"Magic and Music are two lovers that don't often get a chance to trumpet each other's praises in a safe creative haven. With Margie Balter this happens from the first inspired note, to the way the songs linger in your mind, your spirit and in your soul." -TAJ MAHAL
"Fluid, intuitive and intensely personal, Margie Balter's piano music pulls you into landscapes both haunted and hopeful, joyous and vivdly rendered." -THOMAS NEWMAN
Every so often, an artist comes to the forefront, unafraid of tradition and formalities, speaking his or her truth straight from where it matters most; the heart. Margie Balter is one of those unique talents. For Margie, music seemed like an easy and natural way to express things when words would not suffice. Throughout her life, when she had something to say, she often added some kind of music, comedy, or theatrics to help get her point across.
In fact, her first love was theater, especially musical theater. In fourth grade, Margie formed her own children’s theater company called THE PLAYWRIGHTS. She wrote all the plays, such as “The Adventures of Little Miss and Timothy Baking the World’s Biggest Birthday Cake,” and “The Adventures of Little Miss and Timothy Getting Snowed In by Magical Snowflakes.” She also wrote the music and songs. She says, “I don’t know how I knew to have a theme song but I did, and I played it on my little portable organ.” She starred as Little Miss, the main character, cast her friends in other roles, built the sets, and booked the gigs. They had lots of jobs, mostly at other children’s birthday parties but also at all kinds of functions. Because they were so young, they became quite well known. Margie kept the group going until seventh grade when she “became serious about Shakespeare and boys.”
She discovered the power and beauty of the piano early in her childhood, and began taking lessons with the father of a world-renowned conductor who wanted her to study classical music in a rather strict fashion. Instead, Margie began writing original songs, re-writing songs that were already written, and adding words to symphonies and classical pieces. She says “I was constantly making up all kinds of things, had a big imagination and a creative fun approach to the piano.” Her teacher encouraged none of this.
She had numerous other piano teachers in classical music but was especially turned on by three jazz artists that she studied with, including pianist Frank Cunimondo, world-renowned saxophonist and head of University of Pittsburgh Jazz Dept., Dr. Nathan Davis, as well as Bill Evans’ bassist, Gary Peacock.
Although she originally went to Northwestern University to study theater, she ended up studying ethnomusicology at the University of Washington in Seattle. There she received a Cum Laude B.A. and had the opportunity to study and perform with virtuosos from Zimbabwe, Ghana, Turkey, China, Laos, and Bali. Additionally, Margie played in various jazz bands, funk/R&B groups, reggae and salsa bands, and ten different African ensembles.
She played marimba, rattle and drums, and was a featured dancer for five years in the popular Seattle-based Dumi and the Minanzi Marimba Ensemble. The ensemble had great success and opened for such acts as Grover Washington, John McLaughlin, the Neville Brothers, Burning Spear, and Taj Mahal.
Not only does she have a shining resume of performance experience, Margie also has a fabulous day job as “Piano Teacher to the Stars.” She says “I became the piano teacher I wanted to have. I care deeply about my students, and love and cajole them into having a fantastic learning experience.” Margie’s film coaching career took off when she coached Holly Hunter for the film The Piano. Hunter earned an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. Following the success of The Piano, Margie coached Tom Cruise for Interview With The Vampire, Sandra Bullock for The Net, Barbara Hershey for Portrait of a Lady, Scarlett Johansson for The Man Who Wasn’t There, Jack Black for The Holiday, Sanaa Lathan for HBO’s Disappearing Acts, Kevin Spacey for Beyond the Sea, Stephen Lang and Chris Demitral for Journey of the Heart, Wade Allain-Marcus for Berkeley, and Susan Sarandon for Twilight.
Margie has six credits in the film Beauty Shop, starring Queen Latifah, in which she coached Paige Hurd and Djimon Honsou. She also composed a piece featured prominently in Hurd’s piano recital scene, and played and arranged solo piano segments for the film.
Other composing credits include US Olympic Committee film City of Gold, the score for the Sci-Fi thriller Lightspeed, starring David Carradine and Karen Black, and numerous pop songs. Her solo piano piece Watching the Days, described as “contemporary, lyrical, passionate, and beautiful” was published by Alfred Music in 2005.
These days, Margie enjoys every opportunity that utilizes her creative skills. She says, “I have been involved with music every day of my life. It is not something that is separate, but rather, my life.” In MUSIC FROM MY HEART, Margie paints a portrait of self-expression and moving heartfelt emotion She says, “I love it when songs just come to me, and I love it when they come in dreams. I enjoy the challenge of trying to solve the puzzle of what I almost hear, the chipping away of the idea to get it right. I really love collaborating and have written songs with a large number of super talented players and writers. I feel very blessed about this and about sweet inspiration, because I have zillions of ideas that are always buzzing around. Music is for everyone. It has been a thrill to teach, compose, play, and, I hope through music, speak directly from my heart.”