Summer is a terrific time to organize some extra performance opportunities for your younger private lessons students. Don’t worry if they’ve never performed in front of anyone before – now is the time to start. Performance opportunities help students in a variety of way. Students learn to play well under pressure, and they learn to play through their mistakes, instead of stopping to fix them. They learn poise, professionalism, and they learn how to encourage one another. Performing has a way of maturing a piece of music; the more people your students perform in front of other people, the better, especially if they are transitioning or auditioning for colleges and special groups. Here are a few ideas to squeeze in some fun and exciting performing opportunities for this summer.
Nursing homes. Nursing homes are some of my favorite places to play. They usually have some sort of large activities room, often with a stage and piano. The elderly folks who live there generally love music and children – bringing both front and center will likely make their day. A 45 minute program is perfect. Let students know ahead of time what they may see as far as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, or severely disabled adults.
Coffee shops. Coffee shops may not be willing to give up ‘prime time’ to inexperienced musicians, but they may be willing to work with you on a time that has low attendance. It will certainly help if your students’ parents are willing to come by and drink some coffee, too. Students can sign up for time slots or even rotate. Read more…
Posted in Performing, Practicing, Studio Management
When I toured with The Phantom of the Opera, the actress who played Madame Giry (Patti Davidson Gorbea) said something simple that really stuck with me.
She said, “There is no such thing as a perfect performance. You are always going to make mistakes.”
The reason it stuck with me was because Patti always seemed to deliver a flawless performance. She was always centered, focused, and present. She gave the same excellent, consistent performance eight shows a week, and I think she only missed a performance when she was on vacation.
I have been telling my clients lately, “We are together for one hour today, so you are going to make at least sixty mistakes. At least.”
When we frame mistakes as an opportunities to grow, to break though barriers, and learn, then a really powerful kind of grace enters the teaching studio. Read more…
Posted in Performing
The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Annabel was the most talented pianist I’d ever taught. A complete beginner at seven, she had progressed within six weeks to being able to play fluently with both hands and, while I was away on tour for a few weeks, completed the first piano book on her own. Her hand position was naturally good and her aural skills were outstanding. She could also sight-read expertly. I was delighted with her progress on my return… and therefore somewhat disappointed when she announced halfway through Book 2 that she didn’t want to have lessons any more. She didn’t hate the piano- she just wasn’t particularly interested. She already played violin, was studying German and excelling at school, so reluctantly her parents and I agreed that she could discontinue her lessons.
But her decision intrigued me, and brought up a lot of questions. Read more…
Posted in Performing, Professional Development
One of the highlights of this year’s MTNA National Conference at Disneyland Resort was undoubtedly the Anderson and Roe Piano Duo Concert. These two superstars of Classical piano have such jaw-dropping techniques, charming personalities, and unstoppable chemistry between themselves as well as with the audience. Who did not leave the concert inspired and wanting to play some four-hand music? Thankfully, Alfred has published some of these fantastic pieces arranged by Greg Anderson himself, so we can try to “recreate the fun at home”!
There are four books in The Anderson & Roe Duos & Duets series (so far). I managed to grab two of them during the concert’s intermission, fighting my way through a huge crowd of fans eager to buy their CD/DVD/Books:
This is the easiest of these four beautifully published new books – at least technically speaking! Because of the slow tempo, it actually is sight-readable! This melody is so “indescribably beautiful” that it needs no introduction. I hope one day Anderson will arrange the minuet part of this famous “Dance of the Blessed Spirits.”
Posted in Performing, Product Reviews
I remember being told once by a recorder player that early in their career they analysed every performance and beat themselves up relentlessly over every wrong note. She told me that after every performance she would pull out the score and circle the mistakes she had made (I can only imagine how damaging this would be to her self esteem, seeing the mistakes circled on the score she was practicing with for her next performance). One night after a performance of a Vivaldi concerto, a member of the orchestra pointed out that playing three wrong notes out of the hundreds/thousands in the score was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, if you achieved 97% or 98% in any other endeavour, most people would be positively delighted. So why are classical musicians such perfectionists, and how can we prepare our students for the inevitable mistakes that happen during performance? Read more…
Posted in Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips
by Guest Blogger, Corey Hendricks
One of the most common things I’ve found in students of various levels and styles of playing is that the terms “playing” and “practicing” are often interchanged and not clearly defined in how they approach them. Over and over again, as an instructor of guitar, and especially in the realm of jazz where the focus on improvisation can certainly lend to the ambiguity of these terms, a student may lack in separating them and as a result, progress can be stifled and one’s musical language may become stagnant.
Many times in which I’ve asked a student “what are you working on?” or “how are
you practicing that?” I get a response involving simply just playing passively without
concentration of a given concept, or without clearly defining what they are working
on to begin with. To this, I outline what I feel practicing should be, and how it differs
from just playing. While this may be somewhat selective to improvised music, this
definition can be adjusted and applied to whatever styles, levels, etc… Read more…
Posted in Performing, Practicing
It is festival season for many of us, and the stress levels are rising in the studios and (I suspect) at the homes of our students.
My friend and the mother of three of my students sat with me last week as we discussed how to help her children finish the polishing on their festival pieces. She said, “Frankly, I don’t really care if they play for this, so I’ve had a hard time making them do the extra work.”
I gave her my normal spiel: Truly working toward a goal of a clean, polished, musical, communicative performance is the type of work many children don’t do in many other ways. It’s important to work towards excellence, to reach a higher level than we achieve in our normal day-to-day existence. I also love the feeling of accomplishments my students have had in years past when they have met a goal that previously felt unattainable. I love the power of communication and emotion in well played music. Read more…
Posted in Performing, Teaching Tips
Photo by bingbing
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Henry Ford
“I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.”
I’ve recently started practicing again. Having a chronic health condition means that there are periods of time when it is difficult for me to practice the piano, although I used to be a concert pianist. I look back ruefully to times as a child when I was obliged to practice and didn’t feel like it. How the time would drag! Read more…
Posted in Performing, Practicing, Professional Development
by Karen Spurney, guest blogger
Whether it’s a 5th grader’s 1st piano recital or a high school student’s college audition, every performance is unique and has a certain level of unpredictability. Regardless of experience level, you can never be over-prepared. Listed below are some tried and true tips and tricks to ensure confidence come performance time:
1. Memorize using all your senses
Sight: Practice both with and without your sheet music. When playing without, visualize the line and page you’re on to stay on track.
Touch: Muscle memory is an astonishing thing; sometimes your fingers remember your music better than you do. Practice until you can play your piece without having to think about it, but make sure not to rely entirely on this.
Hearing: Do you know how the melody goes from start to finish? Go back and pick out the melody lines from your piece and play these alone. Try humming the melody the ENTIRE way through.
Taste and smell: Practice breathing with musical phrases while you play. Just as singers time their breaths during a song, musicians should practice breathing as they play their instrument. When your adrenaline is rushing, it’s important to get a healthy flow of oxygen to your brain so you can perform at your peak.
2. Establish landmarks and footholds Read more…
Posted in Performing
Happy New Year….Here I am with more adventures and lessons from the world of the teacher-as-student.
Last post I shared with you some great insights from my singing teacher, Renee Sousa, on practicing and overcoming resistance.
Well, I learned that valuable lesson only to discover that resistance is a tricky, sneaky monkey.
I took a trip to see my folks in North Carolina for Christmas and had all kinds of plans to practice my arias and get ready for the auditions for the LA Opera Chorus that were coming up this month. I had also told Renee that I was planning to audition.
Then the following monologue ensued in my brain over the course of the holidays: “You’re not ready for this. You will get in that room and crash and burn. They will figure out that you are an opera phony. You are already doing great in musical theatre. Just stick with what you know. What if Broadway calls? Opera is a such a niche subculture market anyway. Is that were you really belong? And can you seriously see yourself singing in a real opera house? You’re going to be discriminated against from the get-go once they see that you were in Phantom of the Opera and never in an actual opera.”
You get the idea. So the fourteen times that I saw, “Set up LA Opera audition appointment” on my to-do list, I simply didn’t set it up. I was afraid. Read more…
Posted in Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips