finding a teacher
It is wonderful to be able to
share your music with other people. Performing at recitals is
a great way to express your musical skills as well as sharpen
your performance skills. It is also an opportunity to showcase
your hard work, build your self-confidence, and prepare for
any upcoming auditions, tests, or competitions. Every teacher
should offer at least two recitals a year - preferably around
mid-Winter and at the end of the school year.
Thoughts I strongly urge students to attend as
many recitals as possible. Not only can recitals be enjoyable,
they can also benefit your piano training. I believe there are
two equally important skills a performer should master for any
recital: Presentation Skill and Performance Skill. In other words, performing a well-prepared
repertoire is not enough if you don't have a proper posture
at the piano or show no emotion for the music you are playing.
Your body language and your facial expression can tell the audience
a lot about not only the music but also about you.
So first, before you step out
of the house, check the appropriateness of your attire! I use
the following rules for my children -
Attire: No matter how big
or small a recital is, proper attire shows respect for your
teacher and your audience. The same rules also apply for auditions,
competitions and piano examinations.
- Boys - no jeans, sneakers, shorts, t-shirts;
should wear dress shirt and pants
- Girls - no mini-skirts, jeans,
shorts, t-shirts, sneaker, or platform shoes; no
rings, bracelets, or colored nail polish; hair should be
pushed or tied back from the face; should wear a dress or
skirt that covers the knees when you seat down (okay for
younger girls with shorter length)
Skills: There is nothing more distressing for an audience
than to see how uneasy a performer is when they have their shoulders
up to their ears. Relax!
- Walk to the piano swiftly, don't rush
- Check the height and distance of the bench,
and adjust it if necessary, don't feel awkward even if you
have to fuss with it for a while
- Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders,
arms, wrists, and hands, sit up tall
- Make sure to count to the end of the last
measure before lifting your hands away from the keyboard
(rests do count as part of the piece)
- If you are playing multiple pieces, you
need to take a deep breath between pieces; if the audience
is clapping after a piece, wait until the hall is quiet
before starting the next one
- Look at the audience, smile then bow
- Never start playing before you
sit down or get up before your fingers leave the keys
Skills: Even if you have the piece memorized but feel
more comfortable with the score, just make sure your eyes are
not completely focused on the score. Concentrate on your performance
and don't worry so much about the notes. Music is not just about
playing notes but your ability to transfer those notes to something
beautiful and interesting to listen to.
- Memorize the piece if at all possible
- Think about playing your piece as if it's
the greatest piece of music anyone has ever heard
- Feel the keys, be expressive, feel the
- Don't panic when you play the wrong notes,
everybody makes mistakes, it's knowing how to recover that
shows your confidence and preparedness
- If you have a memory lapse in the middle
of a long piece, try to restart at the beginning of that
phrase or skip to the next phrase, try to keep your composure
and pick up right away (see practice)
To become a true musician, you
must also learn how to listen to other musicians perform. Whether
it's the melody, the dynamics or the structure you are interested
in, these are all integral parts of your own piano study. By
listening to other performers, you will begin to understand
the many intricate parts of a piece of music, and this will
help you mature your own playing.
Attending piano recitals is an
excellent start, but it is just as important to familiarize
yourself with the sound of other musical instruments and assembling
of these instruments. Examples of solo instruments would be:
cello, harp, clarinet, or voice. Examples of ensemble would
be: choral, jazz, strings, or brass. It's more crucial to choose
an appropriate program for the age level than the type of music
being offered. Metronome has
an extensive Calendar
of Events covering a wide variety of performing events
in your area.
Thoughts This is not to say you should
attend concerts every weekend or every month. I think at least
3 to 4 times a year is ideal. Some concerts are very expensive,
especially for a large family, so I would choose the program
These are my recommendations:
Beginner: I would suggest listening
to orchestral music first (with or without any instrumental
solo), because there are more musical variations in orchestral
music. This keeps younger listeners more engaged. Also start
with some of the more familiar pieces (e.g. Beethoven's 5th
Symphony or the Nutcracker Suite) so children can easily respond
to the music. This is an exciting way to accustom children to
the sound of classical music.
Intermediate: Now you
might want to add chamber music or a quartet, preferably including
a pianist, to your list. Chamber music and small ensemble groups
are a little more sophisticated than orchestral music in that
each instrument depends solely on another instrument to make
the music complete. As practice, students should try to find
different ways to analyze the music - either listen for the
melody played by each instrument or figure out how each instrument
complements each other.
Advanced: I would only
recommend a piano solo after the student has reached a very
mature level, musically. You want the experience to have a positive
effect on the student. Forcing music on students who are not
ready will make no impact on them later on. Most piano programs
can be very lengthy and children who are not ready to absorb
all that music will lose interest within a short time.
I brought my 10-year old daughter
to an Ashkenazy concert about four years ago at Richardson Auditorium.
She was an intermediate student at the time. I was mesmerized
by the performance but my daughter was checking her watch every
five minutes. I was hoping the experience would inspire her
to practice more, and it did for about a week. However, the
most disappointing part of it was she could not remember anything
about the concert. There were a few high school students following
along with their own score in hand. I was so moved and thought
that was the greatest gift any parent could give to their child!
to Classical Music and History
Exposure to any form of classical
media is a fun way to introduce composers and listen to different
musical styles. Classical music can be enjoyed throughout a
busy day even if your kids prefer rock-and-roll music. I have
found those hectic afternoons chauffeuring kids around for different
activities is a perfect time to tune into a classical radio
station or put on a Classical CD. The soothing music helps everyone
unwind after a busy day and calms everyone's mind.
Besides reading storybooks, I
have also found stories on CDs are a wonderful way to keep everyone
entertained while traveling in the car. There are also videos
on a variety of topics for all ages, including operas, ballet,
orchestra, and well-known pianists.
Thoughts I am constantly discovering new
ways to enjoy classical music. Below is a sample from our collection
that I highly recommend for families. For a complete listing,
go to My Recommendations for Families.
Music History and Composer
- My family enjoys stories on CDs by Classical
Kids with titles such as
Lives Upstairs , and
Magic Fantasy: A Journey... . The story is usually
set during the composer's time period and serves as a backdrop
for the music. The theme of the story ties together the
music bringing the history alive. This collection is perfect
for younger students.
- Another composer story on CD is the Music
Masters Series by VOX, (such as
Story of Beethoven ). There is little or no drama
in these CDs, just simple narration on the history of the
composer. However these CDs offer a lot more music and history
than the ones above. This 18-CD collection includes stories
on all of the famous composers plus Dvorak, Wagner, Sousa
Once your child has reached a
point in their piano study, you may want them to take the next
step to promote further progress by participating in organized
programs outside regular piano lessons. Most piano teachers
are members of different music organizations and should be able
to make recommendations for programs that are the best suited
for your child.
There are several programs available
for any age or level of study:
Auditions: This is a non-competitive
program where children are judged based on their performance.
The audition encourages students to grow in their piano study
and provides an opportunity for students to perform at a recital.
Many organizations in New Jersey offer auditions every year.
The most popular one is offered by the New Jersey Music Teachers Association
(NJMTA). Their annual audition takes place in the
Spring and students who receive the highest marks (i.e. High
Honors, and Honors for higher level students) are requested
to perform at a recital. Students are also required to audition
in order to participate in master classes.
Competitions: The degree
of competitiveness depends on the program and the organization
sponsoring it. Many programs require submission of a tape-recorded
repertoire from which the initial round of candidates are chosen.
The finalists perform before a handful of judges before the
winners are selected. Not all programs offer monetary rewards
but they all culminate in a grand recital. There are local up
to international programs available for students who like challenge
and that competitive edge. See our Music
Organizations for more information.
Tests: This is a non-competitive
program for anyone who either desires to follow a path in piano
education or use it as a supplemental way of measuring progress.
The only program available in our area that administers such
tests is the The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM),
which offers two testing sessions a year. Students work at their
own pace without time, grade, or age pressure to move up.
There are two different tests
available for piano students - Piano Examinations and Music
Theory Examinations, from Grades 1 to 8. Tests are graded on
a point system and a passing grade is required to move to the
next level. The program is open to all ages and of all piano
levels. You can start at any grade level you feel comfortable
Thoughts I highly recommend enrolling your child
in auditions and also taking Piano and Music Theory tests annually.
Not only do these two programs keep your children on an upward
progression; they also set well-defined goals for your child.
I've found that my children work much harder when they know
there is a deadline. I reward my children only when they receive
the highest marks, whether it's a beanie baby or a choice of
place to eat, they need to know all the hard work is being recognized.
Check our MarketPlace for reward ideas.
Even though I set my standards
very high for my children, you must also remember that all judges
are not equal. Sometimes your child may be assigned a judge
who is very demanding or has very high expectations. This is
not necessarily a bad thing but it may be a big disappointment
for your child if they don't receive a high mark. You'll need
to make your own judgement based on your child's overall effort.
There are many exciting ways
for students to explore piano training beyond playing alone
Ensemble Group: Metronome has a section for you to find a Music Mate. Whether you are looking for a piano
duet mate or interested in forming a quartet with other string
players, we hope we can help you make that connection. Ensemble
or chamber music group usually consists of two or more musicians.
There can be many combinations of instruments depending on the
score you choose.
Master Class: Never miss
an opportunity to participate in a Master Class. Master Classes are often conducted
by acclaimed pianists or piano maestros who bring their insights
to the repertoire you are playing. Auditions are usually required
to participate in master classes. A master class is a combination
of performing at a piano recital and having a piano lesson at
the same time, like a 'working recital'. The student first performs
for an audience then receives coaching from the maestro. I think
the effort is truly worth the opportunity, even if it's only
for 15 minutes!