Performing for Seniors

Playing At The Oaks Senior Living

Playing for seniors is a wonderful opportunity for young piano students to give service to the community. Not only do the kids gain valuable experience performing, they also get to see how much joy music can bring to seniors. So yesterday in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday here in the US some of my students performed at a local senior living facility. The comfortable living room at the facility was great for a low pressure performance – no intimidating stage lights and an at home feeling. It was a wonderful sight to see the residents, parents, and students gathered around and sharing music. One of the parents even played his djembe at the end!

 An added benefit to this performance was that it helped students get over the after Christmas slump and get back to playing.

In preparation for the performance we used some lesson time to talk about what songs might appeal to this audience. This discussion really helped the kids get out of “me” mode and understand that when we perform we are giving something to our audience. It is not so much about how much applause we can get but how much joy we can give. In turn for an entertaining performance, the audience rewards us with their applause. For some of my students this idea was a tough sale until… they played the chosen songs in the performance and saw the awesome reaction the seniors gave them! So, here is the list of some of the songs that were performed on yesterday –

Misty

When The Saints Go Marching In

Man In The Mirror

Those Were The Days

Hit The Road Jack

Fur Elise

Rocky Top

Pink Panther

The Star Spangled Banner

This Little Light of Mine

Big Dog Boogie (My First Piano Adventures)

Party Song (Piano Adventures)

A Child’s Ideas On How To Prepare For A Piano Performance

A Child's IdeasThis is a guest post from a 4th grader  who wishes to remain anonymous. Parents, students, and teachers will enjoy getting involved with performance prep using this piano student’s ideas! Some of my most successful teaching strategies have come from the students themselves. I love their creativity!

Play American Idol:

Have the people in the room give critiques to help the student play better.

Play Elmo Says:

Tickle Me Elmo loves to say, “Again, Again!” You should too!

Have the student play again and again and when you think they have it ask for them to play the song with their eyes closed. Any other songs the person will play that special night go through the same process. Tell them how much time is left until the night of the concert. Motivate them to try harder if they say they can’t do it. It is all in the purpose of learning that they  can do this. Play games with them to remember the song. Show the kid how they can make their playing more interesting.

 

Play Open & Close ‘Em:

Try to go through the whole song with your eyes closed and if you hear the wrong note open your eyes.Then put your hand in the right place to continue the song and try not to mess up on the same part.

Play Tic Tac Toe:

Instructions for tic-tac-toe – You try to play the song one time and if everything is right you make an X or O. Keep playing the song until the student wins.

Picture Book Recital Preparation:The Maestro Plays

The Maestro Plays

Performance season is here – is anybody feeling the pressure yet? I’ve certainly written a lot about performance season lately and here I am doing it again! I can’t help it! Today while shopping at a second-hand store I found this 1970 edition of a charming little picture book by Bill Martin, Jr. Although the story is not about a pianist, I’m going to share it with my students after the Thanksgiving break to help them prepare for their upcoming performances.

In The Maestro Plays,  we get to experience a full concert performance by a presumably super – talented violinist. With each page we are given new adverbs to describe how he plays  – wingingly, tingingly, drippingly. These are just a sampling of the buffet of picturesque words the author uses to arouse our imaginations. His words along with the colorful artwork in the book simulate a powerful, moving, and engaging concert performance.

I plan to read the book with each student and challenge them to apply the language used in the book to their own playing to help them experiment with different ways to convey their musical messages.

The book is recommended for ages 4-8, but I think there is still a bit of a kid in some of our older students as well. I have not been able to find many copies of the edition I purchased, however there is a newer edition with a different illustrator available as well.

I’d love to hear about things you do to get your students ready for performances! So, if you enjoyed this post and/or have performance prep tips to share please leave a comment below.

Free Printable: Personalized Piano Concert Invitations

Personalized Music Invite

Since performance season is here, I am posting a new printable today that you can email to parents who want to invite school teachers and friends to your student’s piano performance.  Family and friends are regulars at piano recitals and concerts, but expanding your audience by inviting members of the community is a great way to showcase your students to more people and to get the word out about your studio and what you have to offer as a music teacher. Get the FREE Printable by clicking here or on the above graphic.

Even if you already have printed postcards and flyers this can still be a great way to invite people who may not normally attend your show. It can also serve as an extra invite once your run out of your printed materials. Simply replace my content with the details for your event. Email to the parents in your studio and have them type in their child’s school name and their child’s name in the appropriate spaces on the printable word document. Now they have personalized invitations for their child!

Parents can choose to simply email the invitation or print copies and deliver to school friends, teachers, and administrators. Be sure to tell parents to invite their child’s school music teacher!

For more about how to put on a great piano event click here.

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7 Ways To Make Piano Recitals More Interesting

Piano Concert moment

Unfortunately, many people have negative memories centered around piano recitals. This can make it difficult to persuade Uncle Joe to come to hear little Susie play her piano piece at the annual recital. It can also make it hard to persuade little Susie’s mom and dad to stay for the entire recital. Even the fear of future negative memories centered around piano recitals can make it almost impossible to get little Susie to agree to play in the piano recital. So, what’s a piano teacher to do?

Here are 7 ways to make sure Uncle Joe, Susie, her mom, and her dad not only attend the recital, but thoroughly enjoy it as well!

1. Give your recital a “cool” upgrade and call it a CONCERT instead.

Let’s face it – most people associate the word recital with boredom. How many people do you know who are telling their friends they can’t wait for the next recital? On the other hand, how many people are proud to announce that they have tickets to see their favorite artist in concert? I’m just saying…

2. Allow students to play more than one song and put one song at the beginning of the concert and the other later in the program.

This will work especially well if the pieces your students play are short. Be sure to keep concerts no longer than about 90 minutes at the most.

3. Highlight other talents your students have.

If you have a student who loves to sing, have her sing while playing.

4. Encourage students to collaborate.

Have one student play the piano while another student sings.

5. Promote interaction with the audience.

In the picture above, a student and I get the audience to chant the main phrase of the song we had just performed as a duet.

6. Invite other artists to be special guests at your concert.

Dancers, singers, poets, and instrumentalists who play something other than the piano are good choices. It gives the audience a break from piano music, gives you time to get kids ready for whatever comes next, and exposes your students to the other performing arts.

7. Consider having parents and students collaborate.

You may have parents who sing, act, dance, etc. Ask them to accompany one of your students as they play the piano. This works really well when you pair parents up with kids other than their own.

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Non-Traditional Performance Opportunities

One of my goals in teaching piano is to help my students integrate music making with everyday life. When students realize that they can play their instrument for more than just an annual recital or formal concert, lessons become more meaningful. More meaningful lessons means more dedicated students!

As music educators we realize that music is everywhere. Our students, however, may not be consciously aware of this fact. It is up to us to help them notice music that is in their everyday lives. One way we can do this is to seek out non-traditional performance opportunities for our students. One of the best ways to do this is to consider the other activities in which the students participate. For instance, I have several piano students who are also studying dance. Dance classes are perfect performance opportunities for piano players! Who says dancers have to use pre-recorded music?

The picture above shows one of my students (in this instance, my daughter) accompanying at a dance class. This was a great opportunity to gain experience working with other kids in the arts. The fact that the dancers were friends of hers was also very encouraging and it made it seem more like “play” than performance or practice. (Isn’t that what music making should be?)

From a piano pedagogy standpoint, the piano student who accompanies dance classes can gain a deeper understanding of rhythm and the need to keep a steady beat. Watching and being aware of the dancers’ movements also helps the student feel the pulse of the music. What about helping with expression? Yes, of course! Having someone dance to the music as a student plays can help the student play more expressively and improves phrasing. These things are possible because suddenly the music has a purpose beyond the physical acts involved in playing the instrument.

An added bonus for this non-traditional performance opportunity is the student’s interaction with the dance instructor. In this type of situation the student must be able to receive direction from a teacher other than the piano teacher. This is so important for helping the student broaden his or her idea of what it means to take piano lessons. Sometimes students place their lessons in a box where they only use their skills for their piano teacher. Playing for a teacher in a different area of the arts forces the student to become the expert concerning the music they are playing. They must use the knowledge that they have about their instrument and apply to what the dance teacher is asking them to do. This translates into higher levels of confidence which of course makes better performances possible.

Finally, an added benefit of this non-traditional performance opportunity was that some of the dancers became interested in playing the piano!

If you teach music or have a child who takes dance classes, I would highly recommend you speak with a dance teacher in your area about the possibility of your students accompanying for the dance class. Accompanying for the warm up section of the dance class can be a great way to start.

What are some other non-traditional performance opportunities that you offer your students?

What If I Make A Mistake?

Mistakes Are GuaranteedWith concerts, recitals, and holiday performances just around the corner both students and teachers are starting to feel a case of the butterflies. I know I am! Teachers wonder if they will have all the students prepared in time. We wonder if the programs will get printed in time, if the sound system at the venue will be working properly, if there will be enough food for the reception. Students wonder if they will mess up on stage. They worry that they might trip on the way to or from the piano bench. They are tortured by a multitude of what ifs – one of the worst ones being what if I forget my song?

It’s been said that there are no guarantees in life, but actually there is one! As I was re-reading the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Making Music magazine, the words of Glenn DaGrossa- a music teacher in New York – jumped off the page at me:

“As human beings, mistakes are guaranteed”

Well doesn’t that just go against everything we are working towards in rehearsals and practice?

Actually, this fact – and it is a fact – must be at the center of our rehearsals and practice. We must prepare not only to play to the best of our ability, but also prepare to handle the inevitable mistakes we will make. Our goal must  not  be a flawless performance, but a fantastic performance! Flawless performances can be flat and sterile, whereas fantastic performances are those that may or may not have noticeable mistakes but definitely connect the audience and performer to each other.

So, let’s all do ourselves a favor and recognize that mistakes are guaranteed. With this thought in mind, let’s proceed to practice with a greater purpose than perfection in mind.

Let’s practice with the goal of communicating and connecting through the music. That’s the kind of music that brings people together!

Most Interesting Ways To Play The Piano

 


This morning while reading Tim Topham’s post on The Most Unusual Places To Record Piano I was reminded of Brian Culbertson playing the piano backwards at a recent concert I attended. It was one of those moments you replay constantly in your mind. Fortunately I was able to find this video on YouTube. It has created some great discussions with my students about the importance of knowing your way around the keyboard and about entertaining your audience with your performance.

 

 

Taking The Fear Factor Out Of Performing

 

Most of the students that I teach LOVE to perform in public! They enjoy the attention they receive from their friends and family when they play the piano. Still there are a couple of kids that I teach who, like me at their age, would rather be eaten by a lion than play the piano in front of others. Does this mean that nobody will ever get to hear them play at studio events? It doesn’t have to! Kids who are not into playing “live” can still be part of the annual Fall and Spring Concerts via pre-recorded video! If your venue has video capability, why not allow the audience to experience this students’ playing as well AND save your student the butterflies and avoid the torture of playing in public? After all, the point of the event is for others to see and hear them play – who cares if it’s pre-recorded? People LOVE watching videos and they will applaud a good performance – hello, can you say YouTube? A couple of well placed videos could be a welcome break from a string of on stage piano players during your studio event. As a bonus, the kid from the video can come to the stage and take a bow after the video is shown or have a special autograph table set up afterwards. Who knows, this could boost their confidence and inspire them to play live in the next event!

So, I’m curious readers. Have any of you done this at any of your studio events before?

 

 

 

FREE Concerts!

 With Memorial Day just around the corner here in the United States, it’s a great excuse to have your piano player give some FREE Concerts. If you have guests coming in town or if you will be gathering with friends, why not take advantage of what you’ve invested in music lessons and let your piano player provide some of the entertainment? Music streamed through ipods and speakers is fine, but NOTHING beats a live performance from your kid!

To make it happen, get them involved right now! Suggest it casually and throw out some ideas about costumes. Kids love to dress up and they get caught up into what they are going to wear forgetting to protest about performing. And be sure to get some Funky Cool sunglasses!

Of course you will want to put out a tip jar so that guests can show their appreciation. You will need to put $2-$3 in the tip jar before setting it out so guests know that’s what it is for. Getting paid to play the piano? Now that sounds like something a kid could go for! Let them know that they can buy a new video game or some other thing they’ve been wanting with the tips.

If you really want to go over the top, get some prints of them at the piano and have them autograph the pics for your guests. Be sure to give guests the heads up that they need to ask for an autograph after the performance! For something to add that “extra touch” get invitations here.

What other ideas do you have for getting kids to play at family gatherings?