Wynn-Anne Rossi is a notable composer and educator. As a piano teacher myself, I knew about Wynn-Anne through her always-inspiring teaching pieces. Indeed, Wynn-Anne dedicates her career and compositions to students and teachers. In this interview, you will know about Wynn-Anne and her experience as a composer and an educator.
Hi Wynn-Anne, would you like to tell us about yourself?
Let’s start with my name, Wynn-Anne. A good friend once told me … “It’s really helpful to have that hyphen. Wynn is your wild creative side, and Anne is the grounded teacher. Without that hyphen, they would probably fly apart!” Always makes me laugh. That being said, I’m a composer, based in Minnesota. Music is my language, and I’ve enjoyed a life of unexpected twists and turns with a few lucky breaks along the way. I’ve had some great training, but living this life has been my most potent teacher. My first publication came out in 1990 with Boston Music, followed by a number of other publishers including FJH, Alfred, CCC, and Red Leaf. Each experience encouraged new risks and fresh musical directions. A big surprise came along when I was hired for over a decade to be the outreach composer for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, encouraging self-expression with band and orchestra students across Minnesota. We did virtual residencies before zoom came along! I’ve always cared deeply about bringing the experience of composing music to every musician, no matter the age, level, or instrument. One of my favorite projects, sponsored by Alfred Music, was producing a 2-season series called Wednesdays with Wynn-Anne on composition and jazz tips. Great assignments for students! I offer a lot of teacher workshops and student residencies across the country, but day-to-day, I run a private piano/composition studio. I continue exploring new styles, composing new works, and taking on cool projects.
Music Composition Tips: Wednesdays with Wynn-Anne, Ep. 1
How did you get started writing music? What was your first-ever composition about? Was it written for piano?
My parents fell in love, thanks to their passion for classical music. It was always part of our everyday household. I remember listening to music during breakfast every morning. Brubeck, Albeniz, and Stravinsky were among the family favorites. I am convinced that my mom is the reason I’m a composer today. When I could barely reach the keys, we would make up musical stories together. I learned that the piano keys are an excellent toy for the imagination. My first fully-notated composition was the result of a spontaneous mother-daughter trip we took when I was a young teen. Mom and I ended up at the bottom of a mysterious canyon by a dramatic, raging river. I wanted to remember the experience and made the effort to write it down. Thanks to my teacher, it landed a scholarship to a music camp at the University of Illinois. Compositions are like photos, using the ears instead of the eyes. Each piece holds valuable memories!
Lilac by Wynn-Anne Rossi, performed by Roger McVey
You wrote a handful of piano works for educational purposes. Personally, I love playing and teaching them. What has inspired you to write music for students? Are there any challenges?
Writing music for students was a natural step for me. Though I have experimented with larger, more sophisticated works, my true gift is in bringing sophisticated sounds into the multi-leveled piano teaching repertoire. Creating finger-friendly music at specific levels is a special challenge that is often overlooked. However, it pays off when the fire of passion opens the ears of a young musician. Some of my first choices for publications were books I personally needed in my piano studio. One goal was to make theory and technique playful and fun. You can see this in the Treasures in Technique series (5 books, FJH) and the Get Ready series based on scale duets (6 books, FJH). In choosing to write for students, I also saw the potential of bringing creative expression and composition into the younger ages where it belongs. This led me to write two series of composition workbooks for piano: Music by Me (5 books with Kevin Olson, FJH) and Creative Composition Toolbox (6 books, Alfred). Composition breeds creativity, and we need more of it in our world, whatever the field of choice. Teaching has lasting power!
In your collection, there are several series of Latin American- inspired and jazz-inspired compositions. Are they your favorite styles of music?
I love researching into all genres of music, especially styles that use rich harmonies and cool rhythms. The series of Musica Latina (12 books, Alfred) and Jazzin’ Americana (8 books, Alfred) were incredibly fulfilling to write! Every piano collection has its own story. Recently I’ve been experimenting with international dance modes and rhythms. My newest series is called Dancing with the World (4 books, FJH). I’m a big fan of dancing, and as a result of this project, I’ve learned so many new styles and steps. Composing is forever new. When I follow the rabbit hole into a new musical genre, my perception changes and new sounds emerge, affecting my own personal style. Music is a beautiful language which is ever-evolving.
Alma del tango (Soul of tango)
Empress of the Blues:
In addition to being a composer, you are also an educator and presenter. You give presentations and masterclasses to students and teachers frequently. What are the hopes and dreams that you have for our future generations regarding their music learning?
My hopes and dreams for future musicians are multi-faceted. First, I hope that by bringing sophisticated sounds into early levels, young musicians will have more curiosity and tolerance for new flavors. My primary passion is that self-expression becomes more natural, more normal for all. Every student learns to draw, to dance, and to write. And every student should feel free and unafraid to find their own personal sounds through music. Composing and improvising are beautiful ways to understand ourselves and the world around us.
Are there any future projects coming up that you want to share?
There’s always something around the next corner. I just finished an interactive keyboard exhibit called Building Blocks for Making Music at the Schubert Club Museum in St. Paul, MN. I’m also finishing a delightful virtual residency with a music school in South Africa. This month, I’m launching a couple of art song collections for voice/piano through Red Leaf Vocalworks in Canada. Distribution in the USA will be through CCC Music Company.
And my next focus, thanks to a recent grant, is to energize my YouTube channel: Wynn-Anne Rossi Music with new recordings, creative exercises and helpful teaching webinars. This will be an awesome resource for students, teachers and music listeners. Though the modern world is chaotic at times, there are some wonderful advantages to the computer age. Never before have composers interacted so openly with the performers of their music! I’m incredibly thankful for these meaningful connections.
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