Performing at our recitals

I have really enjoyed Jenny's posts this week about performing for your students and about fitting in practice time for yourself. This is something I've thought about a lot. It is a bit of a downer when I am reminded of how much better I was when I was doing my piano degree than I am now. Depressing! There is no way I can continue to practice 4-5 hours a day now that I am the primary caregiver for two small children, in addition to teaching and other adult responsibilities. BUT, that doesn't mean that I have to stop practicing altogether! Without a performance to prepare for, it is easy for me to put off practicing, because there is always something else that needs to be done. That is one of the (admittedly more selfish) reasons that I perform at all of my studio recitals. An upcoming performance in front of all of my students and their parents is more than enough motivation for me to make sure that my practicing gets done. And really, anyone can practice, no matter how busy they are, if they make it a priority. (Isn't this what we are preaching to our students?) My favorite time to practice is at night after my girls are in bed, but I try to get little snatches done during the day - often just 10 minutes at a time. I remember once I was babysitting a friend's kids along with my own and I got 45 minutes of practicing in because the kids were having such a great time dancing and running around to the music. (It was Prokofiev's Suggestion Diabolique, and its frantic sound and pace made those kids pretty wild!) Anyway, we musicians are pretty good at time management - a vital skill we had to acquire to fit in all the practicing we did in college - and with enough creativity and motivation, we can continue to develop our musicianship in adulthood.

As far as what to play at my studio recitals, I like to learn something new each time. There are plenty of pieces that I've always wanted to play, and it has been a fun challenge to choose a piece, listen to a variety of recordings, decide how I want it to sound, and teach it to myself. (I would, however, like to take piano lessons again someday.)

There are so many reasons to perform for our students! One is to expose them to a variety of classical repertoire that is fun to listen to, thereby (hopefully) generating more interest in different types of classical music. We can show them that it can be exciting to listen to and fun to perform! Another reason for performing is to give ourselves a little more authority when we tell our students what they need to do. :) Students have a lot more respect for a teacher who clearly knows what they're talking about, and what better way to demonstrate that than by showing them good piano habits in action? Performing is a good way to advertise our "product" not only to our students, but to the parents as well, who are paying us and should know what kind of a pianist their child's teacher is.

One concern that may keep some teachers from performing at their recitals is that they will seem like they are trying to upstage their students. I have worried about this a little, but I don't think it has to be an issue. You do not have to make yourself the focal point of the recital - make it clear that the recital is about the students. I've found that my students and their parents look forward to and appreciate hearing me play, which is encouraging, but I make an effort to focus on their child's performance when talking to them after the recital. After all, that is what they really want to hear about anyway. When I was a piano student, hearing my teachers play was a real treat, and I had much more respect for the teachers who performed than for those who didn't. My piano professor in college is a prolific performer - search for "Scott Holden, piano" on YouTube - and he encouraged us to perform at every opportunity when we became teachers. I am trying to follow his advice, and only good things have come from it.

Labels: , , ,