Participate in Recitals
It is wonderful to be able to share your music
with other people. Performing at recitals is a great way to express
your musical skills as well as sharpen your performance skills.
It is also an opportunity to showcase your hard work, build your
self-confidence, and prepare for any upcoming auditions, tests,
or competitions. Every teacher should offer at least two recitals
a year - preferably around mid-Winter and at the end of the school
I strongly urge students to attend as many recitals as possible.
Not only can recitals be enjoyable, they can also benefit
your piano training. I believe there are two equally important
skills a performer should master for any recital: Presentation Skill and Performance Skill. In other words,
performing a well-prepared repertoire is not enough if you
don't have a proper posture at the piano or show no emotion
for the music you are playing. Your body language and your
facial expression can tell the audience a lot about not only
the music but also about you.
So first, before you step out of the house, check
the appropriateness of your attire! I use the following rules
for my children -
Attire: No matter how big or small a recital
is, proper attire shows respect for your teacher and your audience.
The same rules also apply for auditions, competitions and piano
- Boys - no jeans, sneakers, shorts, t-shirts;
should wear dress shirt and pants
- Girls - no mini-skirts, jeans, shorts,
t-shirts, sneaker, or platform shoes; no rings, bracelets,
or colored nail polish; hair should be pushed or tied back from
the face; should wear a dress or skirt that covers the knees
when you seat down (okay for younger girls with shorter length)
There is nothing more distressing for an audience than to see
how uneasy a performer is when they have their shoulders up to
their ears. Relax!
- Walk to the piano swiftly, don't rush
- Check the height and distance of the bench,
and adjust it if necessary, don't feel awkward even if you have
to fuss with it for a while
- Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders,
arms, wrists, and hands, sit up tall
- Make sure to count to the end of the last
measure before lifting your hands away from the keyboard (rests
do count as part of the piece)
- If you are playing multiple pieces, you need
to take a deep breath between pieces; if the audience is clapping
after a piece, wait until the hall is quiet before starting
the next one
- Look at the audience, smile then bow
- Never start playing before you sit
down or get up before your fingers leave the keys
Even if you have the piece memorized but feel more comfortable
with the score, just make sure your eyes are not completely focused
on the score. Concentrate on your performance and don't worry
so much about the notes. Music is not just about playing notes
but your ability to transfer those notes to something beautiful
and interesting to listen to.
- Memorize the piece if at all possible
- Think about playing your piece as if it's
the greatest piece of music anyone has ever heard
- Feel the keys, be expressive, feel the music
- Don't panic when you play the wrong notes,
everybody makes mistakes, it's knowing how to recover that shows
your confidence and preparedness
- If you have a memory lapse in the middle of
a long piece, try to restart at the beginning of that phrase
or skip to the next phrase, try to keep your composure and pick
up right away (see practice)
Once your child has reached a point in their
piano study, you may want them to take the next step to promote
further progress by participating in organized programs outside
regular piano lessons. Most piano teachers are members of different
music organizations and should be able to make recommendations
for programs that are the best suited for your child.
There are several programs available for any
age or level of study:
Auditions: This is a non-competitive
program where children are judged based on their performance.
The audition encourages students to grow in their piano study
and provides an opportunity for students to perform at a recital.
Many organizations in New Jersey offer auditions every year. The
most popular one is offered by the New Jersey Music Teachers Association
(NJMTA). Their annual audition takes place in the Spring
and students who receive the highest marks (i.e. High Honors,
and Honors for higher level students) are requested to perform
at a recital. Students are also required to audition in order
to participate in master classes.
Competitions: The degree of competitiveness
depends on the program and the organization sponsoring it. Many
programs require submission of a tape-recorded repertoire from
which the initial round of candidates are chosen. The finalists
perform before a handful of judges before the winners are selected.
Not all programs offer monetary rewards but they all culminate
in a grand recital. There are local up to international programs
available for students who like challenge and that competitive
edge. See our Music
Organizations for more information.
Tests: This is a non-competitive program
for anyone who either desires to follow a path in piano education
or use it as a supplemental way of measuring progress. The only
program available in our area that administers such tests is the
The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM),
which offers two testing sessions a year. Students work at their
own pace without time, grade, or age pressure to move up.
There are two different tests available for piano
students - Practical and Music Theory Examinations, from Grades
1 to 8. Tests are graded on a point system and a passing grade
is required to move to the next level. The program is open to
all ages and of all performance levels. You can start at any grade
level you feel comfortable with.
Thoughts I highly recommend enrolling your
child in auditions and also taking Piano and Music Theory
tests annually. Not only do these two programs keep your
children on an upward progression; they also set well-defined
goals for your child. I've found that my children work much
harder when they know there is a deadline. I reward my children
only when they receive the highest marks, whether it's a
beanie baby or a choice of place to eat, they need to know
all the hard work is being recognized. Check our MarketPlace for reward ideas.
Even though I set my standards very high
for my children, you must also remember that all judges
are not equal. Sometimes your child may be assigned a judge
who is very demanding or has very high expectations. This
is not necessarily a bad thing but it may be a big disappointment
for your child if they don't receive a high mark. You'll
need to make your own judgement based on your child's overall
To become a true musician, you must also learn
how to listen to other musicians perform. Whether it's the melody,
the dynamics or the structure you are interested in, these are
all integral parts of your own piano study. By listening to other
performers, you will begin to understand the many intricate parts
of a piece of music, and this will help you mature your own playing.
Attending piano recitals is an excellent start,
but it is just as important to familiarize yourself with the sound
of other musical instruments and assembling of these instruments.
Examples of solo instruments would be: cello, harp, clarinet,
or voice. Examples of ensemble would be: choral, jazz, strings,
or brass. It's more crucial to choose an appropriate program for
the age level than the type of music being offered. Metronome
has an extensive Calendar
of Events covering a wide variety of performing events
in your area.
Thoughts This is not to say you should
attend concerts every weekend or every month. I think at least
3 to 4 times a year is ideal. Some concerts are very expensive,
especially for a large family, so I would choose the program
These are my recommendations:
Beginner: I would suggest listening to
orchestral music first (with or without any instrumental solo),
because there are more musical variations in orchestral music.
This keeps younger listeners more engaged. Also start with some
of the more familiar pieces (e.g. Carnival of the Animals, the
Nutcracker Suite or Beethoven's 5th Symphony) so children can
easily respond to the music. This is an exciting way to accustom
children to the sound of classical music.
Intermediate: Now you might want to add
chamber music or a quartet, preferably including a pianist, to
your list. Chamber music and small ensemble groups are a little
more sophisticated than orchestral music in that each instrument
depends on another instrument to make the music complete. As practice,
students should try to find different ways to analyze the music
- either listen for the melody played by each instrument or figure
out how each instrument complements each other.
Advanced: I would only recommend a solo
programs after the student has reached a very mature level, musically.
You want the experience to have a positive effect on the student.
Forcing music on students who are not ready will make no impact
on them later on. Most so programs can be very lengthy and children
who are not ready to absorb all that music will lose interest
within a short time.
Thoughts I brought my 10-year old daughter
to an Ashkenazy concert at Richardson Auditorium. She was
an intermediate student at the time. I was mesmerized by the
performance but my daughter was checking her watch every five
minutes. I was hoping the experience would inspire her to
practice more, and it did for about a week. However, the most
disappointing part of it was she could not remember anything
about the concert. There were a few high school students following
along with their own score in hand. I was so moved and thought
that was the greatest gift any parent could give to their
to Classical Music and Learn about Music History
Exposure to any form of classical media is a
fun way to introduce composers and listen to different musical
styles. Classical music can be enjoyed throughout a busy day even
if your kids prefer rock-and-roll music. I have found those hectic
afternoons chauffeuring kids around for different activities a
perfect time to tune into a classical radio station or put on
a Classical CD. The soothing music helps everyone unwind after
a busy day and calms everyone's mind.
Besides reading storybooks, I have also found
stories on CDs a wonderful way to keep everyone entertained while
traveling in the car. There are also videos on a variety of topics
for all ages, including operas, ballet, orchestra, and well-known
Thoughts I am constantly discovering
new ways to enjoy classical music. Below is a sample from
our collection that I highly recommend for families. For a
complete listing, go to My Recommendations for Families.
Music History and Composer Biography
- My family enjoys stories on CDs by Classical
Kids with titles such as
Lives Upstairs , and
Magic Fantasy: A Journey... . The story is usually
set during the composer's time period and serves as a backdrop
for the music. The theme of the story ties together the music
bringing the history alive. This collection is perfect for younger
- Another composer story on CD is the Music
Masters Series by VOX, (such as
Story of Beethoven ). There is little or no drama
in these CDs, just simple narration on the history of the composer.
However these CDs offer a lot more music and history than the
ones above. This 18-CD collection includes stories on all of
the famous composers plus Dvorak, Wagner, Sousa and Berlioz.
There are many exciting ways for students to
explore piano training beyond playing alone at home.
Ensemble Group: Ask your private instructor
about ensemble playing with other students. Metronome will
be offering a way for you to find a Music Mate in the near future. Whether
you are looking for a piano duet mate or interested in forming
a quartet with other string players, we hope we can help you make
that connection. Ensemble or chamber music group usually consists
of two or more musicians. There can be many combinations of instruments
depending on the score you choose.
Master Class: Never miss an opportunity
to participate in a Master Class. Master Classes are often conducted
by acclaimed musicians or music educators who bring their insights
to the repertoire you are playing. Auditions are usually required
to participate in master classes. A piano master class is a combination
of performing at a piano recital and having a piano lesson at
the same time, like a 'working recital'. The student first performs
for an audience then receives coaching from the maestro. I think
the effort is truly worth the opportunity, even if it's only for