Bethel artist-in-resident Marilynn Ham instructs students with upcoming piano conference

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On Saturday, April 7, from 1-5 pm, artist-in-residence Marilynn Ham will be hosting a piano masterclass conference. This conference was organized by one of her students in order to showcase her talent, as well as teach those who attend. There will be three workshops, with breaks spread throughout, which is a time for attendees grab refreshments and check out Ham’s books.

I want to share my ideas that I’ve used over the years,” said Ham. “I started playing the piano in church when I was 13 and now I’m 63. I’ve had a lot of experience.”

Ham said that the main emphasis of the conference is on improvisation, but there is also a small section on praise and worship music as well. Ham will also walk through a step-by-step process on how to arrange creatively. There will be basic steps, so both seasoned veterans and beginners are welcome to attend. Upon reflecting what she wants people to walk away from the conference, Ham said that she hopes attendees are “able to walk away thinking that they can do what I can do. That they can create something and use it.” She wants to show that even if you can’t play by ear you can still arrange. While playing by ear is an incredible talent, it is not necessary to be able to arrange. Ham encourages those who are still considering attending to do so. The atmosphere will be relaxed, and Ham will play sections of her own arrangements. Though the length of the conference may seem intimidating, Ham thinks that it will go by quickly. Many of Ham’s family and previous students will be attending, and look forward to reuniting and sharing what they have learned. Ham has done many conferences in her lifetime, being able to teach and show others what it is like to play the piano. Her conferences have been less and less frequent lately, since conferences as a whole have been on the decline in today’s age, because of the internet. She has been working on these workshops for a long time, though only having done two conferences here at Bethel she has gotten around the country. “The reason I’m doing this one is because one of my students approached me asking if I would ever do a conference,” she said. “He said that he would do all of the work including publicity, the technology and the ideas. All I had to do was get my act together.” As the conference rolls closer, Ham continues to prepare and get excited to be able to teach and guide those who attend. From hymns to modern praise and worship, all kinds of music present. Whether you have a passion for piano or not, she encourages students to attend. (Photo Credit: Bethel College Magazine)
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