Substitute for a Piano Recital
Ramona H., Alaska
I want to share a little about my recent substitute for a piano recital. Since I remember those occasions as being heart-thumping, hand-sweating occasions where many performers and parents experience stress in varying degrees, I wanted to do things a little differently and reinforce Simply Music’s philosophy that sharing music is an enjoyable experience. The school year is drawing to a close here with some students moving away and some leaving for the summer, so it seemed an appropriate time to host a piano event, before students went their separate ways. I rented a local church sanctuary for the evening ($35, plus I had to do the clean-up afterwards). This church has a beautiful baby grand piano, and my primary goal was for each of my students to experience the privilege of playing it for a few minutes. I scheduled each student for a 10 minute block between 4:30-7:30pm. Rather than asking them to attend the entire evening, I asked that they come to hear the person before them, then stay and listen to the person after them. This only required 30 minutes out of their schedules at a busy time of year. I was pleased that several students came right at the beginning and stayed for nearly two hours, and most students and families came early and stayed later than required. The students were told to invite as many or as few friends and family members as they wanted to be there, but the crowd averaged about 10-20 there at all times.
Two weeks before the open house I asked each student to choose at least three songs to play – an accompaniment piece, a blues piece, and a classical-type piece. They were to time these at home, and then add other favorites to their playlist until they had 10 minutes worth of songs to play. Some students thrilled me by putting together a blues medley, and others wove together several songs that shared the same position (Dreams Come True/Dog?/Ode to Joy, etc.). For the accompaniment piece, I invited singers to come and gather round the piano – some parents and siblings came up, and many of my younger students bounded to the piano to sing along with their fellow piano friends. It was very precious to see (and hear)! The neat thing is that it didn’t matter if many students chose the same pieces to play, as the audience was forever changing. One little beginner has only had 11 lessons, but she played through the entire Level 1 book. It was amazing to listen to her confidently play through each song, without a piano book in sight, showing no hesitation or nervousness.
One of the highlites came at the very end. I had two adult women who have always been very reluctant to play in front of others – they are both in private lessons, due to scheduling conflicts. I scheduled them for the last two slots of the evening, and we waited until the preceding audience left before they played. The first woman, in her late 50’s, and moving through the SM program very slowly, invited several of her children to come and support her. She also brought her 3-year old grandson, who has told her that she plays “really good” (she related that to us as she began). As she sat down at the piano, she handed me her list of pieces – she had chosen 5 songs, including She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain and Greensleeves, which she has just learned. The family gathered round the piano and sang Amazing Grace, then stayed there to sing along with the last woman while she played her accompaniment songs. She has only had 10 lessons, is very timid, but plays beautifully. Her new husband stood proudly and belted out Honey Dew – very sweet.
All in all, it was a great evening – quite informal, included some mistakes and surprises, but was loaded with lots of smiles, laughter and encouragement. I didn’t notice any sweaty hands or reluctance to come up and share, and the students loved playing on the beautiful baby grand piano. I will definitely build on this idea for the future!
Original discussion started May 22, 2006