Thursday, February 10, 2011

Student Recital

After three weekends of student performances, peace of mind finally returns. I have nights of restful sleep. I’m not sure what makes me more nervous: performing myself, or working with students towards a performance, and listening to them play.
They have to do the work, of course, the practicing, but I always feel I’m in there with it. Have I chosen the right pieces?  If students don’t practice, in spite of the recital coming up, how can I motivate them to do it? Young people have a different sense of time passing. How much can you fit into your day, and how secure do you have to be in order to survive a performance? Teenagers tend to chronically over schedule themselves, and young children often have no sense of time at all. Sometimes, I envy them for their talent of “being in the moment.” 
The only way to learn how to prepare for a recital and how to perform successfully is to experiment. If you fall flat on your face, that tells you you need to do something different the next time. Getting over the disappointment gives you an opportunity to train a life skill. Occasionally, you learn more from a bad performance than from a good one. Regardless of that, I don’t like disappointments or people falling apart on stage, and I try everything to make performance a positive experience, for myself and for my students as well. Maybe, I’m a little over protective.

Celeste, Hanna, Mita and Athy at performance class
Everybody was in good shape at the performance class a week before the recital. We have a performance class every month. It gives students a chance to gather experience playing for others, and listening to others. It also means sharing the work, realizing that it’s a process and no one simply goes out there and does a perfect job. 

Group photo at the library, 
with Celeste, Zoe, Louise, Kenny, Olive and Hanna (left to right)

“I hope they didn’t peak early,” I thought after the class. They didn’t, the playing held up at the recital which we held at the South Orange Public Library on January 29th. Most important, everybody made music, nobody played “just the notes.”  The last piece on the program was a little round we used to sing in Germany when I was a child: “Froh zu sein bedarf es wenig” - “It takes little to be happy, if you’re happy you’ re a king.”  

Louise, Kenny and Zoe had played it three times in the course of the program, giving the audience a chance to learn it. Before everybody went home, we played it in 4 parts, and the audience sang along.

"It takes little to be happy" in four parts

A week after the studio recital, Kenny and Athy had yet another event coming up: they performed at a student recital organized by the Leschetizky Association at Montclair State University
Playing in a public recital like that is a big step. It means leaving the familiar environment of the studio and “swimming in a larger pond.” Students come from different backgrounds, and you are bound to meet people who are your age and they play pieces that are much more difficult.

Athy (2nd on left) and Kenny (last on right) and other performers in the recital of the Leschetizky Association 
We had talked about this - about the fact that different people start to play at different ages, some work harder than others, and some simply progress faster than others. It’s a fact of life that you encounter in other areas as well, and it doesn’t have to be defeating - on the contrary, it can be inspiring. The most important thing is that you do whatever you do as best as you can. They both did, and they enjoyed playing on the beautiful new concert grand the school acquired a year ago.    
When it was all over, I made a mental note to myself that we have to pay more attention to “stage presence” at performing class again. Usually, everybody plays and bows afterwards, but this time, we got so involved in discussing the playing that it fell through - and of course, everyone just ran off after they played their piece at the recital. Also, I might start to print out the programs - so that the students learn what you can do with them other than folding paper airplanes...

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