A crash course on recital etiquette for musicians as well as members of the audience.
Week One of the music festivals is nearly over. It's been exhausting driving back and forth from North Calgary to High River to catch students. As soon as I walked into the house, it was back to a full afternoon/evening of teaching and practicing my own songs, soothing ansty parents, pushing stubborn students who are dragging their feet on the exam preparations (and assigning names of students to the influx of white hairs on my head) and collecting registrations for next year. My students who have played so far played as well as expected. Some were still scrambling till the last minute to memorize their songs (which were supposed to be memorized two months ago). Not surprisingly, their performances were wobbly. Some succumbed to nerves, while others fell back to bad habits that I had been trying to break for months.
There were a few shining stars. There's my nine-year old student R who is steady as a rock. Steady progress and steady work habits. She got excellent comments at the festival and a mark just a couple of hairs off Honours with Distinction for her composition. Now, we just have to work at getting her rhythm in trouble spots steady as a rock.
Then there's my little showman S. This 11-year old consistently selects toe tapping songs that get the entire audience engaged in the performance. It also helps that he really gets into whatever song he's playing and flirts with the audience with his sparkling eyes and smile.
The next two are opposites: C is a 15-year old with a really good musical ear. She improvises for hours at home. After months of hounding her to write down her song, she finally did for the festival. She just missed Distinction by a couple of hairs also with her composition.
Finally, 12-year old D. She's been with me since the beginning of my teaching career. She's gone from a quiet and shy girl who only wants to play what's on the page, scared to make a mistake to a performer who impressed the adjudicator with her beautiful improvisations based on a catchy tune.
I just have a handful of students yet to perform. Then, my students and I will tear apart their songs a few more times to work on attaining a higher level of passion and technical precision for the next round of recitals and exams.
May 12, 2007 note: I need to add one more "shining star" to this list. Ten-year old R surprised his parents and myself earlier in the year when he expressed his desire to take his Gr. 5 piano exam in June. Since then, we've been working hard on his songs and technique. Fingering and rhythm have always been a challenge for him (or perhaps it's just the detail work). Prior to his performance last Saturday, I had him tap out his opening rhythm to Christopher Norton's Danger Danger. As I thought, the rhythm was a little off. I corrected the rhythm and had him practice it while I went to give two of my students who were also performing a pep talk.
When this guy is "on" he can draw the audience in. And that morning, R was "on". He nailed that rhythm and delivered the strongest performance in his class. (c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.
"Sturm und drang" - "storm and stress" - these words not only apply to music, but to other aspects of life.
It's amazing how much "sturm und drang" in one's personal life affects other areas. Things are settling down on the home front. One of my room-mates moved out earlier in the month. Let's just say that things really didn't work out. The house has regained its tranquil feel. I no longer have the urge to play the most dissonant music on the planet at triple fortissimo (although it was great stress relief). Maestro and my remaining room-mate have a spring to their step once again. I've been playing perky songs.
Most of my students are heading into festival/exam season in a pretty good position, with most of their repertoire and technical requirements memorized. Each year, we get better at timing. The main challenge now is to help the students take their music to the next level of musicianship and expression without them peaking too soon before performance day. There are a couple of students who could go either way. If they buckle down now, they will do fine on the exam. If they don't...the road will be very stormy and stressful indeed.
For the first time in APTA Festival history, the organizers are offering a Teacher performance class. I've been humming and hawing whether to learn something new or enter one of my senior student's songs, which I must practice anyway. I've got a few days to decide. With another busy year on the ARMTA Calgary Board ahead of me, I will most likely pick something that will provide enough of a challenge without undue stress.
Thankfully the Calgary Iaido Club has decided to host a seminar on Niten Ichi Ryu instead of both the seminar and the national Iaido Tournament. As exciting as the latter would have been to host, it would have been a challenge for us to make it work for this year.
All in all, life if back to a manageable level of sturm und drang.
(c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.