Where Are You Headed?
"If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." –Zig Ziglar
While it's a bit cliche to think about goal-setting this time of year, it sure is a great opportunity to discuss the topic! Goal-setting is a crucial component to progress, and something I encourage all of my students to think about -- both long-term, as well as for each practice session and performance. Keeping a journal, or having a checklist somewhere you can regularly see it are helpful tools. Don't know where to start? Below are some ideas to get you started.
One of my most favorite musical sub-genres, character pieces highlight a particular mood, idea, creature, and often inspired by literature, experiences, or geographical locations. During the Romantic Era, particularly in Germany, many composers sought a more individualized musical style that broke free from traditions and forms from the Classical Era. Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), Franz Liszt (1811- 1886), and Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) were among the most recognized composers of character pieces. Their compositions have been considered a significant milestone in piano literature.
Some examples include Schumann's Kreisleriana, Kinderszenen, or Carnaval. Chopin tended to evoke national images through his polonaises, mazurkas, and Barcarolle. He also favored genres such as ballades and more melancholy nocturnes. Brahms's Rhapsodies, Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, and many of Liszt's Etudes are also excellent examples.
Schumann, Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)
Chopin, Polonaise in Ab
Liszt, Libestraum No. 3 in Ab (Love's Dream)
Becoming proficient in an instrument is a long and complex journey. It involves refining fine motor skills, developing listening skills, and being able to adjust in an instant -- and know how to adjust. Performances and recitals are an important component to the learning process. Some students thrive in it, and others dread it. Here are 10 reasons why they are so important.
1. It's an important milestone in your progress. It's a chance to feel successful, and feel proud of all of your hard work in polishing, perfecting, and memorizing your piece.
2. Hearing more advanced students is a huge motivator. Enjoy listening to all kinds of pieces that you will get to play in the future. Did you hear a piece that you really want to learn? Make a note in your program and tell your teacher about it at your next lesson.
3. Hearing younger students is motivating, too! Is someone playing a familiar tune that felt really challenging to you at the time, but now seems easy? In just 1-2 years, you will look back on the piece you are working on right now, and it may seem easy, as well.
4. Students practice differently. When you know you have a recital approaching, you have a deadline, an end goal, and something tangible to work towards. You'll be more focused on details, polish the tricky spots, and work hard to perfect your music.
5. It gives parents and extended family a chance to show their support and engagement. Share your hard work with the people you love! It also gives grandparents and aunts and uncles a chance to see all of your progress and let you know how proud they are of you.
6. It's an opportunity to attend a live concert, and learn concert etiquette. For some students, this may be your very first time attending a live concert. You'll learn when to clap and how to be a polite and attentive audience member. If this is also your first time performing, you'll learn how to bow and show poise onstage.
7. You'll learn time management, conquering difficulties, and other important life lessons. You know the recital date is approaching, so the time to practice and work hard is now. That line of music that tricks you every time you get to it? Fix it today -- and I promise, it will feel GREAT once you've mastered it :)
8. You'll gain valuable experience in front of a crowd. Feeling nervous and performing under pressure from time to time is part of being an adult -- and a human being! Recitals are a great opportunity to learn to manage nervousness, and what better place than in front of a warm and accepting audience of family members and friends. Having successful experiences under these conditions builds confidence.
9. Recovery from mistakes. A mistake does not mean a failure. A mistake during a performance is a very normal thing, and the best thing you can do is find your way through it, and simply move on.
10. You may learn something about yourself. Trust all of your hard work, trust yourself, and have fun! There's a good chance you'll learn that you're a really good performer, you CAN do it, and you enjoyed the experience more than you thought!
Although summer in Minnesota is in full swing, the start of a new school year stands firmly on the horizon. A fresh start, new challenges, and new experiences will be here before you know it. Whether you are a seasoned musician, or thinking of starting piano lessons for the very first time, below are a few ways to get the most out of our lessons together.
Listen to Music. Great music is accessible as ever! Attend live performances (see below) or tap into your ipad (on-listening), your favorite composer, genre, or artist is right there for you to discover.
Attend Live Concerts. The Twin Cities is chock-full of cultural events all year long! Several are discounted or even free:
Minneapolis Music in the Parks
St. Paul Music in the Parks
St. Paul Orchestra - Club2030
St. Paul Orchestra - FREE Tickets for ages 6-17
Schubert Club - $5 Student Tickets
Kinder Konzerts by Minnesota Orchestra
Minnesota Orchestra - Meet a Musician
Spend Time at the Instrument. Spend time at the piano on the days that you eat. (Psst! That's every day!) Make it a part of your daily routine. Even 5-10 minutes on the busiest of days can make a huge impact, and might even be a welcomed break from rushing around.
Perform. Play for family, school talent shows, show and tell, or Open Mic Night. Sign up to play for a local nursing home or hospital. Everyone will love it!
Competitions and Exams. Get involved in local music organization competitions, contests, and exams. It's a fun way to put your theory knowledge to the test, and/or perform for another teacher. They'll let you know what you're doing well, and suggest new ideas to try. Just ask if you'd like to learn more!
Upgrade Your Instrument. Get that baby tuned! If it's been more than a year, it's time to call your piano tuner. Thinking about upgrading your instrument? I'm happy to help on all fronts!
Listening to recordings from the pros. Listening to recordings of yourself. Both options are tremendously beneficial in their own way as you continue to learn standard repertoire and explore musical interpretations.
It may seem a little scary to listen to yourself, but making a quick recording at home is an incredibly effective way to check in and assess your own progress. Even the process of making a recording will make you tune into your own performance with heightened awareness. How is my rhythm, pedaling, and dynamics? Did I actually shape this phrase the way I intended to? Am I doing better than I thought? Where are places I can give more?
The Big League
A quick online search of title and composer yields thousands upon thousands of results. But who do you choose? The fun part is that there are many wonderful artists with their own interpretations of the exact piece you are learning. Listen to at least 2-3 different professionals, with your music in front of you. Did you just hear someone do something magical to a specific passage? Listen to it again. What did they do that made it so beautiful? Can you try to imitate this sound yourself?
Several pros have established themselves as experts of musical periods or specific composers. While this is far from an exhaustive list, here are a few of the heavy-hitters to check out:
Claudio Arrau. Chilean pianist, 1903-1991. Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms.
Vladimir Ashkenazy. Russian pianist, 1937- . Complete piano works of Rachmaninoff and Chopin, Beethoven sonatas, Mozart piano concertos.
Martha Argerich. Argentenian pianist, 1941- . Schumann, Prokofiev, Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff.
Alfred Brendel. Austrian pianist, composer, author, and poet, 1931 - . Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Liszt.
Glenn Gould. Canadian pianist, 1932-1982. Best known for his performances of J.S. Bach, particularly the Goldberg Variations.
Vladimir Horowitz. Russian pianist, 1903-1989. Romantic works including Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Schumann.
Lang Lang. Chinese pianist, 1982 - . "The J-Lo of piano."
Evgeny Kissin. Russian-Israeli pianist, 1971 - . Romantic era, particularly Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven.
Murray Perahia. American pianist and conductor, 1975 - . Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann.
Sviatoslav Richter. Russian pianist, 1915-1997. Schumann, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Liszt, Prokofiev, and Debussy.
Arthur Rubinstein. Polish-American pianist, 1887-1982. Often quoted as the best Chopin performer of all time.
What are you curious about?
Why do we memorize music? Why was Mozart so important? How does a piano work? Look for answers to these questions and more in my monthly blog. Let me know if you're interested in learning more about something you don't see here: Contact