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I'm not very confident playing in front of other people, especially people who haven't heard me play before.
My teacher holds student recitals at his home every few months and I have already turned down several invitations to participate...

Yesterday I came to the lesson and he was just finishing a lesson with a very talented student. I gave the student a compliment about his playing, and then my teacher said to the student something along these lines: "You know, Ido also plays very well, he will now play some Bach for us..." <face palm>

Bottom line, I did what I could, it was not a total failure. I'm trying to figure out whether it made any difference in the way I feel about playing in front of other people, and I'm not sure. I guess the more I do it the less I will care about who is listening... BTW he later said it was done intentionally smile

What do you think of such a bold move on the teacher's side?


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It's good for you. No pain, no gain, as we used to say. All my teachers have done this to me, so it's nothing new or original.

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Originally Posted by Ido
What do you think of such a bold move on the teacher's side?

I would be quite upset by this, and would most likely refuse to play in front of the other student. My performance anxiety is pretty bad. I would not work with a teacher who requires recital participation; it's stressful enough just for me to play in front of a teacher week after week. I do not pay for lessons so I can get better at performing in front of other people; my goal is just to play better. I also don't take too kindly to being tricked.

Now...if you had expressed previously that you really wanted to improve at performing, maybe this 'bold move' would make more sense.

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I remember the first time when I played in front of other people my hands were shaking and I was nervous as heck but I managed to go through without messing up too much. Then, when I got my grand I had to get used to always have someone hear my playing and gradually I got more comfortable with it. The more experience playing live for other people the easier it is to cope with the nerves.

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Performance anxiety is one of those "the only way out is through" things. You just can't get over performance anxiety without performing with/through/in spite of anxiety.

Having said that, JB_PW's comments are important, for a lot of people, being tricked would be traumatic. Also, the relationship between a teacher and student should be based on trust, and this kind of trick might have a negative impact on that trust.

So ultimately, I think there are better ways to work on getting over performance anxiety, and I would prefer to encourage methods that don't involve tricking or deceit.


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I will be the outlier here: whether you decide to ever play in a recital or not, you will have a occasions where you will need to play for others. What would you do now if a friend asked you to play? Probably decline.

Your teacher recognizes that the only way to get over performance anxiety is to play for others— and wanted you to experience the first time so you would realize that you will survive. She just knew you would refuse if asked and wanted you to have a taste

Recognize the intent and good will.


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Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by Ido
What do you think of such a bold move on the teacher's side?

I would be quite upset by this, and would most likely refuse to play in front of the other student. My performance anxiety is pretty bad. I would not work with a teacher who requires recital participation; it's stressful enough just for me to play in front of a teacher week after week. I do not pay for lessons so I can get better at performing in front of other people; my goal is just to play better. I also don't take too kindly to being tricked.
Same for me.

I didn't start piano lesson in order to perform, and though I could have stopped lessons after a year (and indeed was encouraged to stop by my parents, who had no love for music), I kept plugging away at it purely because I loved classical music and playing piano. But thoughts of performing for anyone didn't enter my mind, nor my teachers' minds, whether in my home country or in the UK where I moved to a new school and a new teacher. Indeed, if any of my four teachers had insisted on me performing (in student recitals or whatever), I'd have stopped lessons there and then, if I couldn't switch to another, more understanding teacher.

In the OP's situation, I'd just have said politely but very firmly: "No, I'm not ready to play."

Of course if the OP had given vibes that he wanted to try performing for others if given the right conditions, then what his teacher did is probably fine.


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Actually, I did get to perform before, in front of well over 100 people, on a stage, in multiple occasions. But that was many years ago, and with a guitar, and I was a lot more confident. Fingers were shaking, hands were frozen, but I was advanced enough to push through.
Piano is a different thing though. I don't feel merely as confident.
And other students seem like the worst audience to me, although that's probably entirely in my head.


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No amateur should be forced to play for someone else in any setting. I think this especially applies to adults.Obviously a professional performing musician must try to overcome performance anxiety if they want to remain a professional performer. This does not mean that I don't think that students should be encouraged to play for others. I also think a good teacher should discuss performance anxiety with students for who this is an issue. And by this I mean more than just telling them that one should practice performing for others.

Although fear of memory lapses is certainly not the only reason for performance anxiety, I think it is often one of the main reasons, So students, other than those who want to be professionals, should be allowed to play from the score.

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Originally Posted by Ido
Actually, I did get to perform before, in front of well over 100 people, on a stage, in multiple occasions. But that was many years ago, and with a guitar, and I was a lot more confident. Fingers were shaking, hands were frozen, but I was advanced enough to push through.
Piano is a different thing though. I don't feel merely as confident.
And other students seem like the worst audience to me, although that's probably entirely in my head.
After watching your YT performance of a Bach Invention, I was surprised you feel this way although maybe there was no audience there and that's the difference. I think you play extremely well both technically and musically considering your years of study and you appear very at ease int he video.

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Thank you very much Pianoloverus! I really appreciate it.
Indeed there was no audience there, other than some staff checking out who was playing the grand in the empty concert hall...

To dogperson - thanks, yes, I do recognize the teacher's good will. I was also grateful for his invitations to play, which I viewed as a compliment.

Thanks for all the comments so far, I can relate to all of them.


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The first time I played in front of people was at a church gathering. I wasn't well prepared for the 3 min piece and missed a few spots. Got to the end and had a few complements. Once I was at a Christmas gathering. Some of the guests play an instrument or sing in a church choir. I worked on a few pieces out of the Charlie Brown Christmas album including "Christmas Time is Here" & "Chestnut Song". People sang carols and then it was my turn to play. A man with 2 daughters really like the Chestnut Song.

The way I practice my pieces is breaking them into sections and work on each really well. I'd make recordings along the way and listen a few times so that I know what I was doing and have consistency each time I play the same pieces. Once you get your pieces up to the performance level, you wouldn't be anxious playing in front of people. I occasionally go into a piano store and try a few pieces I learned recently on a new keyboard / piano. People who walk by don't bother me. Occasionally I'd get comments from the salesman. You can also get other people in the family to listen to you play regularly so you get comfortable playing in front of people.

When I'm playing in front of people, I don't think about playing pieces by Bach, Handel, Mozart or Vince Guaraldi. They are my own pieces that I want to share with others in my own way.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
I will be the outlier here: whether you decide to ever play in a recital or not, you will have a occasions where you will need to play for others. What would you do now if a friend asked you to play? Probably decline.
There's a difference between a need to play for others and it would nice to be able to play for others.

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Originally Posted by Ido
And other students seem like the worst audience to me, although that's probably entirely in my head.

I used to think this as well, but actually I've come to realize that other musicians are the best audience. They (we) can generally "hear between the lines" -- IOW, tell that the person is battling nerves, not incompetence.

Over the years as I've done more recitals and playing at piano parties, I've come to feel that fellow musicians are the most sympathetic, and encouraging, audience.

Which is a big deal for me because I really struggled with shaky hands for a long time. I've written about it here before so I won't go on about it. But I will say that I still sometimes get derailed by the shaky hands -- well, probably even more now since I haven't done any piano parties since the pandemic started. But I love to play for (and with) others, so I've figured out a way to enjoy it, shaky hands or not.


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Ido - whether the teacher did the ‘right’ thing is not something I can know about your case. I am glad that you took the invitation as a compliment - I suspect it was meant as such. I also think that having it be with one other student was in fact supposed to be something of an ice breaker. The other person is also a student.. you are going through a similar process and have some shared set of experiences. The other person also knows how difficult it is to play piano. And it is just one person, as opposed to being many. And it was a spontaneous moment— so you were not spending weeks agonizing about the few minutes of performing in front of others.
Sometimes we need people to push us out of our comfort zone. To me, playing piano is about frequently exploring things outside my comfort zone. If your teacher was sensing that performing for people was one of these areas, and sensed that you could handle it and might want the door to be open to exploring this aspect of piano playing, I think this might actually be a positive experience. On the other hand, if you are going to be traumatized by this and truly have 0 interest in playing in front of anyone, ever, then maybe not.

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A story told by many students in pilot training (where early lessons are with the teacher in the cockpit, for obvious reasons):

At some point during training, the instructor asks the student to land the plane for practice, which the student does.

Then, the instructor gets out of the plane, stands on the ground, and says without any warning:

. . . "You're ready -- take it up and do a loop around the airport."

So what your teacher did, is a trick -- but it's used by others, and it's well-intentioned.

I agree with the comments here:

. . . You're going to get less nervous, by playing for other people, over time.

. . . Your teacher chose a "low-risk" situation -- one other student, who knew that you hadn't prepared for the "demonstration".

It's quite possible that the other student had the same trick pulled on him -- and he knew exactly what you were going through.<G>

I've been through a bunch of "public performance" events, and I was lucky that the early ones were low-risk, group efforts, with small audiences. Now, I'm happy to stand up with my choir and sing for a few hundred people, or to stand up myself and sing for 50:

. . . I didn't start that way.


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Had a similar trick pulled on me, but as a tuning student.

Teacher (an 80's PTG Examiner) pulled me aside and said I was ready to tune a temperament on the (main) college's sole concert grand. I'd been doing pretty good whole tunings for a while, but only on the tuning school dept's pianos (one beat up 9'). This piano (nice/OK SD10) was maintained by the main colleg's music dept's tuner. NO ONE in the tuning student class was allowed to touch it.

He said not to mention it to the other students (I was teacher's pet lol), and meet him in the concert hall in ten minutes.

Got there, he said I had half an hour to tune the best temperament of my life, which I did, and he liked it.

Started to pack, but he said to stop.

OK, why?

"Because the school's tuner is out sick tonight, so you're doing the tuning for tonight's concert. Have fun!!!"

And walked out.

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Teachers who hold student recitals or enter students for festivals etc need to be understanding of their students, especially if they are children (as they have little say in what they want to do).

I despair when I read in the Piano Teachers Forum about teachers who have an inflexible attitude toward their students along the lines of "Play in my student recitals - or else...." (and then wonder why their students make all sorts of limp excuses why they cannot make the recitals on the day.....), and count my lucky stars that where I am, there isn't a "performing culture" for piano students unless they are good enough to enter conservatories or music schools like the Yehudi Menuhin School.

So, we were allowed to develop without worrying about making fools of ourselves in front of our peers (by breaking down with sudden stage fright or worse, or memory lapses - or just playing badly), but those with performing aspirations also had plenty of opportunities to perform in my high school, where there were regular lunchtime recitals for anyone - of any standard - who wished to perform, and they were always guaranteed a sympathetic audience of students and teachers.

However, during the years I was at the school, it was notable that the only music students who ever performed (apart from in the school orchestra or choir) were the ones who had aspirations to make music their careers (i.e. go on to conservatoires), most notably our aspiring concert pianist, who went on to win the Tchaikovsky Competition a few years later. Considering that in the school choir, there were over twenty piano students, none of whom ever performed as pianists (though of course we all 'performed' as choristers in school concerts), it was obvious that the vast majority of us music students had no desire to show off our instrumental skills in public.


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I would not call this a trick or nefarious in any way. Every music teacher I had did this from time to time. It is helpful for everyone to share music.

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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
A story told by many students in pilot training (where early lessons are with the teacher in the cockpit, for obvious reasons):

At some point during training, the instructor asks the student to land the plane for practice, which the student does.

Then, the instructor gets out of the plane, stands on the ground, and says without any warning:

. . . "You're ready -- take it up and do a loop around the airport."

So what your teacher did, is a trick -- but it's used by others, and it's well-intentioned.

I agree with the comments here:

. . . You're going to get less nervous, by playing for other people, over time.

. . . Your teacher chose a "low-risk" situation -- one other student, who knew that you hadn't prepared for the "demonstration".

It's quite possible that the other student had the same trick pulled on him -- and he knew exactly what you were going through.<G>

I've been through a bunch of "public performance" events, and I was lucky that the early ones were low-risk, group efforts, with small audiences. Now, I'm happy to stand up with my choir and sing for a few hundred people, or to stand up myself and sing for 50:

. . . I didn't start that way.
The OP didn't experience the performance as low risk. It was a disturbing and unpleasant experience for them.

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