Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Where'd I Put My Glasses?

Great lesson last night.  New student, still learning to read the notes.  And he admitted he hadn't had time to practice.  As we were reviewing his treble clef notes, I observed him leaning closer to the music, pulling back a bit, squinting.  "I wonder if this book is online?  At work I just enlarge the screen."  "Ah, you need glasses," I replied.  Middle-age moment.  "Let's put the book away and approach this differently."

So we did.  First, Twinkle Twinkle.   I love teaching this piece; it's part of a first lesson with kids, but not so with adults.  It took some doing, but he got it.  So well, actually, that his right hand taught his left hand how to play it.  Voila!  Hands together.  Good job!

How about a scale now.  He played C to C, using most of his right hand fingers.  We corrected for fingering, and he got it.  Now add left hand, in contrary motion, both thumbs sharing Middle C.  After a few trials, he got it.  Good, good, now parallel motion, ascending.  Got that too.  We were on a roll!  But we still had 40 minutes to fill.

"What do you remember about Twinkle Twinkle?  Did you know that Mozart wrote 12 variations on this very tune?  Let's add some left hand accompaniment."  (Yes, I've taught the variations, and have the opening theme etched in my brain.)  We learned it measure by measure, left hand first, then adding right hand.  We got as far as "How I wonder what you are" before our time was up.  Depending on his state of denial next week, we might get to add "Up above the world so high."  (Yes, he really needs to get glasses.)

This was the evening for rote learning.  I had a youngster earlier tonight.  This little guy is an amazing reader.  I have a poster of musical terms in my studio.  He has read every word on it, many times.  "Sforzando--that's a funny word!" He's got phonics down pat.  Not so with note reading, however.  I have him in a young beginners book, and we struggle every week.   (Funny, he can identify the notes on flash cards, and he can name the notes on the keyboard, but he can't get from staff to keyboard.  Gotta work on that.)  

We turned the page to find Old MacDonald Had a Farm.  Oh, good, a melody he knows!  He named the notes, he knew which hand starts, he put his hands in position.  "Where do I start?"  Um... left hand thumb, middle C.  After a few false starts, we closed the book.  I told him to sing it while he played.  After the opening C C C, do the notes go up or down?  "Old      Mac      Don 

                             ald."  Sing it -- Up or down?  Yes!  He got it.  We never quite got to E-I-E-I-O; perhaps next week.  

A challenging evening, but always fun.  

Friday, June 3, 2022

Piano Pizza Party

End of the school year, end of the piano year.  How do you celebrate a year of in-person lessons, YAY!, in-person recitals, BRAVO!, and great successes?  Throw a Piano Pizza Party, of course!  I used to have a huge event, at the house, invite all my students, their families, prospects for next year.  That's when I lived in a big house.  Since I downsized, I hardly have room for all my students to gather.  

But gather we did.  Everyone had had a portion of a duet or a trio to learn.  We only had a month to pull this together; our Spring Recital was May 1. These kids were awesome!  The first performance was Ravel's Pavane for Sleeping Beauty, from The Mother Goose Suite,  The two girls who performed had never played together.  They are both accomplished young musicians.  They read well, they learn quickly, and they played very well together.  First read-through was a bit clipped.  We listened to the suggested metronome marking and they played again,  Wow!  Yes, awesome!

The second performer was a youngster,   She has limited recital experience, and was reluctant this evening.  We agreed to skip the performance piece and jump to the party piece, Hungry Hippo. The primo section is all on black keys -- hey, I know this piece -- I played it with my friends when I was little!  She learned the piece in the book, and I taught her a few additional verses.  We had fun learning it, and we had fun performing it for the others.  This little girl was ready to teach it to the other students in attendance!  Maybe at another time; we had more music to play.  In fact, she then played her performance piece, She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain, also a duet, very well.  

The final presentation was Melody Bober's Prelude in G Major, a piano trio, meaning one piano, 6 hands!  We all learned a lesson on preparedness with this one.  The two outer voices had given adequate time to learning their parts; the inner voice, not so much.  Hey, with the demands of end-of-the-year school activities, it is understandable that she just didn't have the time.  She did her best, resorting to reading just one hand.  Still, the piece didn't hold together.  She and I changed places: I played the inner voice and she became the teacher.  I too had not given it much prep time, but we pulled it off.  

My new mantra this year has been Practice Makes Progress.  These kids on Tuesday evening appreciate what that means.  And their prize for their progress?  Pizza!  Funny, everyone had a chair for the performance half of the evening, but once the pizza came out, we all just sat on the floor.  Some good conversation between bites let me know the evening was a success.