Susan Griesdale was born in 1950, in Montreal Quebec. She is an award winning Composer, Piano Teacher, Clinician, and Adjudicator, as well as an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre (CMC).
Susan is a founding member of Red Leaf Pianoworks, a collective of composers who write pedagogical works for students. She has written many collections for piano, and also for flute and violin. You will find her violin music in the 2013 RCM Violin Series, her piano music in the 2015 RCM Piano Syllabus and Celebration Series, the Conservatory Canada Syllabus, the ACNMP’s Contemporary Showcase Syllabus and the Canadian National Conservatory’s Northern Lights Publications.
She is very pedagogically minded in her writing while at the same time introducing the student to new contemporary sounds. Her music has been described as very accessible, charming, evocative, cheery, quirky, fresh, unique, and is intentionally more cutting edge than a lot of current pedagogical music. It often explores a lot more raw emotion, translated into music via rhythm and harmony. She also endeavours to produce a body of work where you can find humour and sense of whimsy and it’s a common thread to be found in many of the junior piano works.
Commissioned in 2014 by Margie Feduck of Port Colbourne Ontario to write a two piano work for 12 hands. Titled ‘Sixty Fingers’, it is an upbeat percussive romp with a surprise ending that closes the keyboard. This was premiered at the Port Colbourne Festival of the Arts Music Festival in May 2016. A high spirited sextet for six players, this piece is infused with strong accents, catchy rhythms and is a light hearted, upbeat musical romp with a few humorous moments along the way. This sextet is a big crowd pleaser and the final beat of the piece, closing the fall board, makes it particularly well suited to close any recital programme.
Performed by Les Six, six students of Susan Hamblin Dennis, this piece won first prize in Los Angeles at the GOCAA International Competition! Its American Premiere.
The Dance, Danse, Danza collections for advanced piano are imaginative and showy, uniquely quirky, with sprinklings of dissonance and very percussive. Susan is particularly drawn to dance idiom and speaks of having, always, a little dancer in her ‘mind’s eye’ always dancing to whatever sounds are heard with a wild, totally immersed, and involved thrashing of limbs. A way of seeing the world in these turbulent times, the wry humour and whimsy more essential than ever. When listening to these pieces, if you are compelled to move to the music then the music is doing its job.
As a visual artist she has created images for music book covers for other composers. Working with images, line and colour brings an elevated excitement that is not easily explained but is totally immersive. In her view colour is as essential as dance.
Piano Solo Collections
Elementary and Early Intermediate
Little Hands, Big Pieces – A fun and imaginative way to for little ones to sound big! Great for Recitals or just technique practice, every piece is constructed of major triads! You’ll find a wide range of style and mood. Ideal for early levels at any age, these pieces are easily learned, easy to teach, but sound difficult. What more could a teacher ask for!
Let’s Pretend – Your students will enthusiastically ‘pretend to be’ with each enchanting tale. Every piece includes words to help tell the story! Offering a wide variety of tonalities, from traditional to contemporary.
Winter – A fun collection of character pieces to brighten those dreary winter days!
Catch the Magic – A magical collection of solos for the intermediate student, perfect for recitals and festivals.
Late Intermediate to Advanced
Piano Poems – A must have collection of lyrical, introspective pieces for the sensitive musician!
Piano Mime – Eight engaging character pieces to spark the imagination! Contemporary harmonies are paired with an exciting selection of mood and style to offer a fresh and unique sound experience!
Arctic Voices – Sounds of the Arctic, alone, haunting, vast and dangerous. Includes the piano solo ‘Arctic Voices’ – Winner of the 2011 CFMTA Call for Compositions.
Out of the Box – Cheery and Quirky! These pieces are perfect for encores. All a little different, all slightly ‘out of the box’! The music offers playful harmonies as well as biting dissonances taking the player beyond traditional harmonic language. Have fun with them!
Dance, Danse, Danza Vol 1 – 3 – Lively dances, playful tonality, flashy, percussive energy and a little bit of soul to get you moving!
Solo Flute Collection
Voices from the Earth – performed by renowned flautist Dianne Aitken. Seven evocative pieces for unaccompanied solo flute that offer a fresh and unique sound experience. The collection ranges between intermediate and advanced flute playing levels and all are new, fresh, somewhat atonal and interesting. These melodies cover a broad musical landscape where you will discover a whole new world of sound. All of these studies are voices that create definite moods and pictures. This collection is a good addition to Canadian flute music, although intended to be used as studies, each piece could be used as a recital solo.
Solo Violin Collection
Soundplay – Eight charming character pieces for violin solo in the RCM Grade 5 to 8 range offering contemporary yet tonal compositions that convey many musical moods.. Each piece features a double stop and each is based on a different scale or mode. The sound excerpts are beautifully performed by violinist Sarah Fraser Raff. The pieces are very accessible, mostly in the 1st and 3rd positions, but including spots in the 2nd and 4th positions, and ‘Water Sprites’ reaches the 5th position. The pieces have bowing and fingering suggestions, but there is ample room for students and teachers to add their own choices. The ‘Highland Fanfare’ with its catchy Scottish flavor offers an unusual challenge using fifths: ‘Banter’ features a good workout in octaves, tempo changes and dialogue; ‘I Remember’ and ‘As I Wander’ are more contemplative in nature. ‘Will You?’ requires nimble fingers; ‘Stomp’ is energetic and colorful giving good practice switching between 5/8, 4/8 and 3/8 time signatures; the ‘Jolly Rondo’ with its spirited rhythm is especially suited to the violin and will quickly become a favorite!”
Piano Duets One Piano 4 hands
Rhythm Band – Grade 2/3 Level. Rock on! A duet for those who want that pounding beat. In cut time it’s easy to achieve that Rock band feeling!
Willow – Relax to this rich and harmonic gently flowing melody like leaves of a Willow tree moving gracefully in the gentle breeze. Grade 3 – 4
Amaryllis – Just like the beautiful Amaryllis flower, the music is gently flowing, lyrical and graceful. Ideal for those sensitive players in your studio.
Piano Trios One Piano 6 hands
The Threesome Blues – A trio for Pre-reading level, once the students find their position on the keys, they will have fun playing this bluesy tune together. Great for developing listening skills at an early level!
Three to Tango – Three to Tango has the players jumping over and under their partners hands!
O’Yeah – A laid back, easy going tempo, this syncopated trio requires players to snap their fingers all together! Great fun!
Cool Cat – Way Cool! This Cat is in no hurry and will have you tapping your foot to this slow groove!
Piano Sextet Two Pianos 12 hands
Sixty Fingers – A high spirited sextet for six players, this piece is infused with strong accents, catchy rhythms and is a light hearted, upbeat musical romp with a few humorous moments along the way. This sextet is a big crowd pleaser and the final beat of the piece, closing the fall board, makes it particularly well suited to close any recital programme.
Elements – A short work for spoken word and song featuring text that is all about words, rhythm and melody. Premiered by the She Sings Women’s Choir for the SSAA version in Kingston Ontario, conductor Martha Hill Duncan. This score is available from the CMC (Canadian Music Centre) at http://www.musiccentre.ca/
We are Canadians – for Junior Choir – A children’s Anthem written and performed in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Musically very traditional, easy to teach, easy to learn. Perfect for school concerts and Festivals! Performed 2018 at several public schools throughout southern Ontario.
en garde – for two toy pianos, cymbal monkey, wooden mallet, acoustic piano and table top drum.
en garde was born when asked to write for JunctQin Keyboard Collective using their toy pianos and a cymbal monkey.
“A whimsical portrayal of the high energy romp of children pretending to be ‘Musketeers’, accompanied by the ever present clamoring of Charlie the ‘Cymbal Monkey’ who claps with enthusiasm, then protests in annoyance when made silent. The boisterous play is sounded by octatonic tonality interspersed with short motives of open fifths. The sweet ‘tinkling’ of a music box changes the mood as our playmates grab some downtime to catch their breath before resuming their wild, exuberant antics of shield and sword!”
Performed by junctQin Keyboard Collective – World Premier – Colors of Music Festival, Monday September 26, 2011
Reviews of her Piano Collections have always been extremely positive. Some examples below.
“Susan’s music is more cutting edge than a lot of current pedagogical music. Hers explores a lot more raw emotion, translated into music via rhythm and harmony……This is another collection that is worth it for one piece”
– LaDona Ahenda Music Studio Blog
“A beautiful collection – it is gift giving material! The Cover art is stunning: Arctic Sunset Polar Bear by the Alaskan Master Artist, Bob Patterson. This book offers a wide palate of musical material, from the alluring, but stark mood of Arctic Voices, the extreme sadness of Polar Bear’s Lament, the high energy percussive vitality of Drum Dance, the playful frolicking of the Arctic Fox, the busy outdoor fun of Toques and Parkas, an afternoon of adventure for our Arctic Wolf, the exciting “splash” of the northern lights in Dancing Skies, the staid forever feeling of Inukshuk, to the wild crashing dissonances of Glaciers. If you are a composition teacher, and give your students a project of using a chosen interval to create as many moods as possible, consider using this collection to illustrate what can be done. The open 5th is used to explore extreme registers, contrasting dynamics, and an abundance of moods and emotions.” – Judith Ammann, Alberta
“Piano Poems contains mildly contemporary pieces in which talented Canadian Composer Susan Griesdale invites the musician to “unwind and let the music soothe you”. These rich hallow calm pieces create a nostalgic, peaceful mood, beautifully enhanced with invaluable Program Notes. Each piece presents a variety of musical and technical challenges and Griesdale identifies strategies, to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of each piece. Griesdale says she modeled the book after the Romantic need for long lines, careful balance and dynamics to train the intermediate player for the Romantic repertoire to come. Griesdale shows a very sensitive style of composition as she presents specific scenes or moods in our minds. With pieces entitled Remembering You and Forgotten, Griesdale links sound with expression. The third piece Lavender Dreams, in the tricky key of f minor, has the pianist enjoying the use of a seamless line between the hands. The most challenging piece Forgotten has the pianist in g# minor with an inner melodic line to contend with. After the Rain is an improvisational opportunity with a given scale over a LH chordal accompaniment. The quiet pieces of this collection contain extra ritardandi, softer dynamics, and are full of upper register ledger lines, adding to the serenity of this musically rewarding and expressive style. This is an ideal book for someone who plays piano for pleasure and enjoys peaceful sensitive playing.” – Sarah Lawton, Ontario
“Susan has given us a fine product in Piano Poems which teaches challenging musical concepts with an established artistic flair. The pieces are delicate, thoughtful works for the romantic in us all! These intermediate level pieces are excellent for teens/adults for Canadian Music Week recitals, quick study or Canadian own choice selections in music festivals. They are beautifully written at level 5 – 7 with dreamy titles some of wich include: “Lavender Dreams“, which is a study in even flowing continuous phrasing from LH to RH; “Dreamcatcher” has a calm, even, meandering melody; “Walk with Me“, a gently rocking song which explores much freedom and use of rubato throughout; “Remembering You” is charming though has a repetitive open fifth idiom; there is much opportunity for improvisation with “After the Rain” and “Antique Lace” is a great challenge with its sometimes tricky treatment of ledger lines; “Soliloquy” gives an interesting development of the simple opening theme when it returns; my favourite is “Sail Away“, for this soft easy melody at an andante tempo has a very calming effect. For me, it reaches to the heart!” – Review by Catherine Fitch Bartlett in The NBRMTA Quarter Note publication review of Piano Poems collection.
LET’S PRETEND – 14 Enchanting Piano Solos
“This new addition is an engaging collection of elementary and early intermediate piano solos that capture the imagination of young students with themes that relate to the kinds of imaginative play that are part of children’s lives. Evocative lyrics and illustrations also serve to draw students into the music they are learning. The detailed performance notes outline the main technical and musical challenges of each selection and provide suggestions about the desired affect of the music. This collection will be a valuable source of supplemental or recital repertoire for young, imaginative students.” – Nancy Mitchell, Ontario
CATCH THE MAGIC
“Use your imagination … no, use your inner child’s imagination and what do you think of? Space travel? Castles? Dinosaurs? Fairy tales? All this and more is found in a volume of ten pieces for elementary to early intermediate piano students aptly titled Catch the Magic. Cloaked creates a scenario of a hidden spacecraft with sfz chords together with pianissimo staccatos. Suddenly the spacecraft is visible with loud descending quartal chords, then disappears again. Two castle pieces, Magic Carpet Ride and Cinderella’s Waltz create the dreamscape of fairyland with lyricism. Sleuth returns us to the atmosphere of stealth and sudden surprise. Dinosaur Bones is ponderous and heavy, Blue Jeans ‘chills’ with swing, and A Musical Ride requires a literal change of pace as the trotting rhythm of the beginning gives way to a rocking 6/8 and then returns to trot again. My favorite is Twinkle, Twinkle which, without ever quoting the nursery rhyme, manages to express it exactly! Many of the pieces require playing sections an octave higher or lower than written, both hands may play in the bass or the treble clef, melodic interest may move from one hand to another and key signatures may change, shifting the piece from black to white keys. All of these reading challenges are worth a student’s persistence as the pieces unfold their promised magic. Layout is clean and legible and performance notes from the composer both whet the appetite and give insight into imagination and assistance in performance. I recommend this book for its idiomatic approach to pianistic writing that is accessible and compellingly in its appeal.” – Joyce Janzen, British Columbia
JESTER’S DANCE – One Piano Four Hands
“Jester’s Dance is an imaginative character duet piece using poly tonal scale pairings. The lightness of the Jester’s footwork is felt throughout this dance with a Spirito tempo. The staccato articulation also creates energy and momentum to carry this piece from one player to the next. The exaggerated dynamics also give a clashing effect (but not quite) to this interesting poly tonal musical motive writing. I enjoyed the layout of the publication as it offers the Primo and Secondo combined as well as separated. Just this past fall I had the privilege of attending a composition workshop by Susan Griesdale. I enjoyed her wealth of information on creating an “Idea’s Book” for students. She highlighted the importance of Character, Contrast, Contour, A Beginning Middle and End to a composition, and Inspiration. Griesdale creates a Jesters’ Dance “story” through dancing rhythms, and contrast of keys. Students will have to keep an open mind to experience the levels of excitement and wonder of this piece.” – Sarah Lawton, Ontario
WINTER! – Elementary/Intermediate Piano Solos
“This collection is so much fun! I thoroughly enjoyed playing through each selection in this book. Some of my favourites were: Blizzard Blues, with a great 12 bar blues pattern. The articulation and Latin rhythms of Snowboots n Shovels is sure to have many students putting it on their “to play” list. The “very fast, breathless” tempo of Mushing will definitely be a good fit for all of the thrill seekers. Skating on the Rideau Canal has rubato and tempo fluctuations that will allow the expressive pianists to challenge themselves. The melody switching between the hands and the 3 against 2 can be tricky but will really help the performer to tell the story. The very simple but beautiful Longing for Summer is a lovely ending piece for this collection. The singing melody above the light accompaniment is haunting. Overall, the many styles in this collection would make it a welcome addition to any musician’s library. – Rita Raymond-Millett, New Brunswick
OUT OF THE BOX
“The music in this collection have all been written without key signatures, showing all accidentals on the music, As Ms. Griesdale states “the music is designed to be light hearted and whimsical,” All selections here are a move away from traditional harmony. The dissonance allows students the opportunity to express the dynamics and feelings suggested by the composer’s titles and performance comments. The tricky rhythms used in all the pieces tend to be played in repetitive patterns so that the student can keep up with the quick changes of pitch. Dynamic changes cover the extremes and make an exciting canvas for any performer. Each piece is virtuosic in its own right and provides an interesting exploration for the student who wants to delve beyond the traditional realm. This book provides an interesting introduction to contemporary music for the young pianist.” – Manitoba RMT Journal
“As the title suggests, Out of the Box is a collection of pieces outside the realm of traditional harmonies. I found the program notes to be most helpful. Deciphering non-traditional music can be challenging for both the student and teacher. Once I had the explanation for each piece, it became easier to articulate the creative force behind each work. The ten pieces of this collection range from playful harmonies to biting dissonances. These pieces are a challenge not only in interpretation but hand precision, articulation and control. Each piece is virtuosic in its own right and provides an interesting > exploration for the student who wants to delve beyond the traditional realm.” – Laurel Teichroeb, Saskatchewan