Month: May 2020

Music is what feelings sound like

I love this quote.

It describes so precisely why music has been such an important part of my life. I’m not a very emotionally expressive person when it comes to saying or showing how I feel, but I have feelings swirling around inside all the same. Where do these feelings go?

For me, music has always been the answer. It’s the outlet for all the feelings that I can’t express properly in any other way. Singing and playing music have always been my go-to’s for self-healing and I’m not sure what my mental state would be in if I didn’t do these on a regular basis.

This pandemic and its effects on society have played havoc with our lives and I feel it keenly on a daily basis. It’s given me a lot of emotional and financial heartache and there have been days when I’ve either wanted to curl up into a ball or throw large breakable objects at the walls.

Needless to say, my piano is getting a real workout during this time.

Music is what feelings sound like

Depending on what I’m feeling on a given day, this is what I’m playing to get me through:

  • If I’m angry and just need to forget about life for a while, there’s really nothing better than playing scales. Maybe a little bit of Bach and Burgmuller for good measure. Anything that has a very set rhythm, requires a heck of finger movement and articulation, so my brain is 100% engaged and I can’t randomly start thinking about what to make for dinner for a lonely meal for one.
  • If I’m missing people I love, I play sad, sad love songs. Mostly from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Maybe I venture into the 90s. But never beyond that decade. They just don’t get sad enough once you hit the 00’s. Current favourites are “Where Do I Begin”, “A Time for Us” and “Desperado”.
  • If I’m feeling upbeat and looking forward in a positive way, it’s Disney and musical theatre for the win (with very loud singing accompaniment).

I’m so thankful to have learnt the piano growing up so that I can play myself out of any funk I get into. It’s basically free therapy, and we could all use some of that right now.

Posted by Piano with Po, 0 comments

A Celebration Concert

Four weeks into isolation lock down, I’ve finally found time to get around to those “important, but not urgent” tasks on my to-do list!

One of these was to share about the end of year Celebration Concert that I hosted at my studio last December. Feels like a lifetime ago now…

A Celebration Concert with piano with po

Setting the Theme

For most of my students, this was the very first performance they had ever done in front of an audience.

That’s pretty nerve-wrecking, and while a bit of nerves are great, I didn’t want any of them to get too worked up about it. That’s why I decided to call it a “concert party” as opposed to a “recital” to help set the right tone. A party creates more positive associations and it was the holiday season after all. Nibbles and bubbles (chocolate milk and juice for the kids!) would be served afterwards to really give it more of a party feel.

I chose the theme “Celebrate!” to highlight that this was a concert to celebrate everything that my students had achieved for the year and to get into the festive spirit!

Student Nerves

The great thing about young kids is that they’re not overly inhibited by fear of judgment. The idea of performing in front of 20 people (most of whom they hadn’t met before) didn’t seem to daunt them. The older or more shy ones were nervous, but credit to them all, not one student turned around to say they weren’t going to participate.

I loved that every single one of my students embraced the opportunity to perform, even if the idea of it was scary to them.

The best thing to do with nerves is to channel them into action, and never had my students practiced so hard than in the six weeks before the concert. Even the ones who didn’t initially appear to be nervous started to feel it as the idea of performing became more real with each passing week. Everyone put in extra effort and I could see improvements across the board. This was a huge relief on my own nerves to be honest, as there were times when I wasn’t sure if everyone would have their pieces ready in time.

Concert Day!Piano Studio for Concert

From the outset, it was clear that performance day jitters had hit. The kids were unusually quiet when they arrived and even the usually chatty ones were a lot more reserved. A performance is a performance, no matter if there are balloons and a Christmas tree and smiles all around. I was nervous too, running around like a headless chicken trying to get last minute things in place and worrying about pretty much everything.

In my mind, the definition of success would have simply been for every student to get up and perform. How their performance went was secondary to the act of getting up in front of an audience and playing their pieces from beginning to end.

But not only did every single student get up and perform, they all performed really, really well.

Festive Outfit for Piano Concert!Christmas Ears at the PianoChristmas Colours at the Piano

One of the biggest lessons I’d drilled into my students before the concert was to keep going even if they made a mistake. Every piano teacher has those students who always want to start from the beginning when they make a mistake, or worse yet, the ones that stop altogether and don’t start up again at all.

That is the biggest no-no in performance.

The piece must go on, no matter how big the bungle.

The mantra of “keep going” was something I said to them at every lesson, at the risk of sounding like a broken record.

It must have worked though because on the day, no one had a meltdown, no one needed their parent to go up to the piano with them, and no one stopped halfway to start from the beginning. The kids all were fantastic and the gigantic grins on their faces at the end of the concert said it all. They had hit an important milestone in their piano journey and it felt great!

Can We Do It Again?

In each student’s lesson the week after the concert, I gave them their set of compliment cards so they could read how their performances were received (you can read more about them in this post). Most kids were only really interested in figuring out which cards were written by their mum or dad – no one else’s words mattered! There were some very thoughtful and encouraging comments from the parents and I was glad they had embraced the compliment card idea.

Compliment Cards

In chatting with my students, I was really surprised when a lot of them asked if they could perform again. Not next year, but next week! They had had such a positive experience that they wanted to do it all over again straight away. I’m hoping they will remember these feelings and look forward to it when we do this again in a year’s time!

Special Outcomes

There were two particularly special outcomes from the concert that I hadn’t foreseen but which made the whole experience even more worthwhile.

Two of my students had been really anxious about performing and both had struggled with learning the piano in their own ways. One in particular had started engaging in a lot of negative self-talk and they both seemed to think that they just weren’t good at piano.

Since the concert however, their entire demeanour and approach to the piano has changed. Perhaps the performance gave them the confidence boost they needed?

I’m hoping it showed them the power of perseverance and that they can achieve their goal if they keep working at it. The initial struggle of learning falls away eventually and playing the piano becomes so much more fun once you can do it with a level of practiced skill.

For all of my students, I’m glad the concert gave them the opportunity to strive and to feel good about their achievements. It was a lot of hard work but so rewarding to see all the happy and proud smiling faces of parents and students alike.

Posted by Piano with Po, 0 comments