“Beth Green has brought back to us a tradition that has been eclipsed in classical music for centuries, namely improvisation. Her precedents for piano improvisation at the highest level were Chopin and Liszt in the 19th century and all the Bach composers in the 18th. Why has such an important phenomenon of musical thinking disappeared for so long? I am so happy to still be alive and see the resurgence of this great art, thanks to Beth Green.”Christine Berl, Model, Former Performing Pianist & Composer
Born in New York City in 1945, Beth Green always says that her first language was music. Her family loved music, especially her mother, and she’s sure she heard the classics even when in the womb. At about the age of 6, she started studying piano with a neighborhood teacher, and she loved to express herself through sound. She was an odd child and felt very alone, but when she played Bach or Chopin, her favorites, she knew there were others who shared her feelings. Unfortunately, however, playing the piano was a mixed blessing for her. Even as a child, she was suffering from a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a hereditary connective tissue disorder, which affected her joints, eyes, blood vessels, teeth and more.
The result was that she was very weak physically, and that weakness negatively impacted her ability to play or even practice the piano. Not realizing that she was suffering from this disorder, in an era when the illness was rarely even recognized, she concluded she was not talented. The imprint of that belief haunted her until her mid-70s, and she was terrified to play in front of anyone at all.
When she was 12, she auditioned for Chatham Square Music School, which was a conservatory founded in 1947 by Samuel Chotzinoff and which merged with Mannes College of Music in 1960. “Shotzi,” as he was known in the music world, was the general music consultant for NBC television and the person who persuaded the legendary Arturo Toscanini to return to the US to conduct the NBC Symphony. As she remembers it, the school was full of teachers who had left Europe because of the second world war, and her instructors were high level musicians who introduced her to a new world. Unsurprisingly, she failed her first audition for Chatham (where all the students were on scholarship), but she was adopted as a student by one of their teachers, Jan Gorbaty, who was a Polish pianist who fled to the US in 1950. Gorbaty prepared Beth for her second audition at Chatham and also for her audition for the Performing Arts High School of New York. Despite her mysterious illness and weakness, she was able to gain admission to both schools.
Being at Chatham and Performing Arts were a revelation to Beth, because she met other students who loved classical music, and she had a feeling of belonging for the first time in her life. That was not to last. When she was a junior in high school, at the age of 15, she contracted rheumatic fever and spent the next year and a half either in bed or a chair. She was isolated again. She never recovered even the relatively poor health she had as a child, and that continues to this day. She became chronically ill and disabled by pain and weakness, and playing the piano was out of the question. When she attempted to practice, she became even more crippled and her arms couldn’t function for the basics of life. She thought music was gone from her life forever, and she turned to her other passions of social activism, then ultimately intuitive counseling, writing and spirituality, all of which allowed her to be sedentary. In fact, in 1983, she became essentially housebound as well as chronically ill. More about that in her general biography.
In her mid-50s, Beth became aware of new technologies around music, and she tried her hand at composing her original music using computers and digital keyboards. Even though it was physically painful for her to use the computer to create music, she managed to compose five CDs that mostly combined classical and New Age elements and sounds before she created her sixth album of purely improvisational piano music. The first was “The Gift of Peace,” which was soothing and meditative. She released the album at the end of 2002 as part of her Gift of Peace Campaign to oppose the invasion of Iraq. With support from many people, she created the album then distributed it free of charge, asking only for donations, and the CD was played and given away in many stores and venues as part of the movement for peace.
Beth was stunned to discover that she could compose. Having had a traditional classical training, she was very oriented to playing note-for-note what was on the page. But emboldened by her success with “The Gift of Peace,” she composed “A Soul’s Journey Through Darkness & Light,” which took us on a lush musical journey through many stages of life including death and rebirth. Released in 2003, the album showed distinctly classical influences. It wasn’t until 2009 that Beth released her third album, “In the Mist,” which was highly mystical, which reflected Beth’s spirituality (she had had a spiritual awakening in 1980 when she became an intuitively-guided counselor and spiritual teacher.) In 2017, Beth created a whole new musical persona, Granny Rocks, and she released her fourth album, “Rumblings of Revolution,” which showed more influences of jazz, rock and pop, as well as classical. And it was the only album on which she sang songs, having the lyrics as well as the music. (Singing was another daunting physical challenge for Beth.)
In 2018, at the age of 73, Beth’s musical life took another amazing turn. Following her inner guidance, she and her husband James purchased an acoustic grand piano and she tried to play the instrument again. But this time, again following her inner guidance, she resolved NOT to play classical music, in fact not to play any written music (it is even hard for her to use her eyes in that way), but only to improvise. Again, as a classically trained pianist, Beth had not been encouraged to even attempt improvisation, and she felt frozen and awkward at first, but she discovered that improvisation was natural to her and that music simply flowed out of her hands. She just had to allow it and to confront her fears of making mistakes.
In 2019, she recorded her fifth album. It was created in an interesting way. First, she freely improvised 9 pieces on her grand piano without knowing what she was going to do with them. Then she combined the pieces with new virtual instrument tracks that she created on the computer. The result is “Emergence to Transcendence,” which is full of gorgeous, passionate music with a clearly classical origin.
Also in 2019, she started to broadcast her live improvisational piano music on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/GrannyRocksOn. For a person who was terrified to play in front of ANYONE, it was rather miraculous that Beth was able to livestream weekly for an international audience, but she found the trick: She needed to focus on the music, rather than herself. Forget performing. She was there to give to her audience.
And her audience loves her. Now with over 10,000 followers on Facebook, Beth regularly offers music from her heart and soul, and viewers say that the music inspires, soothes, calms and invigorates them. For Beth, the experience is a little terrifying. She has NO idea what she is going to play when she starts, and she doesn’t have perfect pitch, but her hands move around the keyboard as though they had a mind of their own and the music flows. The livestream is called Beth Green’s Magical Piano Improvisations, and she believes it’s all magical, including the fact that this housebound disabled woman is travelling the world via the internet reaching people’s hearts and souls.
In addition to her weekly livestream, Beth is performing at a variety of online venues, such as New Thought churches and other gatherings, plus she is doing more online concerts. Also by June 25 of 2021, she will have released a sixth album “Peace Beyond Reason: Piano Improvisations from the Soul.” This is an album of 100% improvisational piano music, and she did not have to use the computer at all, except to record the pieces that emerged.
Beth is amazed and grateful. She is finding her niche in the world of music. She has discovered her gift for improvisation, which supports people’s wellness and transformation through sound. Her music is avantgarde classical, which supports the renaissance of improvisation in the classical music field. And, in addition, Beth has been inspired to start teaching free improvisation on the piano. Combining her skills as a pianist and as a very experienced intuitive counselor, she can help pianists liberate themselves from the constraints or fears engendered by their training or their lives, so they can actually follow in the improvisational tradition of the great keyboardist/composers, such as Bach, Chopin and Liszt. She can also support people to improvise in any style as long as they have at least intermediate piano skills. (By the way, she has also done creativity coaching with musicians and artists of all kinds.) If you are interested, please go to www.bethgreen.as.me to sign up for a Liberate the Improviser Within piano improvisation lesson.
You can download or purchase Beth’s music on all the streaming platforms. She is also available to perform live via internet. (If you would like to invite her to perform, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Follow her on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, any of your favorite music streaming platforms.
To contact her about performing or if you have questions about her coaching, write to her at email@example.com