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#948142 - 11/14/03 01:25 PM Performance and Competition
Laura Too Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/26/03
Posts: 45
I'm interested in hearing any tricks or tips you could offer to make student pieces stand out from the crowd. For example, I have several students right now working on Ellmenreich's Spinning Song. They are doing great - dynamics, artistic expression, phrasing. What can I do to be sure I have covered everything possible to ensure excellence and artistry? Any secrets to share?

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#948143 - 11/15/03 12:17 PM Re: Performance and Competition
EHpianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/27/03
Posts: 1703
Loc: NY-Madrid-Newfoundland (rhymes...
A student whose self-esteem in performnace is evident stands out among the crowd. You need to prepare them psychologically as well as musically. Is their memory of their work complete or do they only rely on muscle memory? As a good test, , give them score paper and ask them to write down the first 4 measures of their piece. If hey can't do it or forget certain things, such as dynamics or slurrs, they need to secure their memory. They do this by studying the score in their head away from the piano. Every work they play should be studied in this manner along with regular keyboard practice. It also helps if they have knowledge of basic theory so they can understand the harmonic progression of the works, it gives them one more tool to hold on to if they have a memory lapse. Knowing that you have several backups handy in case of a performance messup goes a very long way to performing with confidence.

More ideas:
-Set a date 1 or two weeks before the competition date as the "competition date". Prepare them to be fully ready for this earlier date. On that date hold a small recital at your or their home, they must dress with what they will wear to the competition, perform the works and see what happens. Like this they still have over a week to fix the problem spots and the competition becomes just another performance as opposed to this stressful one-time thing.

-From about 4 weeks before the competition ask your students to do non-piano homework, ask them to take 10-20 minutes every day to close their eyes and visualize clearly the competition day. Where it is (if they dont know what it looks like, any performance space will do), who is there, what they will be wearing. They visualize it all, from the moment they walk onto the stage to the moment they walk off, they hear the coughs the sighs, the occasional whispers, and throughout it all, they see themselves playing confidently, every note sounding like they want it to sound. If they begin feeling the nerves in their stomach as they picture this, have them stop and remember a time when something they did made them feel happy and fulfilled, gave them a huge sense of accomplishment, then transfer this feeling back to the competition stage in their head. Try to keep that feeling of accomplishment in their performance.

This type of excercise does require mental effort on their part but by the time they reach the actual competition/performance day, they will have performed the work successfully in their head dozens of times, and had the chance to perform it for real at least a week before. Although there will still be nerves on the day, this type of excercise gets them to focus them positively and this type of confidence is evident to all the judges. I have been to many competitions, you can tell.

For more ideas like this I recommend compser Michael Colgrass's book "My Lessons with Kumi" it is available on Amazon.

Schnabel's advie to Horowitz: "When a piece gets difficult, make faces."

#948144 - 11/15/03 02:20 PM Re: Performance and Competition
Archer1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/10/03
Posts: 41
Loc: texas
Yes! EHpianist gave some excellent ideas! In one of my collage courses, our professor emphasized that too many students as well as performers relied to much on muscle memory instead of inner memory. During our course, the professor would have us play a piece, than he would call out different measures for us to play without the music. Needless to say most of the students could not do this. Later in the course, we would have to study and play a piece and than go to the table and write the piece out from memory. For our final exam we had to write out one of Scarlattis shorter sonata movement from memory. I passed the course but I'm not going to mention what I made on the exam. This was one of the hardest courses I had to take, but I did learn the importance of inner memory and how to train my mind to really know a piece of music.

As for artistry. I find that in a competition or recital for most young students, artistry goes out the door and is replaced by nerves. This is just because most young students just are not use to performing for others especially for a bunch of strangers. One thing you could do is hold an informal every other month workshop for your students. Get you students together on a Saturday afternoon and hold a very informal recital for each other - with popcorn and soda afterwards. Another thing is take your students to rest homes or retirement homes and have your students perform for the elderly. You could also hold a very informal Christmas recital in your home. Have parents bring a Christmas snack and just let parents and student visit and mingle while at certain times you could call on a student to perform a Christmas piece for the entertainment. Most students will feel less nervous if they know that others aren't really focusing on them, but are talking and mingling instead. Also you could place a jar on the piano for tips. The student can have any tip they collect. For the younger students, suggest to them to get their stuff bears or dolls and line them up on the couch during their practice period and have them pretend they are performing for them. The idea is to have your students perform on a regular basis instead of just once a year for a competition or recital.
One of my professors mentioned that most performers are nervous within the first minute they are playing due to the fact that their adrenaline is pumping. This nervousness might seem to last for ever to the sudent, but my professor said studies were made that showed the adrenaline rushes for about 60 seconds or less. Than after that most performers go into relax mode. So if a student can get through the first 60 seconds they should be okay.


#948145 - 11/17/03 10:20 AM Re: Performance and Competition
Laura Too Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/26/03
Posts: 45
Thank you for the thorough and thoughtful comments. Some of this I am already doing, and I will definitely put some new suggestions to use. We are working on a schedule. The pieces are to be technical correct by December 1. I have allowed one month (December) to reinforce/secure memory through innovative approaches. The following 2 months to polish artistry and perform as often as possible.

#948146 - 11/17/03 03:00 PM Re: Performance and Competition
Phlebas Offline

Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Originally posted by EHpianist:

For more ideas like this I recommend compser Michael Colgrass's book "My Lessons with Kumi" it is available on Amazon.

http://www.concertpianist.com [/b]

You sure do get around. I get to reviews you wrote on Amazon too!

#948147 - 11/17/03 04:19 PM Re: Performance and Competition
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6195
Use recording -- at least audio, prefer to also have video. Record the student's playing and than do a post-mortem analysis of that with the student. It helped me, and there were so many times I hoped I could have seen/heard my own recordings in rehearsal a couple of weeks before I went on stage for real. Some things tend to get through better when the performer can assume an audience's position and evalute his own playing in retrospect, even things in hind-sight should have been obvious. (Imagine the student thinking "Oh... that's what you [the teacher] have been telling me... now I see it... now I know what you mean.") With your time-table, you can have two or three iterations of these audio/visual-aided analysis in your "polishing artistry" phase. Good luck!
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

#948148 - 12/30/03 12:11 PM Re: Performance and Competition
Laura Too Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/26/03
Posts: 45
Just got done with a whole series of performance group classes. Everyone played several pieces but, I'm really bummed. No one did well. A few did a nice job on one or two pieces - but no one did well on all three. I am planning my first formal recital this spring and I'm worried. Can anyone share their approach to selecting repertoire, and polishing the piece for recitals? How long to they continue preparing the same piece? Is their recital piece a level below their current studies? I just can't seem to get my students over that hump to having the piece polished. I don't know where I'm going wrong.

#948149 - 12/30/03 01:19 PM Re: Performance and Competition
benedict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/21/02
Posts: 2519
Loc: European Union
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