Friday, April 10th: Lowe Arts Center, Marion, “Coffeehouse Night” – solo show, 7-8:30pm

Friday, May 1st: Mirage with Amy Stoner at Campbell Steele Gallery, Marion, 7 to 10pm

Friday, May 15: Tapestry: the Music of Carole King, Mt. Vernon Community Center

Friday, July 17: Mirage, Friday Night Concert Series, Iowa City ped mall, 6-9:30pm


My most up to date gig calendar can be found here:


Thanks for supporting live music !!


Mirage Success!


Mirage: Jean Luc Ponty Project’s debut at Campbell Steele was sold out! And an absolute success, we are ecstatic about the project and looking forward to our upcoming gigs.

More information about this jazz fusion project can be found in the following articles and on the Mirage facebook page.

Mirage Article in City Revealed Magazine

Mirage in Hoopla


Eastern Iowa Folk Club

Based on the folk clubs experienced in Scotland, musician Natalie Brown hosts this monthly event (last Monday of the month – next event, Monday February 24). **Any style, any age, any level.** Please come along and share a tune, song, poem, story or just come to listen and meet folks. Ground floor meeting room at CSPS – use box office entrance. ~~Coffee and tea will be provided! ~~

Rather than a jam or open mic- everyone that would like to contribute sits in a circle and one by one individuals (or duo, trio) perform one tune and continues around the circle (so everyone gets at least a few contributions) – instrumental, ballads, unaccompanied singing, stories, poems, whatever is your style. No pressure, it’s not about talent or competition, it’s about community, respect, and sharing!

There is much more to this folk club story – with possibilities of guest artists and extended spots, could also involve rotating venues/cities- this is just a start! Let’s get something good going! Join the folk club online: Eastern Iowa Folk Club



Immersed in so many fabulous projects it’s hard to know what to say!

Hard at work practicing, writing up charts, and testing out effects pedals for a project that I’ve always wanted to do…it’s really happening and really coming together! Mirage: Jean Luc Ponty Project, featuring Ponty’s fusion violin compositions, Zappa tunes and so much more. Working with phenomenal guys: Rich Wagor on bass, Jon Wilson on drums, Ryan Phelan on guitar/vocals and Luke Viertel on keys. This is a dream team and a dream project. SO excited for our gigs coming up in April and May! http://www.facebook.com/mirageponty

ORENDA is a band that was put together for the Iowa Women’s Music Festival this past September – and we have been invited to play at the NATIONAL WOMEN’S MUSIC FESTIVAL this summer! Absolutely honored to have this opportunity and to be a part of this exceptional womens group: Lojo Russo, Gayla Drake, Kimberli Maloy, Laurie Haag, Kim-Char Meredith and Natalie Brown. http://www.wiaonline.org/  http://www.facebook.com/OrendaBand

Very excited to be the newest member of The Feralings with brilliant musicians and songwriters: Nicole and Benjamin Upchurch, Patrick Bloom and Stacy Webster. http://www.facebook.com/TheFeralings

I’m playing keys for the Grateful Dead tribute band, Winterland – we have lots of fun gigs coming up: https://www.facebook.com/winterland73

Also have shows coming up with Gayla Drake – fiddle duets, Irish, Scottish and American traditional tunes and some of Gayla’s beautiful songs! Magic happens. https://www.facebook.com/GaylaDrakeInfo

The Mayflies have some gigs coming up, excited to rock out in Dubuque at Eronel on Friday, March 21 and at Parlor City in Cedar Rapids on March 23!! https://www.facebook.com/themayflies

I’ll be playing with Craig Erickson and our jam band at Jazz Under the Stars on August 14th.

And of course, along with all this – it’s gearing up for busy season teaching orchestra at Washington High School – spring is contest, competition and invitational time! I’m also enjoying my first year teaching string techniques at Coe – it’s fun finding ways to teach the basics of how to play violin, viola, cello and bass all squeezed into a term. And my research from last year in Scotland continues – I’m looking forward to presenting my updates at ‘Steppin Steens o Knowledge': Folklore, Ethnology and Ethnomusicology Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland this July.

Yay! Busy busy and loving it.

*Up to date gig schedule, videos, mp3s, and much more all here: http://www.reverbnation.com/nataliebrownviolin

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Somehow it is already June, classes done, exams done – feeling great about it all, just don’t know where the time went. Just the dissertation to tackle and complete! This is a brief update- but first to say I’ll have a major overhaul to my website shortly- to make it more accessible to me, to you: as a musician’s and educator’s site and research resource!
I recently had a great visit from my aunt and uncle- we started with a visit to Portsoy for a music festival, my uncle Clarence sang and seemed to immediately have the audience in a trance.

In Portsoy we met Gaelic singer and language/culture advocate- the amazing Griogair Labhuridh, who invited us to a breath-taking visit to the Glencoe/West Highlands area.

Spectacular and dramatic landscape, stories of the land and lots of music and song sharing!!

My mom is the last to visit later this month – and I have some performances and directing here and there over the 30 days in between dissertation writing- then back to Iowa!! Lots to do when I get back – besides planning for the upcoming school year, check out my gigs page – starting to fill up with exciting and special events! Plus- get ready for the Cedar Rapids Folk Club announcement (based on the unique Scottish folk club format that I’ve learned so much about and enjoyed here).
~~More updates and details to come after I re-do this website!

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Since the last post…

Lots of traveling, music and studies!
From playing with Aberdeen’s bluegrass band at a carousing Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve)
Hogmanay at the Blue Lamp
to playing the national anthem for the US delegation at the International Softball Cup 2013 in Rotterdam, Netherlands – this winter has been an absolute adventure!
A side trip to Paris ….
….and attending a traditional Burns Supper in Garlogie, Scotland have been magical as well.
Burns Supper
Haggis, neeps and tatties!
Now, while in classes, I am beginning to really go in depth with my research. I am finding that there is excitement for my research interests. I will be starting observations and interviews of music educators this month. As a teacher and a musician my main focus in the degree program is how traditional music is passed on from one generation to the next.
I am investigating the relation between music educators personal history (influences, training, and such from childhood on) and their current practice/suppositions/point of view.
So I’ll be speaking with these educators about the transmission of traditional Scottish music from their perspective in a variety of educational settings.
I’ll be doing some recording projects this and next month with local musicians and in the spring I will be doing a recording of my own to document and communicate some of my musical memories and techniques learned here!
In April I will be back in Iowa for a week during my spring break and will have a couple performances – Thursday, April 4 at the Lincoln Wine Bar with Craig Erickson and Saturday, April 6 at Gatherings with the Mayflies. If you are in Iowa please come around and say hello!
Then I’ll be back to Aberdeen to continue with classes, exams and dissertation until late summer. I am looking forward to all this spring and summer will bring and to returning to Iowa and teaching in August!!

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Music, Castle and ‘Tightners’

Enroute to the Doric Festival concert in Rothienorman I had my first ‘High Tea’ at Kintore Arms, Inverurie- High Tea= main course (scampi, neeps, chips, green beans, vegg), toast, and then fancies with tea. Quite the ‘tightner!’ The Doric festival featured bothy ballads, fiddle tunes and Doric verse.
The trip to Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven is a trip I will never forget. The ruins tower over the cliffs that lead to the sea. Breathtaking. It was a wonderful day with class-mates, in awe of the beauty of the castle and the power of the sea.
Next was a trip to the Ellon Accordion and Fiddle club. Performers from age 10 to 80s. My rendition of Ashoken Farewell was complimented throughout the night and onstage by the featured musician- Iain MacPhail, whose band was foot stomping awesome!
This weekend was the Perth All Scots Accordion and Fiddle Festival. Perth is a beautiful city with quite different architecture from Aberdeen. Looking forward to heading back there to explore more sometime.
I was so happy to see all the fiddlers, the junior, senior and under 12 — 29 competitors in all. So I was able to see many renditions of march, strathspey and reel sets. When I went to the Kirriemuir Festival there was only one fiddler- I was wondering what that meant for the status of fiddlers but this festival in Perth was a better look at the scene. Actually, the one fiddler from Kirriemuir ended up winning the Senior Solo Championship in Perth! The judge for the fiddlers was Marie Fielding- a well known musician, composer and fiddler. Got to see her perform at a session and concert that evening. She was inspiration during the fiddle auditions – stressing the importance of the fiddler and traditional music.

The accordion and band championships were also amazing- blazing talent!! It was said that the senior accordionists were of the highest quality ever, and after the six finalists had played for the second time the judges went away to deliberate and when we left an hour later, they still had not produced a result!  Of course, had to have a few ‘tightners’ – breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toast. Lunch ‘denner’ was minestrone and dinner, ‘supper,’ was tasty spaghetti and meatballs at an Italian restaurant!

I have band rehearsal tonight with ‘Oval is Back,’ a four piece band with fellow University students. We have a charity performance coming up next week. And I’ve had my first performance with Denis and the Menace- traditional and local popular music trio at Denmore residential home a couple weeks ago. As Denis reminds me, I will have to be on my toes for future performances as the other 2 members are regularly dragged out in mid-performance to move their cars (and occasionally get locked out leaving the third member to run the show). Between all that, yes I am keeping up with my classes- essays, research, keeping busy and loving it!
And a quote from Denis of things to come: “Natalie has still quite a bit to go to becoming an Aiberdeen quine. She still has to experience real haggis, neeps and tatties, the malt whisky and the eightsome reel, and she disna even ken fit first-fittin’ or a reid puddin’ supper is!”

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Home in Aberdeen

I’ve been in Aberdeen just about a month now and I am really settling in. The flat feels like my home, the streets seem familiar, and the people here have made it easy for me.
I can still remember that first walk down High Street to the University and seeing the King’s Chapel on Campus. What a sight! And in the days to come, I wandered to the city centre, to the beach, to parks, and to various open mics, folks clubs and sessions.
The people at the Aberdeen Folk Club gave me a warm welcome my first visit, letting me borrow a mandolin and play a few tunes. Since then I’ve been back every week with my violin and feel as though I’ve been accepted as a musician and friend. The folk club is different than a session where everyone jams at once… a folk club is when everyone sits in a circle and each individual plays or sings one by one. I was in awe of this set up my first time, Irish ballads, funny stories in Doric (local dialect), and all kinds of instrumentalists. There’s a mutual respect and appreciation, no matter the skill or talent. Through this folk club I am now a member of a traditional trio (sometimes quartet) and have some performances coming up!
I have played solo at two open mics- a bit of tango, jazz and folky things – and have met people that way as well. Next week I’ll be playing in a pop duo with someone I met at an open mic, and in 2 weeks I’ll be playing jazz standards with another chap. The music and people I’ve experienced here in Aberdeen are diverse, entertaining and genuine.
I am looking forward to classes starting next week. Induction and registration to the graduate program in Ethnology and Folklore begins Tuesday. My first classes will delve into ethnology and folklore concepts, specifically in Scottish contexts. Not only will there be lectures and tons of research and reading, but fieldtrips to browse through archives and museums.
Tarland session
I think the experiences I’ve had here so far- meeting people, asking a lot of questions, learning about local music curriculum in the schools, hearing and participating in a variety of traditional and non-traditional music experiences have been a great start to a year in Aberdeen, Scotland!


Why Include Alternative Strings in Orchestra Curriculum?

Including alternative styles in middle school or high school orchestra programs can lead
to a variety of benefits for the student and teacher. Alternative strings can develop flexibility
and expressiveness and can encourage independent playing. These benefits can lead to a string player who is more knowledgeable about his or her instrument and more likely to continue playing into adulthood.

“Alternative Strings” is a relatively new term used by members in the string community,
especially American Strings Teachers Association, for styles outside of the typical,
primarily classical orchestra repertoire. It includes jazz, blues, fiddle, Calypso, Cajun, tango, folk, rock, pop and many other styles.

Some teachers do not think these styles belong in the music classroom. Most orchestras play strictly Western and European orchestra literature or “the classics” by “the masters.” They feel that it is a time-honored tradition to play these pieces and that proper musicianship and technique can only be learned through incorporating classical literature.
Why change? Also, most teachers and classical musicians have little to no experience or training in alternative styles. They may even be scared about approaching alternative music and improvisation. Can improvisation be taught without proper training? Can you teach the blues? Teaching improvisation is now one of our nine National Standards for Music Education: improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.

Teaching improvisation is a national standard, but
we do poorly in terms of preparing our future teachers to teach improvisation.
College music students need to roll up their sleeves and actually do it-then
they will have more tools when they begin teaching. If national standards
dictate that improvisation be taught, then universities should provide adequate
instruction in improvisation. (Turner, 2007)

Music students grow up in a musical environment influenced by parents, friends and their surroundings. It is typically a diverse mix of music. Alternative styles are
everywhere, and many of these styles, such as jazz, blues, and old-time fiddle,
developed in America. Many styles include improvisation, embellishments and ornamentations. Examples can be found in Baroque through Romantic music. The cadenza was often an improvised or ornamental passage in a concerto.
Improvisation is a part of world music, including non-written or aural
traditions such as gypsy music or the interplay between the sitar and tablas in
Indian music. Improvisation offers an opportunity to expose students to world music.
Classical musicians and teachers may be afraid of looking away from black dots on the
page, but it truly is natural and could be a great source of inspiration,
motivation and creativeness for everyone.

“I think it’s vitally important that we study the
music of our own country, and jazz certainly is America’s classical music,”
says Lesa Terry, founder of the Uptown String Quartet, studio teacher and
faculty member at California State University at Los Angeles. ”Stereotypical
perspectives of being ‘that music over there, that music that is not legit’ get
tossed to the wayside when we refer to jazz simply as American music. String
players should know American music, they should study it, and they should
understand it.”

”Improvisers on any instrument end up playing
music for longer periods of time in their life,” says pianist, guitarist,
arranger, and composer Bert Ligon, who is director of jazz and the jazz string
band at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. ”If a high school kid
leaves high school and he’s just played the second clarinet part in the band,
he probably puts away the instrument and never sees it again. But if he improvises,
he’s more apt to end up playing the rest of his life. We all know that there is
a great deal of art to re-creating music, but creating something of their own,
either composing or improvising, gives students the opportunity to identify
personally with music.”

Indeed, jazz as a genre is distinguished by a
performer’s ability to create his or her own individual sound, or voice. ”We
often speak of playing jazz music as having an ability to tell a story,” Terry
says. ”As classical musicians we aren’t as encouraged to do that as we are in
jazz. The study of jazz technique gives you all the necessary tools to discover
what you have to say, then tell that story in a really interesting way, in an
individual way.” (Bratt, 2002)

Not only can immersing students in alternative styles and improvisation
give them an individual outlook and voice on their instrument, but it can also
push them to be more active on their instrument in school and after they
graduate. ”Improvising opens up a whole new world of future professional and economic opportunities too,” says violinist, author, and twenty-five year teaching veteran, Geoffrey Fitzhugh Perry. (Bratt 2002)

Improvization and alternative styles give students
a completely different experience with their instrument. They learn to work or connect with it differently, learn more chordal and harmonic ways to look at the fingerboard, and often experience different techniques that are appropriate within the unique style.
Paula Zeitlin, violinist, studio teacher, and a jazz string teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, says,

jazz is one way that string musicians in particular get an inner map of their
instrument, a harmonic map. On a keyboard you can see the chords and visualize
them. I think a lot of string players who start playing jazz are at a
disadvantage because we haven’t been trained to have this kind of inner map. It
isn’t something you read; you play and then you learn it.
”Articulation and time are enhanced by studying improvisation,” Zeitlin
continues. ”Most people really get good time by playing jazz. You have a
different sense of time and you have a different sense of where the pulse and
the beat start and end as well as the smaller subdivisions of time. Intonation
problems are solved, and the students learn harmonic information and also the
range of possibilities on the instrument which include slides, double-stops,
particular types of effects that you might or might not get in a classical
piece.” (Bratt, 2002)

Alternative Strings can be an educational experience in many ways. The curriculum
can involve a cultural and historical exploration of a style, it can include
listening to a variety of recordings by performers of the style, students can
analyze and recognize similarities and variations within a style and can then
relate it to what they can personally do on their instrument to imitate,
respect and explore the style.

Many music publishing companies now put out alternative strings materials. Alfred
Publishing Co. has a lot of titles in their “Alternative Strings Series”. JWPepper.com is a great resource for pop,fiddle, and alternative style sheet music.
Teachers could also arrange pop tunes or even tango music for string
orchestra. Fiddle tunes can be taught by ear. Stringscentral.com has a list of
alternative strings clinicians who could visit the school and discuss how they
became involved or introduced to their particular style or could give a
workshop on improvisation.

What I have done with a class is arrange a simple
exercise to try improvisation for the first time. I either have the class learn the G Blues scale or just use a one octave G scale. I
assist the bass player with a simple chord progression using I IV V
chords. Once the bass is going, everyone
else can be instructed to do a little rhythmic accompaninment based on the root
of each chord. Once the groove is going,
the teacher can improvise on the G scale or G Blues scale over the
accompaniment, every student gets a chance to try it out. Students are shy at first and may find it difficult, but even if they just stay on an open G and play around with the rhythm they are at least giving it a chance.
As different styles or chord progressions based on the same scale are
introduced, and as students explore the fingerboard and improvisation, they
will become more comfortable. This method gives some structure with a chord progression and scale. Students may be surprised that jazz and
improvisation do have structure and rules.
Another way to improvise may be saying something like, “what does red
sound like,” or “play something sad.” Suggesting moods and colors can be an interesting way of getting
students to be more personal and inventive with their improvisation.

Music is interactive, individual, personal, and creative. Students should be able to
experience a variety of literature, methods, and styles. I think it is important for string players to recognize the diversity of their instrument and its wealth of
possibilities. Stringed instruments have a rich history all over the world and an alternative strings curriculum will open teachers and students to a world of opportunites.

Bratt, Renata. Jazz Improvisation for Strings? Why Bother?
American String Teacher 52:4 (November
2002) p. 54-56, 58-59

Turner, Matt. Improvisation
in the Classroom: Watering the Seeds

American String Teacher 57:3 (August 2007) p.

Lieberman, Julie Lyonn. 2004. Alternative Strings: The New Curriculum. Cambridge: Amadeus Press, LLC

Alternative Strings Websites:
http://www.lightbubble.com/bowed/ Electric violin resources

Sheet Music:



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