in God's creation) is inherently revelatory, and God-glorifying. Being a full time performer for over 30 years, I have long ago reconciled the dilemma of what kind of music a Christian should be involved in: (which is) the highest substantive level possible. I do not believe that God is best served (or honored) by (simply) imitating the shallowness of (any) popular culture. Just as a preacher who is knowledgeable of the Word, and desires to spread it, that it may be used of God according to His purposes; the artist (in my understanding) can be confident that God's creative wonder also "does not return to me void, but will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it". Every day, both within and outside the (organized) church, I am blessed with opportunities to, both: connect with God in musical performance, and experience this connection shared with others. When performing in a church setting, I have the additional privilege to speak of these blessings, and openly proclaim God at the center of all of it."

Maybe I was also feeling the (especially familiar right now) sense of loss of control (over the presentation/circumstances). If my self-analysis is close here, than I'll go further, and assume that it was helpful. I have to let go, in order to hold on. Have journaled here, over the last few years, some of the journey of learning to get outside of myself/out of my own way. That's a work of God (grace).  

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