If you've enjoyed the experience of hearing the breathtaking piano orchestral music of Mary Beth Carlson on her best-selling recordings or seen her perform live in concert, you can appreciate and identify with acclaim from critics throughout the country. There's a uniquely personal story behind her music that has captured the attention and touched the hearts of countless listeners everywhere.
Q: How has your family influenced your music?
A: My parents helped instill in me a love for music as far back as I can remember. My earliest recollection of playing "by ear" is at age four when I heard my dad playing "Silent Night" on our spinet piano. It just didn't quite sound like the "Silent Night" I'd heard sung in church. I remember sitting on the piano bench after he finished and began experimenting with my own rendition. My parents decided I may have inherited some musical talent from my mom's side of the family. From that point on, they encouraged me to play for church functions as well as every social gathering held in our home. I began classical training when I was ten years old and blended my composition skills with sight reading. This led to improvising, composing and arranging songs for "The Trones Family" singers, including my brother and two sisters, to sing professionally at special events and benefits throughout the Midwest. It wasn't until I married my husband Kent and began raising a family of our own that I became serious about writing music with messages of hope and healing.
Q: What brought about this remarkable turning point in how you approached composing music?
A: Jody, our second of three daughters, was born with cerebral palsy and autism. At first this reality was devastating, but I quickly became determined to reach Jody in any and all possible ways. I learned that music was a strong bonding force between us as I gradually realized her increasing level of responsiveness to songs I sang to her and piano music I played for her. I was asked by Fraser Community Services, an organization that serviced Jody and individual needs of other children and young adults with disabilities, to perform a song to commemorate their tenth annual board of directors benefit. In an effort to personalize this opportunity and show appreciation for the help they'd given Jody, I wrote "If You Could See Through My Eyes" which they adopted as their theme song. The piano instrumental version of this song appears on the album
Once in a Lifetime. This experience marked the beginning of my career in writing music with lyrics. In my quest for understanding Jody more deeply, I wrote this song as a perception of what she sees, thinks, and how she feels about her world. This project helped me to cope with the reality of having a child with severe disabilities as I attempted to also nurture the healing process in other parents of children with disabilities. Jody currently struggles with a severe mental illness that developed shortly after the loss of her grandfather. It's more important to me than ever to communicate a message to others who are impacted by those with special needs. "Peacegiver", "One Day", "Whisper Hope", and "A Brand New Day" were all written with a grateful heart in response to God's gifts of peace, hope and joy during this journey with Jody. My hope in writing songs to honor individuals with unique challenges is to increase understanding, appreciation, and respect for these special people, and to make others aware of the contributions they make in our world. We greatly need to support and encourage each other. I composed "A Place In Every Heart" to celebrate meaningful relationships; with gratitude to friends who lift me up throughout all seasons of my life.
I continue to write, record and perform songs with healing messages of enduring love, compassion, hope and peace. "On the Wings of an Angel" from the album After the Rain is a song written for all three of our daughters. It's a personal story about my experience of giving our daughters room to grow as I gradually 'let go', allowing for increased opportunities to become independent and achieve their dreams.
"Treasures of the Heart" is a tribute to my father-in-law who lost his battle with Alzheimer's Disease. Through his actions and kind deeds he taught me much about giving with a joyful heart, treasuring the simple gifts of life, and honoring faith, family, and friends in a place of precious priority.
Although there are no words sung on most of my recordings, I often write lyrics inspired by people who touch my life to give a deeper dimension to my compositions. These lyrics are printed on the liner notes inside the albums to tell the stories behind my songs.
...with a variety of entertainment from a wide selection of music to please listeners of all ages including storytelling, occasional accompaniment from world-class musicians and vocalists, and spectacular video presentations that enhance her live piano performance. Mary Beth's concerts are a heartwarming experience filled with warmth and intimacy and spiced with high-spirited humor, wit, and spontaneous musical vignettes. Overall, expect an uplifting performance infused with passion.
Q: How do you choose music for your concert performances?
A: Audiences are graciously responsive to hearing songs that I've written inspired by people and events that have had a meaningful impact on my life. I love interacting with the people who have come to share their time with me, and sharing with them the story of who I am, what's most important to me, and why. Much of this is revealed through songs I've written, recorded and performed specifically for the International Special Olympics, Children's Cancer Research Fund, Arc, Fraser Community Services and The Alzheimer's Foundation. They also seem to enjoy hearing how I interpret works of favorite composers including Pachelbel's "Canon in D", Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", Gerschwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me", and John William's "Theme From Shindler's List".
Q: What are some of the most unique and memorable concert venues at which you've performed?
A: Every concert event is unique and memorable because of the warmth, openness and enthusiasm of each audience. I've enjoyed performing "dueling piano" concerts with great friends including Jim Brickman at the Historic State Theater in Minneapolis and Steve Hall in several cities around the country for a fun "twist" to my concert schedule. In addition to solo piano concerts, I frequently feature an outstanding male or female guest vocalist who "sings the story" that inspired my original songs, occasionally accompanied by gifted orchestral artists. Among my favorite concerts was an exciting opportunity to perform with my dear friend, Joni Eareckson Tada, at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN. Besides internationally known for her exquisite artwork, conference speaking and best-selling books, Joni is an extraordinarily talented vocalist.
I was honored to have been invited by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to present a concert of restoration to guests from forty countries at The Cove in Asheville, NC. I'll never forget the awesome realization that every word I spoke during that concert was translated into several languages, but when I touched the keys of the piano, the headsets came off, the interpreters paused to listen, and we were all united through God's wonderful gift of music, the universal language.
Q: To what or whom do you attribute your success?
A: Music is a beautiful, treasured gift from God. I am grateful He is leading me on a journey in which I have opportunities to share this gift. I know I'm on the right path when I hear from appreciative listeners who tell me moving stories of how the music He has given me has been personally meaningful in their lives.
Q: Mary Beth left a successful and rewarding career teaching second grade to pursue opportunities in the field of music. What led you to this decision? Do you have regrets, and how has this impacted your music career?
A: It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. I love children and greatly miss the day to day joys of watching them learn and grow. I especially miss the magic of teaching through music, composing songs for my students in search of an instructional method that would reach students of all learning styles. Each year I was challenged with a diverse group of children with needs including academic, physical, and social/emotional disorders. Singing was something all of my students seemed to "connect" with and enjoy, so I wrote several songs to correspond with our district's curriculum and to encourage positive self esteem and cooperation in our classroom. Teaching was energizing, and I thrived in this role. However, I had an impassioned desire to spend more time creating and sharing music. My husband suggested I inquire about a part-time position as a pianist at the brand new Mall of America. I began playing on weekends at Nordstrom, and people's requests for music I performed sparked an interest in a recording endeavor. At this point I had to choose between teaching and the music profession. I resigned from teaching, but continue to enjoy being surrounded by children while playing familiar tunes during an occasional a segment especially for children at a concert.
Q: How do you define success?
A: When I have made a positive difference in someone's day by saying or doing something to help make them feel cared for, special or important, I am blessed. When I observe my children giving to and loving others unconditionally, the intrinsic reward is indescribable. When I connect with our daughter who is autistic through our special lullaby, a psalm of praise, or a moment when I'm singing to her and our eyes meet; I see her soul, and all is well. When the gift of music from my heart is being used to touch the hearts of others, the glory, or success, is attributed to the Giver of all gifts. In the grand scheme, success is a continuing 'long and winding road' filled with many stepping stones, some of which will be achievements, others failures. Success is a journey of hopes, dreams, and certainly aspirations, but not necessarily destinations.
Q: How does your faith affect your music?
A: God has opened doors for me to give back His gift of music in so many creative, exciting ways I never imagined possible. One of my favorite songs is "On Eagle's Wings" by Michael Joncas. I wrote an arrangement for this piece on the album, A Bridge Over Time, also later appearing on Signature, that reflects my gratitude for how God gently and safely holds me in the palm of His hand. "I Live To Follow You" from the Faith CD is my response to the 23rd Psalm. It personalizes my testimony of faith and commitment to walking with God and trusting Him in all circumstances.
My goal is to continue sharing the music He's put in my heart to help provide peace, hope and inspiration in this fast-forward world of change and challenge. It's pure joy to freely communicate my deepest thoughts and feelings through this gift.
Press Release / Concert Introduction
Mary Beth Carlson, composer, recording artist, author, inspirational speaker and former Teacher of the Year, performs nationally as a pianist and speaker for a wide variety of special events. As Lead Pianist at Nordstrom Mall of America for nearly 15 years, she managed piano entertainment for most of those years.
Much of her original music has been inspired by her daughter Jody, who was born with cerebral palsy and autism. She's written and performed music for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, International Special Olympics, Arc, Fraser Community Services, Children's Cancer Research Fund, Alzheimer's Association and Joni Eareckson Tada's ministry, Joni and Friends.
Fortunate to have opportunities to perform for a variety of distinguished audiences, she was particularly honored to have been invited by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to present a concert of restoration to guests from forty countries at The Cove in Asheville, NC. Decision Today, Dr. Graham's nationally syndicated radio program, interviewed her as their featured guest. She's been invited to participate in disabilities outreach conferences with Joni Eareckson Tada, internationally renowned author, artist and speaker and also performed in concert with Joni at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN. Mary Beth was interviewed on KTIS Radio in St. Paul, MN for a five day series about her journey of faith.
Mary Beth has produced and recorded twenty-six albums of piano orchestral music which are distributed by MBC Productions. Her most recent release is Sanctuary ... inspiring songs of peace, praise & worship. She's been featured on other CDs with Jim Brickman, Patty Peterson, J.D. Steele, The Blenders and Steve Hall, and additional inspirational CDs by Integrity Music with artists including Sandi Patty, Darlene Zschech and Don Moen (Christmas Worship).
In 2009, Mary Beth collaboratively created a comprehensive music experience program for residents in Memory Care for The Goodman Group Inc., LLC, a company that owns and manages senior living, health care, and residential communities throughout the US and Europe. The project involved arranging, producing, and recording familiar vocal/instrumental music and coauthoring a correlating book of thematic curriculum. Due to its overwhelming success, Volume II was completed in 2012.
Also in 2012, she joined Dr. John Gray (Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus), best-selling author Brian Tracy and others to coauthor a new book titled Words of Wisdom ... Experts Share Strategies For Mastering Life & Business Relationships.
Beginning in 2015, Mary Beth and her husband Kent began developing an integrated, intergenerational music curriculum for residents in senior living communities throughout the country for Grand Living, a new, innovative company specializing in the development and management of distinctive senior living communities with a hospitality focus.
Married for forty-one years to her husband Kent, they've raised three daughters and reside in Eden Prairie, MN. They immensely enjoy spending time with their eight grandchildren.