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Marsha Doyenne: Bio

I was lucky that both of my parents played piano...it just seemed natural to climb on the bench and experiment with sounds! I started composing early and my first performance was at age 5 for my mother's garden club.

One of my favorite pastimes was to play records that I didn't know and "play along". That was great early training in harmonic progression, and I remember listening over and over again when I got "stumped" to try to figure out why I missed certain chord paths and melody lines as possibilities. Exactly why did Chopin or Debussy do what they did in that spot? Why was that choice taken over something else? I wanted to get behind the scenes to understand what was in the composer's mind and heart.

After experimentation with piano, organ, violin, and French horn, I pretty much stuck with keyboard instruments! Studies included: organ with Jan Melhus; piano with Dr. Howard Barr; theory with Dr. Brent Heisinger and organ with Dr. John Walker at San Jose State University; and composition with Dr. Irwin Stahl, New York City. From Irwin I learned how to control tension and tonality, and how to strive for a sense of inevitability in my writing.

In 1998, I won the Kansas Federation of Music Clubs Composer of the Year award for Dream Fragments, which are included on the Gratitude CD. You can listen to these in the Music section of this site. I played professionally as a church organist and accompanist in Kansas and California, and was the first American organist to perform in the Beijing concert hall in 1990.

Ultimately I realized that I was a composer who performed - rather than a performer who composed - and decided to concentrate on composition.

In 1994 I moved to Australia, where I learned about a new piano being developed by Wayne Stuart. I figured that if the piano had improvements it would change the way I would write for the instrument, so I went to visit Wayne in Newcastle to experience it for myself.

The Stuart piano was originally designed with 97 keys and an additional pedal - the dolce pedal. Every note in this piano produces absolutely crystal clear tones - gone are the muddy base notes and tinny upper notes of most pianos - and the sustain capabilities produce a unique third dimension sound effect. I felt the piano had special healing qualities and I decided I would someday record on the Stuart piano.

In 2009, Wayne expanded the piano to 102 keys, the extra notes being in the bass. The lowest note is now the sub-contra C. I was fortunate to go back in January, 2010 and spend 3 weeks in the factory writing music for this new piano. I went with no expections...I just wanted to see how the piano spoke to me. I was amazed at the possibilities and had the greatest time writing and recording for this piano. Thanks to Phil Sawyers (recording engineer) and Wayne & Katie Stuart for all their help and support with these latest projects.

Gratitude is my first CD recorded on the Stuart piano. I've got three new projects I'm working on simultaneously, and plan to have the next CD released in the fall of 2010. Please join my email list (see top of page) and I'll let you know when the next CD is ready!