HANTSPORT, N.S. — Somewhere in the world, someone could be sitting down tinkling the ivories with a song written by a Hants County composer.
It's a thought that brings a wide grin to Rebekah Maxner's face.
Maxner, who has been teaching piano lessons since 1995, recently had one of her songs published by Canada's Royal Conservatory of Music and overseas in the London College Of Music’s 2018–2020 piano syllabus.
“It's kind of fun to be picked up by a conservatory in Europe. My music has gone further than I have. I've never been to Europe myself,” said Maxner.
Her piece, Jazz! Goes the Weasel, was originally part of Maxner's first self-published piano teaching aid book released in 2010, called Old MacDonald had the Blues.
Now, her song is one of nine included in the London College Of Music’s teaching material. She's listed alongside famous composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Thomas Attwood and Anton Diabelli.
“I think maybe getting published by these conservatories is a big affirmation that what I'm doing is relevant and good and that people like it,” said Maxner from her home-based studio in Hantsport.
Passion for music
Maxner exudes an infectious energy when talking about her craft, whether it's what inspires her to create music or simply how proud she is of her students' accomplishments.
Maxner has been playing the piano since she was a little girl growing up in Hants Border. It's a talent that just came naturally to her.
“It predates my memory. Ever since I could walk, I've been going to the piano and making up my own pieces — just fiddling around and just playing,” said Maxner, motioning to a framed pencil sketch that her older sister drew of her when she was a child.
“I've never stopped fiddling around and playing around and seeing what sounds you could get out of the piano. It never stops being fun.”
It's that fun and creative side that Maxner hopes to foster in her students, and what she hopes young musicians take away when they play her pieces.
“There are all kinds of things that music does for you but my biggest belief is that you do it for music, you do it for art, you do it for the enjoyment of actually just making music,” said Maxner.
“That's why I write music like this. That's why I write music that's fun, that has little twists and turns in it because I've always loved music.”
More compositions coming
Maxner is about to self-publish her 10th book of sheet music for young pianists.
“These are books that are more for recitals and music festivals and kids that want to learn solos that sound good,” said Maxner of her Notekidds line of piano teaching aids.
Rock That Train, the latest book that Maxner is getting ready to send to the presses, will have cover art created by Grade 10 student Laura Meisner.
Some of her previous book covers feature the work of renowned Canning artist Holly Carr.
“What I really like to do with my covers is to support local artists. I want a truly Nova Scotia product when I put this out,” said Maxner.
“I'm a Canadian composer but I definitely feel my roots here so my music has a very strong Celtic flavour.”
As Maxner is describing her love of music and what drives her to create, a bell sounds. It's Mozart, a grey and white three-year-old feline, interrupting to say he wants to go down to the basement.
“My students all love him,” she says, smiling at the affable feline. Mozart is aptly named as he sports a white ruffled bib, much like the 18th-century composer. He generally curls up on a nearby chair to listen to her students perform.
Maxner attended Acadia University in the 1990s and graduated with a bachelor of music in composition. She studied piano with John Hansen and composition with Owen Stephens.
Now, she's a teacher, mentor and a published composer in her own right.
“Sometimes, I feel like I haven't found myself yet because I have all these influences and I feel like maybe I'm just copying other people's styles. But, then, in some pieces I feel like it's a true fusion of all of this and that I'm starting to find who I am as a composer,” said Maxner.
“I think that's every composer’s biggest question because you have to find your own voice. It's almost like a writer — a person who writes novels or a poet. You want to find your own voice.”
Maxner has found her voice by fusing together styles to create one-of-a-kind pieces that leave a lasting impression on the listener. She's a member of Red Leaf Pianoworks, a diverse group of composers who share a passion for creating new piano repertoire.
She also regularly provides workshops at Long & McQuade in Halifax as well as at various Maritime conventions. She's also lectured for university pedagogy classes.
Maxner, a member of the Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers' Association, lives in Hantsport with her husband, Paul, and their three children — Nathaniel, Heidi, and Clara — who are all gifted musicians.
To learn more about the Notekidds line of piano teaching aids, or to order, visit: http://www.notekidds.maxner.ca.