JoAnn Derden received her classical training as a pianist at the Fort Worth Conservatory of Music, North Texas State University, and Texas Christian University; Franck, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Tansman were favorite composers. Jeannette Tillett ('JT'), her teacher at the Conservatory and TCU, always introduced JoAnn as the 'poet of the piano,' and with good reason; her pupil demonstrated an obvious musical gift at the ivories. When JoAnn approached JT years later about teaching her daughter, Helen, JT snagged the opportunity for a repeat performance, likely in disbelief at her good fortune.
Alas, as the rest of JT's pupils were adults, Helen - in elementary school - was a bit of a misfit during the two-year stint. However, JoAnn then became Helen's whenever the mood struck teacher, providing fun times for both. When Helen was twelve, JoAnn was confident they were ready to hit the stage (of sorts) as a two-piano team, and they never looked back.
JoAnn enjoyed her many years of teaching and public performance (although stage fright led her to perform one program under hypnosis!), but a favorite pastime was always just ‘making stuff up.’
With the incredibly advanced technology of keyboards and recording equipment, JoAnn has finally realized that she wants to continue doing just that ‘when she grows up,’ taking advantage of her fancy keyboard - a Korg O1W ProX Music Workstation. She says it makes her sound better than she really is, which makes it even more fun!
JoAnn and her husband, Elton, who remained her favorite 'critic' even after 53 years of marriage, moved down the road from Helen and her family in the mountains of North Carolina only a few short months before Elton passed away. Confidence abounds, though, that he is still enjoying her music as much as the rest of the family; with his spirited inspiration, JoAnn has produced some of her best work ever!
She has recorded several other albums, but Dreams for Jeffrey is one of the closest to JoAnn's heart. While her inspiration for this album was her very special infant grandson, Jeffrey, diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the tunes are soothing for souls of all ages. Be sure to read the verses JoAnn wrote. The CD was originally part of The Jeffrey Journey, a book written by Helen and reissued in 2010; it is currently available with the book through Helen or by itself.
Grief: Loss and Recovery was truly inspired from Above just a few short months after Elton's death. It is a stunning masterpiece, particularly powerful because, as always, JoAnn just sat down and started playing. The listener need not be grieving to appreciate its elegance and restorative qualities. It is currently available here.
The Story of Noah's Ark became one of our favorites long before it hit the 'press!' JoAnn's music captures God's sorrow at his humans' behavior and decision to destroy Evil, Noah's faith and trust as he dutifully accepts ark responsibilities, the boarding of the critters, the opening of the heavens, and the promised new beginning. With the few special effects added by JoAnn's son, Paul, you may feel like you're right with Noah! Order here.
JoAnn dedicated her original collection of love notes (then called Remember Romance) to Elton, her husband and best friend. When their granddaughter, Katie, announced her engagement early in 2011 (several years after Elton's death), JoAnn updated a few of the pieces to reflect the changes that had taken place, renamed it Dancin' and Romancin' - A Love Story, and dedicated the revised collection to Katie and her new husband, Paul, for their wedding in June, 2011. It is currently available here.
Order CDs here!
(CDs will be made available through other outlets as soon as possible. Stay tuned!)
© JoAnn Derden 2009