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Last Friday was my teacher's studio recital: In a church, nice grand piano, me and 10 children aged from 8 to 18.
All the kids are great players, regardless of age. They play from memory, and rarely make any technical errors. They even play expressively and musically. Amazing really.
Then there is me. The only adult. I go first, to separate me from the kids, who play from youngest to oldest. This places the focus of the recital on the children, which is where it should be, but having the 59 year-old guy go first is a little stressful.
It didn't go well. My Schumann Arabeske was full of errors. My Mendelssohn 38/6 had an huge error right at the climax of the piece.
Looking back over my short career as an adult restarter, I have played in 7 recitals. Of those, I gave an "acceptable" performance at 3 of them. The other 4 ranged from near disasters to just plain bad.
I don't know what I can do to improve my average. Playing in more recitals doesn't seem to help. I feel like I am prepared as much as I can be. The night before this latest recital, I played both pieces as well as I ever had for my teacher.
It is disappointing, so much so that I am thinking of not participating in any more live studio recitals. There is another one in May, where we will be playing pop music - I am not looking forward to it.
I have often thought that a better alternative would be to have an all-adult recital, but my teacher only has one other adult student, and she (wisely?) refuses to play in any recitals. I think that I will ask my teacher if she knows any other teachers with adult students and if they woud be interested in a combined recital.
Of course, even that will probably not help my performances - it may make them worse!
I play a lot of gigs. 4x a month for seniors, maybe 7 or 8 times a year with the band. I don't think I'd do recitals.
For me, music is community music, something to share. Something where the audience is on a par with the musician. It doesn't feel like a "performance". I think there are people who approach recitals that way. I'm not one of them The word "recital" invokes feelings of a teacher showing off her students. I know that parents want to see their children play, and I think that's legitimate. But it doesn't feel like sharing music to me.
The closest I come to a "recital" is a music marathon where there are numerous musicians, mostly piano players, in an afternoon-to-evening recital (if you will) that's a benefit for scholarships at a branch of a college. The audience comes and goes as they please. That still feels close enough to being community music to me that I like playing it.
How did you feel about playing at your musicians/neighbors party? That would be more like my kind of music event. Live music as part of the community. The Denver piano parties are like that, and it sounds like the Arizona one was. The on-line ABF recitals have that feel, rather than a "recital" in the formal sense of the word.
It may be that you're simply in a place in your life where sharing your music, which I think you like to do since you also play with Laurie, plays a different function for you than a recital does. Maybe for you sharing your music is no longer about showing people what you can do, and more about everyone in the room being there for participation, even if they don't play
Just a thought. But it's the way I play.
I'm off to the Alzheimers unit in a couple of hours, as matter of fact. The music is a highlight of their day. And I get to play
Perhaps "more music" is always the answer, no matter what the question might be! - Qwerty53
Seven recitals isn't very many. Don't be so hard on yourself. You have a 40% success rate!
Also, why not just use the music? Memorize, yes, but then try going back and forth between playing with the score and playing without -- you will see where the weak spots are, and probably why they are weak. There are a million ways to practice and work on this. You may find over time that it gets better.
I am in a group aimed at giving adults opportunities to perform,* and almost all of the people use the music when they play. There's nothing wrong with doing so, though I know how it is -- I, too, wish I could play comfortably from memory. I can do it if I put my mind to it, but it doesn't feel natural (on the piano, at least).
Sometimes I feel happy about how I've played and then listen to the recording and feel very frustrated at how it sounded.
But you know, if it was TOO easy, what would be fun about it?
*The Adult Music Student Forum, which was started years ago by the "fossils" guy rnaple mentioned just above -- who also happens to be my teacher right now.
The in-class recitals we do with my teacher are adult students only. You're right, it doesn't help the nervousness much, but at least everyone else is just as nervous and hyper-aware as you are! So I think it's a good idea to try to find a teacher who might be interested in a shared recital with their adult students.
Or you could just find other ways to share your music. As long as you enjoy playing the piano just for the sake of it, I don't think you *have* to do recitals. It's not as if you are a conservatory-bound fifteen-year-old. You pave your own way. Decide for yourself what you do and don't want to do. And when something no longer seems worth your time, just stop doing it.
Last week, my teacher offered me the option of pulling out of the upcoming class recital, planned for March 29. I've been going through a rough patch on multiple fronts lately, and she said "there are others with good reasons who chose not to do this recital." I plan on telling her I will be doing the recital anyway. There are always a hundred good reasons not to do it. But for me, there is one reason to do it that trumps all the rest: I started taking lessons specifically because I wanted to get over my stage freight. If I now start pulling out of performance moments every time the opportunity to do so presents itself, I will be undermining my own goal.
So for me, participation, in and of itself, is enough of a goal. I don't really care how well I do, although in reality, I am of course hoping it will be wonderful. But I think you must have something similar: a core motivation to either do it, or not. The answer could easily be 'not', if the reasons you are taking lessons have nothing whatsoever to do with performing in front of other people. But if you do have a core reason to do it, and you can identify that reason, then that might allow you to focus on the micro-goal, and forget about the rest (the children who surround you, the audience, the general quality of your performance, ...). And I think that might even make it easier to play better at these things!
Plodding through piano music at a frustratingly slow pace since 9/2012.
Standard disclaimer: I teach many things. Piano is not one of them.
Oh, be careful. If this keeps up you could develop a real aversion to performing, which would be a shame.
When preparing for the next recital, make sure you run though your pieces in front of an audience. Not your teacher - grab family, friends, whoever, and ask them listen to you play. Not to give feedback, just listen. Performance brings up a special type of nerves that can send the most well-rehearsed piece awry. It sounds like it's performing itself, rather than the playing, that's causing problems. Get used to playing your pieces to people, and it will make getting up on stage much less daunting.
Also, meditate. If meditation doesn't float your boat, just breathe - before you perform and, more importantly, while you're playing. When I perform I have tendency to hold my breath. It doesn't help at all. Noticing this and remembering to breathe will help you relax, which will in turn help your playing.
Finally - don't compare yourself to the kids. So, you made some mistakes - so what? It is what it is. You have strengths in your playing they don't have, and vice versa. Just focus on yourself, and when reviewing your performance afterwards be analytical rather than self critical. It's so easy to focus on the errors, but try to think about the sweet spots too.
Believe me, it does get better with time and experience. I speak as someone who has had some absolute performance shockers - we all have off days!
Sam, first of all I really admire you because of your decision to play - only adult - in a children recital. I am in the same position, I was offered to participate in the June recital, all the other students being children aged 7 to 15. My children are both in, the younger doesn't like to play in public, last year was scared. So far, I only agree to play a duet with my elder son. Saranoya told me to go also for a solo piece, and she has good arguments. My teacher told me that, until I don't make faces, people in the public don't hear errors, they are only waiting for their children to play; maybe it was the same for you, they were not so careful - and for sure they forgot your performance in five minutes. We'll see... I would like to learn to play in public and I know that I should grab the possibility!
Consider that, even if you made mistakes, you have really polished your pieces, and that thanks to the recital! thay will stay with for a long time...
My teacher has a recital each spring for her students(mostly children and teenagers), and she also has them enter an assessment with the Piano Teacher's Guild, where their skills are assessed. Each student is expected to play pieces from memory, as well as demonstrate skills, like playing scales.
I have only taken lessons since last September, knew absolutely nada about music when I began, and have just worked worked through two thirds of Alfred's Book 1. For those reasons, I have chosen to forgo participation in these events this spring, mainly because I would prefer to spend my time increasing my skills, as opposed to memorization. I have started memorizing a few pieces, and find it terribly time consuming for me.
That being said, I have no objection to my participation in these events in the future(read that next year). I certainly would appreciate an independent evaluation of my skills in the Guild assessment. And I've already spoken to a very accomplished friend, and we may decide to perform a duet for fun during the recital. But as a mature adult, I certainly feel as though its my choice to participate, or not, depending on my desires at the time.
I dont know if that helps at all, but as many others on this forum have said, enjoy the journey, and have fun!!
"It is disappointing, so much so that I am thinking of not participating in any more live studio recitals. There is another one in May, where we will be playing pop music - I am not looking forward to it."
And now read a quote from Joturs reply
"I'm off to the Alzheimers unit in a couple of hours, as matter of fact. The music is a highlight of their day. And I get to play"
And now recite this cliche..." Attitude is everything"!
Don't forget the saying "Two steps forward, one step back". It seems you are having a 'back' moment and that is perfectly normal. If playing piano was so easy, EVERYONE could do it and it really wouldn't be so special anymore. I know you have the talent and can tell by your performances how hard you are trying at every single detail. Sometimes I wonder if you are not trying too hard!
My suggestion is too take the self imposed stress levels down a notch and start enjoying yourself. Playing piano is supposed to be fun and a stress reliever. Not the opposite.
There is a reason why I go out of my way to tell people how much I don't know because I really don't. I think you know that. But at the same time, I truly love playing piano every single day because I just play for pure joy. No scales to practice, no method books, no sightreading, nothing. Not a damn thing. I just sit down and play. and love it. Eight years now and counting.
What is your piano mission statement? Is it to frustrate yourself causing all kinds of self imposed stress? or is it to play for pure enjoyment and relaxation? Actually, no need to answer that as you already did.
Bottom line: Play for pure enjoyment and relaxation. Why?, because you will enjoy it more and as a result get even better because you will be motivated for the right reasons. Not guilt.
You certainly have the ability and work ethic. I think you just need an attitude adjustment. Re-read Cathys reply one more time just for the heck of it.
I'm a 60-year-old adult beginner, playing now for 16 months or so, and I played at my teacher's recital -- my first -- in December. Complete disaster. Lost my place in pieces that are normally well memorized, forgot fingerings, nearly hyperventilated. Similar setting -- 20 or so students and their parents, and I was the only one playing who was old enough to buy a drink. Afterwards, I needed one. (I think I'd have preferred going first, but that slot went to her scholarship piano student, who did a nice job with Claire de Lune and some other sophisticated music, well and truly intimidating some of us who had to play much later.)
My teacher just told me that she is scheduling another recital for May, and I'm thinking of opting out.
I recognize the need to develop a comfort level playing for others, but I don't think doing this recital is the right path for me.
First, having had the experience of the last recital, I know that a good part of my lessons for the next 8 weeks would be prepping for the recital rather than working on the things I should be working on.
Second, I've found other (and for me, I think better) ways of playing for others. In particular, I recently joined an area group of amateur musicians (of whom I'm the youngest!) who meet once a month and play for each other their "works in progress." It's utterly non-competitive, completely supportive. I won't say that I haven't had some nerve issues in that group, but nothing like what I had at the December recital.
I'm also headed to Summerkeys for the first time this year, and I hope it will be yet another experience to share music in a comfortable and unstilted atmosphere.
At my age, I think I've earned the right to decide what I want to get out of music. Playing a formal recital among a group of kids and their parents -- none of whom I know -- just isn't that high on my list. I want every minute I spend at the piano to be enjoyable, and unless I can re-orient my attitude to one of enjoying this recital setting (and I don't think I can or will), I'm inclined to skip it.
"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."
Sam S, please do not give up performing in public recitals. I am dealing with the same issue now and am also in my fifties.
In my performance class at the community college, we are required to perform in two public concerts, which is extra stressful because they are largely attended by music majors in a large lecture hall. If it makes you feel any better several of the adult students in the class, some of whom are advanced and even give pianos lessons for a living, get so nervous that their hands shake and they have to stop and start. My teacher has addressed this issue by recommending and doing exercises from a book entitled Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine, a ground breaking book for trauma suffers and anyone who suffers from anxiety and debilitating nervousness in an area where they'd like to have more control. Its ground breaking because it studies the way animals in predatory scenarios deal with fear and compares it to the way humans do, showing how humans can learn to be more like animals who do not retain any trace of the experience in their bodies but completely let it go.
I am also performing the same piece at another recital for a private voice teacher and I do think the idea of finding a teacher who has separate recitals for her child and adult students is a good one. My voice teacher, who gives piano lessons too and has combined voice and piano recitals, has three recitals a year and only one of them combines adults and children. Since most teachers don't have more than one recital a year, two is plenty for me and most of the students who study with her.
Thanks everyone for the kind replies. In answer to some of the questions:
I don't play from memory. I tried that in preparation for the first recital and it did not work for me - so I have always used the music. So I can't really blame memory slips - except that the music is complex and I have the difficult parts memorized, even though I do have the music in front of me.
I wish there was a group of adults near me that I could play with. I have searched and found nothing.
My best performances were the first time I went to Summerkeys, a music party that I had at home, and a living room concert at my teacher's house. So there is no real pattern for when I am successful.
I love playing the classical piano repertoire. There is just something about it that is very satisfying, much more so than the popular music for me. And it's tough to learn without a teacher, so I don't think I will stop the lessons.
I am going to Summerkeys again this summer, so I will play there again. So far I am 50/50 with those recitals - maybe I can improve my average.
Hi Sam, You are a really good pianist. I have listened to some of your playing on this site. I admire you for being willing to play in a recital where you are the only adult. Where I take lessons, we have a end of the year event that they call a gathering rather than a recital just for the adult students. However, the first year after only having returned to the piano for 4 months, I was a nervous wreck at the thought of playing in front of 25 other adult students and 5 teachers. It's been a little over 2 years now and while I don't think it is anything that I will ever truly enjoy, it has gotten a little easier. I see that you and Classiclib are going to Summerkeys this year. My best experience playing in front of others was also at Summerkeys. It was jut so relaxed up there. I am going the last week in June. I purposefully go then since it is not crowded and there will be less people in the audience. I see they are adding violin and viola in June this year so there may be more students. I am not ready yet to go in July or august when I have heard that the church is packed. when are you both going? I am going with a friend this year who just started taking lessons again this month. I can't wait to go.
Hi Sam, I see that you and Classiclib are going to Summerkeys this year. My best experience playing in front of others was also at Summerkeys. It was jut so relaxed up there. I am going the last week in June. I purposefully go then since it is not crowded and there will be less people in the audience. I see they are adding violin and viola in June this year so there may be more students. I am not ready yet to go in July or august when I have heard that the church is packed. when are you both going? I am going with a friend this year who just started taking lessons again this month. I can't wait to go.
I've been to Summerkeys twice, both times the 3rd week in July - yes the recital was packed.
This year I'm going the very first week, the 3rd week in June, because I have other commitments in July. It will be interesting to see the difference.
There's another PW member going too - FarmGirl, I think in August.
Sam, I agree that you are a very good amateur classical pianist. One of the older students (late fifties) in my class mentioned an organization (I cant remember if it was state or national) that offered amateur players the opportunity to perform in quarterly recitals. We're on spring break right now, so I cant ask her the name, but I found this one for classical pianists.
[quote=zillybug] I've been to Summerkeys twice, both times the 3rd week in July - yes the recital was packed.
There's another PW member going too - FarmGirl, I think in August.
Me too...me too. I'm going to Summerkeys First week in July. This discussion tells us so much about experience, self-perception and attitude. Jotur, your vibrant relationship with the piano is such a pleasure to experiece. Sam, Being the only adult in a "recital" just sets up all sorts of pitfalls. I can't even watch the youtube videos of the 8 year playing some piece that I struggle with. We have to focus on sharing our love of music and let go of the feeling of being judged (i.e. recital). My teacher has many adult students and we play twice or three times a year with each other. The newest students are still shaky and nervous. I'm less so but it's still there. Ah...self criticism when will you leave me?