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#1674664 05/09/11 09:56 PM
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My instructor's annual semester recital is coming up shortly and she has told me I can only play one piece; however, I want to play two pieces. Here's the thing: the two pieces I want to play are very short, a Bach invention and a Sarabande by Handel. She wants me to choose between the two because all her other students will only be playing one piece each and it would not be fair if I got to play two. But there is a catch, some of the pieces her other students will be playing will be on the order of 10 minutes long each. My two pieces wouldn't even come close to that. At past recitals I have done as she wished and only played a single piece, only to find that, at the recital, she let two of her other students play two pieces (her excuse for one of them was that a Bach Prelude and Fugue only counts as one piece).

There was a longer piece I could have prepared for the recital, but it is simply too late at this point to get it playable and memorized in time. Nothing she ever said led me to think this would even be an issue, which is one reason why I never bothered to prepare it. (the other reason was that I wanted to perform pieces I knew I would feel confident with)

Either I pick one piece or I play nothing at all. I must say that I am tempted to play nothing at all (out of sheer protest), because I really don't think she is giving me a fair shake.

Am I out of line?

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Are you out of line to feel disappointed, perhaps even angry, about your teacher's policy? Not at all.

Would you be out of line if you tried to dictate to your teacher what her recital policy should be? Yup. wink

And would you be out of line if you withdrew from the recital in protest? Maybe not out of line (I'm assuming it's your prerogative as to whether or not you play), but you'd look--how can I put this kindly?--somewhat like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.

My advice would be to go back to your teacher, tell her that you have worked hard to prepare these two short pieces and was looking forward to sharing both of them with the other students and families at the recital. Calmly assure her that the total amount of time you would be playing would be well under the longest pieces played by some of the other participants. If she responds that it wouldn't be "fair," calmly remind her that others have played two pieces in the past.

But if she's still stubborn, I wouldn't fight it and instead choose the piece you know best... and then next year pick the longest piece you can possibly master to play. smokin

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Just for clarification, is it your recital or your teacher's? smile

I think insisting is out of line. The teacher may be open to some 'persuading,' however.

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Originally Posted by Monica K.
Are you out of line to feel disappointed, perhaps even angry, about your teacher's policy? Not at all.

Would you be out of line if you tried to dictate to your teacher what her recital policy should be? Yup. wink


I agree

Originally Posted by Monica K.

My advice would be to go back to your teacher, tell her that you have worked hard to prepare these two short pieces and was looking forward to sharing both of them with the other students and families at the recital. Calmly assure her that the total amount of time you would be playing would be well under the longest pieces played by some of the other participants. If she responds that it wouldn't be "fair," calmly remind her that others have played two pieces in the past.


Tried that and it simply did not work.

Originally Posted by Monica K.
And would you be out of line if you withdrew from the recital in protest? Maybe not out of line (I'm assuming it's your prerogative as to whether or not you play), but you'd look--how can I put this kindly?--somewhat like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.


Perhaps. But the thing is that I find it rather demoralising to be a 26 year old who goes up on stage and plays a 60 second dance when everyone else my age performing is playing full movements from Beethoven and Chopin sonatas. The least she can do is let me play a second piece, right? I feel as though I have to draw the line somewhere, and by refusing to perform I feel as though I am acknowledging that line in a very real way that she can understand.

Originally Posted by Akira
Just for clarification, is it your recital or your teacher's?

All I know for certain is that it is my "Instructor's Students' Recital." There are two possessives, instructor and student, which makes it rather ambiguous.


-------------

Here is another question: Is the one piece policy fair when one piece for an advanced student = 7-10 minutes and one piece for a beginner to intermediate student = 1-1.5 minutes.

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A Bach Prelude and Fugue does only count as one piece, and so do multiple movements of a work. I think you would be out of line to protest by playing nothing at all or insisting on playing two pieces. Advanced pieces are always longer than beginner or intermediate ones. Your teacher has to draw the line somewhere...if a teacher had 30 students and all of them got to play for 10 minutes, that is 300 minutes all together. 5 hours! It is also a reality that it is a lot more exciting for most people to listen to advanced pieces than simpler ones, which is why advanced students are allowed to play longer. Unfortunately, even if you play 10 short pieces, you will not really compare to someone playing a Chopin sonata. Work hard on your chosen recital piece and impress people with your musicality rather than how long you can stay up on stage. Every piano student has to climb the ranks, so to speak. Do you also complain when you are a starting worker that you don't earn as much as the CEO? smile

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Frozenicicles - what a great advise. I totally agree with you.

Poliphasicpianist - Give it all to the piece you choose to play and enjoy the recital. Remember your goal is to play a piece as musicaly as possible. It's you and your music. The rest does not matter. Good luck.

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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
Do you also complain when you are a starting worker that you don't earn as much as the CEO? smile


No, but then that's not really a good analogy. My manager and I are not in a customer-provider business relationship. My piano teacher and I are.

Private piano teaching is at is core a business relationship, and questions of fairness and equity don't really enter into it. The only relevant concern for the adult student is: on balance, and all things considered, am I getting value for money out of this relationship?

I'd be surprised if, taking the long view, how long one gets to perform at a recital really has a huge impact on the value-for-money question. But if it so damages the working relationship between student and teacher, then I can see that it might.

Just my two-penn'th, of course.

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Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
Do you also complain when you are a starting worker that you don't earn as much as the CEO? smile


No, but then that's not really a good analogy. My manager and I are not in a customer-provider business relationship. My piano teacher and I are.

Private piano teaching is at is core a business relationship, and questions of fairness and equity don't really enter into it. The only relevant concern for the adult student is: on balance, and all things considered, am I getting value for money out of this relationship?

I'd be surprised if, taking the long view, how long one gets to perform at a recital really has a huge impact on the value-for-money question. But if it so damages the working relationship between student and teacher, then I can see that it might.

Just my two-penn'th, of course.

Really good teachers can afford to be picky with students and they usually don't view the relationship as pleasing a customer. Many even require students to audition for a place in their studio. Those teachers don't really care if they lose a student over something like this. I guess this idea of getting your value for your money never entered my head with regards to the length of time you get to play in piano recitals. The OP's teacher sounds pretty fair to me, to be honest. There are teachers out there who won't even let you perform if you suck too much, or have special recitals for their more accomplished students. That kind of thing can be really demoralizing.

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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
...Work hard on your chosen recital piece and impress people with your musicality rather than how long you can stay up on stage.


This is the heart of the matter and, for now, all you need to consider - your turn will come later for a more complex (and lengthy) piece - all good things come to those who simply wait (and practice hard).

Beyond this the suggestion that you're "throwing a childish tantrum" may be on the money and you're on the verge of being way out of line.

TJ


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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
[
Really good teachers can afford to be picky with students and they usually don't view the relationship as pleasing a customer.


Then they're in for a shock. For nearly everybody music lessons amounts to discretionary spending, and in these straightened times we're all being more discreet with our spending.

In my area, a lot of teachers are already finding that they have to cut their fees, or take on students whom they would prefer not to. For better or worse, the economic laws of supply and demand apply here as everywhere else. When demand exceeds supply, private teachers can be fussy and still make money. These days, I think, less so.

But this isn't really what I was getting at. My point was that teaching is a business relationship, not a social one. In the long term, it doesn't really make any difference whether your teacher does things that are irritating or demoralizing if you get what you want out of the deal (improved pianism, presumably). But if your teacher is so irritating and irksome that it hurts the learning process, then in the end it isn't going to work out.

'Throwing a tantrum' may indeed by inappropriate. But finding a different teacher, if you think that would work better for you in the long term, certainly wouldn't be.


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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
Originally Posted by kevinb
[...] The only relevant concern for the adult student is: on balance, and all things considered, am I getting value for money out of this relationship?

I'd be surprised if, taking the long view, how long one gets to perform at a recital really has a huge impact on the value-for-money question. But if it so damages the working relationship between student and teacher, then I can see that it might.

Really good teachers can afford to be picky with students and they usually don't view the relationship as pleasing a customer. Many even require students to audition for a place in their studio. Those teachers don't really care if they lose a student over something like this.

IMO, the views of kevinb and of Frozenicicles are not very much contradictory.

Whether or not two pieces technically constitute a single work, whether the event is technically teacher's or student's recital, and whether the student plays 3 or 5 minutes are all really unimportant compared to the issue of having a good relationship with the teacher and thus generally getting a good value for money.

Emotions play a part even in strictly business relationships (while I think we all agree that the teacher-student relationship is not the purest example of those). In case of adult students, both parties are responsible for maintaining the relationships so that the learning process is effective.

polyphasicpianist, I think you should just obey the rules and look for other opportunities to show off.


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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles
Work hard on your chosen recital piece and impress people with your musicality rather than how long you can stay up on stage.

While I generally agree with you, I'd like to point out that that particular piece of advice may be dangerous in case of beginner students.

If the student approaches the recital with the attitude "Now I'm going to impress you all with my short piece!", chances are that the effect will be opposite due to the stress, stage fright, and/or a tendency to play con bravura.

polyphasicpianist, IMO you should just play normally, with no hidden agenda of impressing people in any special way.


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Originally Posted by J.A.S

Emotions play a part even in strictly business relationships (while I think we all agree that the teacher-student relationship is not the purest example of those). In case of adult students, both parties are responsible for maintaining the relationships so that the learning process is effective.


Perhaps a bit off-topic, but an example why I think keeping a cool, business head is important in what should be a business relationship...

I was selling my house. I had a sale agreed with a buyer at what seemed to be a reasonable price. My wife and I were changing jobs and our kids changing schools, so there was some hurry. At some point, I guess, the buyer got wind of this and started delaying things. Her goal, of course, was to force me to reduce the price. My agent hinted that knocking a couple of thousand off the price might move things along a bit.

But instead I got mad, and told my agent to kill the sale and put the house back on the market. As a result, because of the urgency, I was forced to accept a much lower price than I would have got if I had conceded to the previous buyer's extortion. I estimate that a moment's pique cost me £70,000 smirk

My point is that if you allow emotion to intrude too far into what should be a clear business relationship, it's easy to make a catastrophically bad decision.

Where I live, adults do not normally take part in these student recital thingies. A teacher would not normally ask an adult to take part and, if the teacher did ask, would not be offended by a student who declined politely. It doesn't seem to me to be an issue that ought to break a teaching relationship.



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Originally Posted by pppianist
Perhaps. But the thing is that I find it rather demoralising to be a 26 year old who goes up on stage and plays a 60 second dance when everyone else my age performing is playing full movements from Beethoven and Chopin sonatas. The least she can do is let me play a second piece, right? I feel as though I have to draw the line somewhere, and by refusing to perform I feel as though I am acknowledging that line in a very real way that she can understand.

My teacher has this guideline. My first performance on piano was one Bach Invention - and it was 1min 5 seconds - I timed it grin and I'm even older than 26. Some other students played multimovement Beethoven, or "Prelude and Fugue" (which IS one work). I guess I didn't mind because the same rule is applied to everyone - there is no "making adult beginners/restarters feel better" clause.

For me I really want to be treated the same as the young students; as having the same potential, the same importance, the same relevance and the same opportunities. It would be a negative (for me) to have special treatment - even if the particular instance was a positive outcome (getting to play 2 pieces). If I were you I would hold on to the habit of being treated the same as the other students. But that's just me smile



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[quote=CanonieSome other students played multimovement Beethoven, or "Prelude and Fugue" (which IS one work). I guess I didn't mind because the same rule is applied to everyone - there is no "making adult beginners/restarters feel better" clause.
[/quote]

I appreciate that this is off-topic, but I think this view of the genre of prelude-and-fugue as two inseparable works has no historical basis. We know for sure that Bach did not always compose his preludes and fugues together, because some of the pieces appear in separate publications. We know that he changed the keys of certain pieces so that they could appear as a pair.

The idea that a prelude and fugue should be thematically unified seems to become only really prominent in the Romantic era.

I believe the convention of treating a prelude and fugue as one piece in student recital situations comes from so treating them in piano exams.

OK, tangent over smile



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I think you should kill your teacher.

Or better, kill the other students.

Or even better, kill them all!

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Originally Posted by J.A.S
...polyphasicpianist, IMO you should just play normally, with no hidden agenda of impressing people in any special way.


It's never a "hidden agenda" - it's always very obvious to even the most casual observer - one always wants to "impress people" with one's playing, especially in a Recital setting (although I'm not sure what constitutes a "special way" - playing nude while standing on one's head maybe?) - and if one impresses in a "nervous-time" situation like that one is probably not playing normally smile

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Originally Posted by TrapperJohn
Originally Posted by J.A.S
...polyphasicpianist, IMO you should just play normally, with no hidden agenda of impressing people in any special way.


It's never a "hidden agenda" - it's always very obvious to even the most casual observer - one always wants to "impress people" with one's playing, especially in a Recital setting (although I'm not sure what constitutes a "special way" - playing nude while standing on one's head maybe?) - and if one impresses in a "nervous-time" situation like that one is probably not playing normally

If you quoted me in a slightly wider context, i.e. including the previous sentence, it would be obvious to everyone (why not to you?) that by "special way" of impressing I mean:
Approaching the recital with the attitude "Now I'm going to impress you all with my short piece![, just to prove that I deserve a more prominent role in the recital]."

And that is something else than the normal desire to play well during the performance.

If you think that my advice (to approach the performance without adding extra tension to the already stressful situation) is wrong, you may say so without silly remarks about playing nude.



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Sure -- but the idea of a naked recital is just so much more fun, don't you think? wink

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RE:"I feel as though I have to draw the line somewhere, and by refusing to perform I feel as though I am acknowledging that line in a very real way that she can understand. "

Polyphasicpianist, you may "feel" that way, but it will come off as a sign of immaturity. I am not saying you ARE immature, but not playing in order to prove a point is an immature ACT.

Ditto other above replies and I would only add a reminder to choose your battles in life wisely. There'll be plenty of them!


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