Saturday, April 24, 2010

Music, and 1000 Posts

I have written over a thousand posts on Blogger! The milestone passed last week, but I didn't note it.

I was looking over my category labels and thinking about how I would like to change some of them, and I realized that I have only three posts on piano, and not even a category for 'music'. That is kind of odd for a former music major and music teacher. I wondered why I didn't have more, and all I can figure out is that music is so very important to me that I want to get it exactly right. I don't think I am as good as I ought to be at something I have studied so long, so it is hard for me to write about. (That says something about the topics I *do* write about, but I am not sure what, lol.)

Anyway, I'm going to try to let go of my insecurity regarding my musical knowledge and skill, and write more about it.

Right now I am working on some accompaniments for the girls' violin teacher's music studio recital. I have a concerto by George Perlman, another by Telemann (which I love), the Ashokan Farewell (theme of Ken Burns' "Civil War" documentary) and various and sundry little Suzuki pieces that I have played several times over the last few years as accompanist for this studio.

I love accompanying singers and musicians; the synergy that occurs when both performers grasp the same interpretation and take the music where it ought to go is the most thrilling aspect of music to me. (This is also why I love singing in small groups, or even large groups.) Accompanying students in a music studio has an added dimension-- the teacher's expectations regarding tempo and dynamics. When I accompany someone, I feel that my job is to make them sound good; but in an educational studio, my job is to keep the tempo going and aid the student in meeting the teacher's expectations, as well as covering any mistakes.

This is so much fun! I don't know why, but I just like it.

So when I practice the studio accompaniments, I use the metronome a *lot*. It doesn't matter that I played this or that piece at 92 for last year's student; this year's student needs the piece at 88 or 104. Switching gears like that can be a challenge, but it keeps the music fresh.

I am also assisting my own piano students in preparation for recital in a month. I love watching them grow and catch new concepts. I have always started with rank beginners, and three of my students are beyond that now. I never took pedagogy classes at the university, but I am applying CM method to what I know about playing piano, and I think we are going to some good places with the intermediate music. I have done some in-depth music theory study with one of my students this year, and he is on track to be able to play both classically and in a more 'jam session' improvisational style.

I am rather astounded at the ability my students have to improvise because I am not good at it-- I am a classical girl through and through! Give me the sheet music and I can sightread it, but hand me a fake book and inspiration goes out the window! But I teach from the Suzuki books as well as another set of method books (and whatever else I find that I think will help), and Suzuki is so intuitive, they end up simply absorbing natural laws of music. Amazing. Cornflower, my 9yodd, can actually sit down to the piano and play musically relevant two-handed arrangements of music she has only heard on CD-- including Broadway, folk and classical.

I wonder. I did not teach them this. I am not good at it myself. But the choosing of materials for study is apparently very important! I know enough about piano to teach them the skills they need to read and interpret those Suzuki pieces, and I knew enough after listening to the pieces to realize that they were infinitely preferable to the usual monotonous "this is up, this is down, let's go up and down" arrangements of method books. And the order of pieces in Suzuki builds their intuitive knowledge of music.

Very exciting stuff. I have a friend who works at the local music store and teaches piano, and she has been helpful in my decision-making processes regarding which books my students should use. I am going to see if she will let me take lessons from her either this summer or next fall, to work on some technical difficulties I have. I am watching my intermediate students approach my early advanced skill level, and I want to be ready.

I generally play a piece myself at the piano recitals, as a way to demonstrate where we are going, and encourage the students in their scales, arpeggios and fingering studies. This time, I am torn between two pieces-- an early sonata by Beethoven, and a polonaise by Chopin. The polonaise is lots more fun, but I just picked it up again a week or so ago after not having played it for years. I found a recording of Horowitz playing it, and I am sufficiently humbled and embarrassed to even be thinking about playing it "in public". So maybe I'll save that for the Christmas recital next school year. I have the technical aspects of the Beethoven sonata down and am working on artistry.

I am also working with Aravis on voice. This *was* my area of focus in college, and I am discovering some classical prejudices I learned in the music department! I am having to overcome some things in order to teach her Broadway style singing. She is currently working on music from the musical, "Wicked". Mariel, too, is branching into solo voice, and is working on a Dan Fogelberg song. I ought to be working more with the girls in the area of harmony and trio singing, but with all the other music practice they do, their drama schedules, and regular schoolwork, we just can't fit it in. I have a madrigal arrangement of "Three Blind Mice" that I have wanted them to learn for a couple years. Maybe this summer.

There are a couple of other musical activities in the idea stages, and if they pan out, we will have even more musical focus next year. I feel like we already have a lot, and I don't want to shortchange other things like history and English and science, but oh! I want my kids to have all the musical experiences they can.

So that is the exciting musical part of my life. I love it! I wish I had gotten my music degree in college, but maybe after the girls have graduated. I can see this turning into a main life focus for me after the kids are up and out.


Jubilee said...

So, I love Dan Fogelberg.

And you.

And his "Same Auld Lang Syne" is the same melody as the 1812 Overture. Without the cannons.

Just sayin'.

Katie said...

Aw, that's so sweet.

I love you too. I don't get enough "Jubilee" time. :)

(We should fix that.)

Mariel is singing "Leader of the Band". It's one of my dad's favorite Dan Fogelberg songs.