Concert hour with pianist David Karp

Dr. David Karp, nationally known pianist, composer, educator and author held a free concert and lecture at Saddleback College’s Fine Arts Building on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Karp, who co-chairs the keyboard department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, performed a number of his favorite personal compositions, lectured on his musical background and answered students’ questions.

He opened with a composition, “Old Man of the Mountain,” imploring students to take note of the change from A major to B-flat minor to evoke the imagery of rocks falling down a slope. Most students in attendance plan to major in piano or jazz studies, so Karp’s demonstration was geared to helping them achieve a better understanding of jazz and classical compositions.

Afterwards, he began to describe his first experiences performing music on an accordion at the age of 8. Despite being praised at 15 as a top performer in the nation, he lost his passion for the competitive side of music.

“If winning contests is why you enter a profession, you’re not meant for that profession,” Karp said. “You should just love what you do. That’s what my father used to tell me.”

Karp then performed his first published work, “Polly Wolly Swings,” a light, jazzy rendition of the classic tune. He went on to explain the hurdles of writing music for a living.

“I had to write under three different pseudonyms just to get my work out there,” Karp said. “And even then, I was making maybe $25 a solo. If it was a duet, maybe $30 since it contained more notes I suppose.”

At this point, the performance transitioned from lecture to a string of nearly uninterrupted performances. It began with “Lady Margaret’s Suite,” a peaceful prelude in the style of Bach, whom Karp, like most classically-trained pianists, greatly admires.

“How could you get tired of playing Bach?” Karp asked. “I could spend another entire lifetime just studying Bach.”

Without much hesitation, Karp started into his three-part “Sonatina.” The first movement made use of metric triplets and sixteenth notes inspired by a Mozart-era sonata, while the second movement was a slow, dark composition in Phrygian mode. Its final movement was a jazz-inspired ditty at a lively pace, which Karp explained was even quite difficult for himself.

Finally, he introduced two students and guided them through a duet titled “Sentimental Thought.” After the concert, Karp offered formal instruction to the music students. Those interested moved into a smaller classroom for a more intimate and hands-on session.

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