“Connections” by Christopher Norton – more great repertoire for boys

I’ve posted regularly in the past about good music to keep boys inspired to learn piano and the latest instalment from Christopher Norton, his Connections Series, is definitely up to the task! Most importantly, Connections could well be a lifeline for students who may be considering giving up piano lessons – girls and boys.

I first came across the Connections series while attending the APPCA conference last July but was too enthralled by his “American Popular Piano” series to give it much thought. Now, having had a chance to go through all the books, I’m a total convert!

Connections is perfect for children, teenagers and adults of all abilities and can be introduced after about 12-18 months of learning (depending on ability, of course!). Here’s a page sample from the first book, so you get an idea of the starting level; and this is a page sample from Book 8, the hardest in the series.

In addition to the great books, the Connections Website has audio files, music samples and full listings of all the pieces in all the books. It’s also a great resource for videos of Chris’ teaching and has a members area with a teachers’ forum (to which Chris himself often posts), and links to downloads. For example, when you buy the books, you also get a password to access and download all the backing tracks – free!! Definitely worth checking out.

Pieces from Connections feature heavily in the ANZCA Modern Piano Syllabus (no suprise given how well they are written and how much kids love them). The ANZCA syllabus, in my opinion, is the best modern/pop piano course available in Australia and I’ve just started teaching kids this syllabus this year. I’ll be posting about my ANZCA experience in the future – stay tuned!

Interestingly, Connections doesn’t feature at all in the AMEB Piano syllabus, and only minimally in the lower grades of the AMEB Piano for Leisure.

Here’s a link to Book 1 at Sheetmusicplus.com ($13 online, $25 locally in Australia). At that price, I’d encourage you to buy the whole series as there are many exam pieces in each book and students will thrive on just about every piece in a book, so they are worth recommending as student purchases too.

Christopher Norton Connections for Piano: Repertoire 1
look insideListen!
Christopher Norton Connections for Piano: Repertoire 1
By Christopher Norton. Edited by Andrew Hisey. For Piano. Solo Piano. Christopher Norton Connections for Piano. Jazz, Rock, Blues, Latin, Swing, Country, Funk, Reggae. SMP Level 1 (Elementary). Book. 40 pages. Published by The Frederick Harris Music Company (FH.CNR01)Smp_stars50
(2)
…more info

Here are some podcasts of Christopher teaching the Connections series on YouTube. Great to hear the composer performing his own works!

Finally, I’ve put together a listing of my favourite pieces in each of the first 5 books. Highlights point to YouTube performances:

Book 1

  • Driving Range (ANZCA Prelim, also AMEB PFL Prelim)
  • Whistling Tune
  • Full of Confidence (Grade 1 ANZCA)
  • Lost Toy
  • Ready for Action
  • Bell Tower
  • Frolics (Gd 2 ANZCA)
  • Sea Bird (GD 2 ANZCA)
  • Smooth as Silk
  • In the Snow
  • Merry Go Round
  • Caribbean Song (GD 1 ANZCA)

Book 2

  • A Walk in the Sun
  • Trumpet Blues
  • Grey Skies
  • Half Asleep
  • Long Haul (GD 2 ANZCA)
  • Across the Avenue
  • Circling
  • Leading the Cheer!

Book 3

  • Given Half a Chance (GD 2 ANZCA, GD 2 PFL)
  • Feeling Silly (this is a standout piece!) – boys love it! (GD 2 ANZCA)
  • Wind Riders (likewise!)
  • Samba Sand (GD 1 ANZCA, GD 1 PFL)
  • Happy Go Lucky
  • Trail Ride Blues (great cowboy riding song!) GD 2 ANZCA

Book 4

  • Counter Intuitive*
  • Deep in Tought
  • Taskmaster
  • Line by Line

*Chris Norton himself comments about this track on the Connections Forums:

Christopher Norton here..actually this is one of my favourite pieces in Connections – with the backing track it seems to be both highly rhythmic and also mysterious and soft-edged at the same time. It does indeed lend itself to rhythm games with a variety of instruments (cello playing the left hand??) I’m sure your student will end up so secure it will be easier to play with the backing track – that should always be the aim…

Book 5

  • A Summer Day – fantastic piece Gd 3/4 level
  • So Easy (GD 3 ANZCA)
  • Boxcar Blues
  • Sometimes it’s how I feel
  • Floating
  • Back on Track – great boogie
  • Daydreaming
  • Rail Rhythms
  • Simple Pleasures (GD 3 ANZCA)

Book 6, 7, 8 – notes to come!!

I’ll leave you with a collection of students performing Connections on YouTube. Let me know of your experience using this series.

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Tim Topham

Lead blogger and coffee snob
Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
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  • Alice Siah

    I love the books — although I’m still warming up to the styles as I come from strictly classical only. This year I have a new transfer student who are boys, and I thought here is a perfect time to explore new things myself since I got to teach them :) The free audio files are so great! Quick question, do you also use the activity books to complement the main book?