Life of an Editor: Thoughts on MTNA, Part 1

Tomorrow I will fly out to Spokane, Washington to attend the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) conference with some work colleagues. Many of you reading this blog may know of MTNA, may be a member, and may even be attending this conference. If so, awesome! If you want to say hi, come visit the Hal Leonard booth! Either way, I’ll be following up this post with another after the conference, covering any highlights or unique stories.

I suppose the topic of conferences falls in the “Life of an Editor” realm, and it’s odd that it does. I never imagined that a job mostly comprised of quiet research and proofreading would have a component of face-to-face interaction with the people who use some of the books that I help to produce. From my first MTNA in San Antonio in 2016, I saw the unique value of being able to connect with teachers this way, both to explain useful features of new books and to respond to curveball questions about obscure rep they might be looking for (which is always my favorite part).

At any given MTNA conference I see and/or meet hundreds of teachers from vast backgrounds, representing students ranging from earnest beginners to doctoral candidates. These interactions and conversations are not only stimulating, they’re emotional. I see the care and passion they have for nurturing pianists, and their hunger for the best available resources for those students. This leads me to reflect on my own training, and how my piano teachers at every stage likely attended these conferences to network and learn new teaching tools.

The Hal Leonard booth is set up as sort of pop-up retail store, with many publications on display. This tends to draw lots of visitors who browse for sustained periods of time, and come back each day for more extended stays. I think they see value in being able to hold the books and page through the contents at their leisure. Many of these teachers may not have easy access to a brick-and-mortar music store where they can look through books.

The music-store atmosphere also breeds lots of cool spontaneous conversations. I’ve seen two teachers browsing a similar section of books in our booth and then start discussing the merits of a particular composer or method, both bringing their unique perspectives to the table. Sometimes a particular lecture session creates a wave of interest in a composer, sending teachers flocking to the booth; the most memorable instance I remember was after a session on Nikolai Kapustin. It’s all very dynamic and kind of utopian. A piano paradise, if only for a couple of days. Everyone is there on a mission to learn, to network, to talk about the music they love, and to have meaningful conversations about new challenges and opportunities. I personally can’t wait.

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