At Catherine Marie Charlton's first solo piano concert at the age of 18, a woman in the audience was so moved that she sent flowers with a note that read "Only once before in my life has another pianist brought tears to my eyes. You play with both strength and tenderness- how beautiful." The letter now hangs framed in Charlton's studio. Catherine Marie says that “Ever since that day, I have striven to express my passion through the piano, to recreate emotions through sound, and to touch listeners’ hearts with my music.”
As a young girl, Catherine Marie was fascinated by a myriad of musical influences: Romantic and Impressionist piano music from her classical studies, Virginia fiddle music, and new age artists Liz Story, George Winston, and Enya. After completing a combined engineering and music degree from Cornell University, music by various improvisational masters (Keith Jarrett, David Darling, Cecil Taylor, et al.) tilted her more and more in their direction. Charlton went on to perform extensively in a piano-percussion duo, exploring the European and free jazz of her inspirations.
Addressing her creative process Charlton states: “When I improvise at the piano, my goal is to embody mindfulness. In order to musically express my inner emotions and touch listener’s hearts through my own vulnerability, I must surrender to flow and trust completely in all my years of practice. It’s about self-acceptance—not caring what “genre” of music pours from my fingers, letting go of judgement of “wrong notes“, and staying present in the moment without over-thinking the journey's next steps.”
Charlton credits much of her approach to the teachings of long-time mentor, cellist David Darling and his organization Music for People. As a young pianist, Darling was very influential when he told Charlton that her passion and commitment to the moment was impressive. Humbled by his words Charlton has tried to live up to them ever since.
The pianist’s 2015 Maiden’s Voyage marks the tenth album release in her twenty plus year recording career, which began in 1994 when a selection from Charlton’s first piano improvisation CD Strange Attractors appeared on millions of consumers’ desktops as an “example” file in Apple Computer’s QuickTime multimedia software. Red Leaf, Grey Sky won both the Independent Music Awards for “Instrumental EP” and “Best Instrumental Album—Piano” in the 8th Annual Zone Music Reporter Awards, as voted on by broadcasters worldwide. In 2012, the artist celebrated the tenth anniversary of River Dawn: Piano Meditations with a newly re-mastered re-release of the fan-favorite pivotal album, winning the Independent Music Awards’ “Vox Populi Album Reissue”. The original album, which Chuck Elliott of WXPN Philadelphia said yielded “…peace you might not think imaginable from music,” was licensed for release by The Monroe Institute’s Hemi-Sync line of music, as well as for all of the recordings of the United Kingdom’s KG Hypnobirthing, to help mothers give birth gently and calmly. In 2013, she followed with River Flow, another one-take 60 minute improvisation, recorded late at night while her family slept. River Flow went on to win a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor and was nominated by broadcasters in the 10th Annual ZMR Awards for both “Best Instrumental Album - Piano” and “Best Relaxation/Meditation Album”. In addition to Maiden’s Voyage, 2015 also brings performances on several tracks of Jeff Oster’s recording “next.” (Bernard Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Nile Rodgers, etc).
A recipient of numerous grants and residencies from organizations including the Delaware Division of the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, Charlton is currently composing a body of works inspired by the Wyeth family of artists in collaboration with the Brandywine River Museum of Art.
Catherine Marie Charlton is a Steinway Artist.