Friday, August 20, 2010

The Importance of Concerts

A sad day has finally arrived. Today is the last day of my summer break. The weekend is very full and a new semester of music classes begins on Monday. While I am enjoying this final day of vacation, I am also putting the finishing touches on courses and making plans for the new year in my piano studio. One of the most surprising decisions I have made is that I plan to have a studio recital this year. This is especially surprising considering the fact that I always DETESTED these forced performances during my early years of musical training.
As I was thinking about repertoire choices for my students, I began to realize how important it is to have them perform. Public performances allow the musician to experience the joy of sharing their art with an appreciative audience and take the pursuit of the instrument out of the practice room alone. The benefits of playing in a recital extend beyond the musical development of the child as well. Performing increases the student's confidence, self-image, and creativity while diminishing their fear of appearing before a large crowd and feelings of inferiority.
Given all of these benefits, why would I hesitate to prepare my students for a studio recital? Aside from the logistical difficulties of securing a convenient location and quality instrument, I also do not look forward to dealing with the pressure often applied to students by over-bearing parents. (I'm experiencing one case of this now – before the child's first piano lesson – and it will probably be the topic of a future post.) While well-intentioned, parents can do great damage to the blooming young musician by placing undue pressure and unrealistic performance expectations on the child rather than encouraging them to enjoy the experience of making music for their friends and family. My studio is still relatively small at this point, so the possibility of comparison between pianists is great. "Why didn't you work as hard as Jenna? Did you HEAR how beautifully she played?" Such comments detract from the individual accomplishments of the student and place the focus on their inferiority in comparison to other players. It is important to remember that no two musicians develop along the same tract and at the same rate. Rather than focusing on the negative, I encourage parents to find the points of growth in their child's playing and focus on the positive.
I'm in the process of selecting repertoire for my young pianists and have discovered a wonderful resource that I want to share with you. Lynn Freeman Olson has compiled and edited First Steps in Keyboard Literature: the Easiest Classics to Moderns in Original Forms. Distributed by Alfred Publishing, this collection is a perfect addition to the piano teacher's library if you are looking for repertoire to introduce your beginning students to Classical literature. The selected pieces are rarely longer than 1 page and many of them are composed in a basic 5-finger position. Rhythms are simple – nothing more difficult than some running eighth notes – and the scores are large and clearly arranged, making them perfect for young eyes. I anticipate purchasing several copies of First Steps in Keyboard Literature this semester as my students and I begin the journey towards our first recital together.
I would love to hear about your first experiences with a studio recital. Your success stories will encourage me to keep the faith. I'll also welcome any stories about mistakes you made that I might be able to avoid. On Monday, I will examine the concert from the other side of the flood lights and explore their importance in the development of the educated non-musician. Let the sharing begin!