This post has been slightly delayed due my hectic teaching schedule, but I have finally grabbed five minutes to report on the wonderful student recital that took place in March. Back in December, I teamed up with Bath-based piano teacher Susanna Downes to organise a recital evening, where our students could play their pieces. You can read about this recital by following this link. It was a thorough success and this spurred Susanna and me to carry on what we had started!
We decided to hold future recitals on a quarterly basis, to give a sense of momentum to both students and parents. Having these recitals on a regular basis will give the students something regular to work towards outside of music exams. In music exams, a large part of the marks are given to performance, and yet there is little guidance on how to work on this. This is because performing is something you have to do regularly in order to gain experience; you learn how to deal with the inevitable nerves and demands of concentration.
Creating a performance environment is not a simple task. From a teachers’ perspective it is potentially a logistical nightmare. I have tried to compile a to do list, which is not exclusive, and hopefully gives an idea of what is involved:
- Find a suitable hall that is large enough, has chairs on site and is easy to access for all your students.
- Coordinate with parents to find a suitable date and see if that is available with the hall.
- If there is no piano on site, you need to arrange for delivery, removal and tuning of the piano.
- Invitations/tickets for the recital and repeated confirmations/reminders with parents to attend!
- Arrange Drinks/refreshments.
- Arrive a good few hours before doors open to arrange the hall and for a concert performance.
As I mentioned, this is not an exclusive list and you need to be prepared for all the things that might go wrong! We had one or two minor things, but the main aspects of the recital were well prepared for and as a result it went smoothly.
Organising an event like this provides little financial return for the teacher, and requires a great deal of organisation on top of regular teaching commitments. So why did we go to all of this effort? It was, of course, all for the students and their musical development. I still remember getting an unnecessary amount of nerves in music exams, simply because I was not used to performing outside of the exam room. As a consequence, any fun I could have derived from playing the music was diminished, because I was a bundle of nerves.
The only remedy is regular performance practise opportunities, which conditions your mind and body to the unique situation of performing music to an audience. At the heart of our student recitals, we try foster an atmosphere of support from the audience (who are anyway family and friends) giving the student something to feed off and help settle them into the music. When you can do this, you start to enjoy the music and performing to an audience.
St John’s church hall provided the setting; a medium-size hall, with excellent acoustics, and the essential kitchen area for serving tea and squash! We also continued our proud association with The Piano Shop Bath, who sponsored the evening and really spoilt us. The Piano Shop Bath supplied a Yamaha C7 concert grand, professionally delivered by the the delivery team and expertly tuned by Stephen Cooper. You can see from the pictures how good it looks, but more importantly it has an exceptionally balanced action and tone. As a pianist, I can tell you that having a quality instrument beneath your fingers inspires good playing, as you are not wasting effort worrying about certain keys that are getting stuck, or an action which is too heavy for all those delicate passages you spent hours practising. So many thanks once again to The Piano Shop Bath and the team for making this possible for the students.
As performers and families arrived, it quickly became clear that this event was going to be a sell-out! A fantastic turnout ensured rapturous applause for all the players, all of whom excelled in their performances. The occasion was clearly motivating everyone to play their best; I could tell my students had nerves, but they were clearly rising to the occasion and bringing out polished performances. My weekly teaching advise of ‘remember to keep counting’ was definitely being utilised, to my relief. And it was a very proud moment for me, to see students who I had taught from a point of not knowing a piece, to performing in a recital with such confidence. To answer an earlier question, this is why we put in the work to organise the recital.
All the players were awarded a certificate for their efforts, and seeing those previously nerve-wracked faces replaced by beams of confidence and pride, was a very touching moment. The question soon being asked was, ‘When is the next one?’ Susanna and I have already begun organising the next recital for summer, and I look forward immensely to see how the students have progressed.