Wynn-Anne Rossi is an experienced pedagogical composer with a large catalog of well-written, colorful teaching pieces. In 2012 Alfred printed her 3-volume anthology “Música Latina,” each of them containing about 8 original pieces with different Latin flavors, at different levels.
Rossi knows how to write effective and attractive pieces, even at the elementary level. Volume 1, which is the one I purchased at an MTNA convention last year, contains 8 pieces in different styles: cha-cha, tango, calipso, etc., and a couple of slower lyrical pieces. Not all the pieces sound completely “authentic” – while rhythms and chord progressions often feel pretty true to the original folk genres, some of them (“Alma de Tango” for example) denote more of a search for “flavor” rather than an effort to be authentic.
I particularly like the faster pieces. They are exciting and feature useful rhythmic challenges for the students. The rhythm is at times the most challenging aspect of these pieces. It must be felt by the measure (at a fairly brisk tempo) – if the student gets too caught up with “counting and playing” the pieces lose their momentum and energy.
Here’s a rough video I just recorded of “Ritmos de la noche,” which feature extensive Salsa-like use of syncopation.
“La reina del calipso” also features syncopation and a major-modal feel. Like “Ritmos…” above, its notated in 4/4 but it MUST be felt in 2/2. Students can START learning the piece by counting in 4, but the counting must stop if the piece is to have the needed energy and direction. I often find it more effective to create lyrics and have students sing the lyrics (and involve the students in creating them too). In a way, you may say they are learning it “by ear” or by rote. Exactly! They must FEEL the rhythm, not count it. Of course, it’s important they understand how to count the subdivisions, but students will RARELY be able to play exciting and rhythmic versions of this music if they get caught up in subdividing and counting. You use a different part of the brain when you count, and it slows you and bogs you down.
Finally, another favorite: Café cha-cha. The rhythm in this one is more straight-forward (almost no syncopation here), but it’s still very important for it to be steady and solid. The challenges of this piece include touch (must be played with a crisp and light staccato) and the harmonic writing, which is more complex than in the other two.
In sum, a fun set of pieces, some better than others, that will the the rhythm in your student’s bones from early on. I look forward to taking a look at volumes 2 and 3.
You can purchase the first volume here: