Monday, May 05, 2008

Spring Recital and Musical Thoughts

Here is a picture of my three girls with their piano teacher, taken yesterday after their spring recital. I am amazed at the progress they have made under Mrs. T's wise tutelage. Melody, my oldest, started her musical education early with a Suzuki teacher. She played amazingly well at a very young age, but as she progressed it became evident that she was not reading music. She did a good job of convincing us otherwise, but she had learned to rely solely on her ear.

Her second teacher tried to straighten her out by requiring mind-numbing drills and repetitions, sometimes 50 times at a practice session. It was like boot camp, and Melody would dissolve into tears after her piano lesson; all the joy of music was squeezed out of her.

My desperate prayer was answered and we found our way to Mrs. T. She knew exactly what to do and taught Melody how to practice smart. Her method requires the mind to be 100% focused on the pieces you are practicing. This is accomplished by saying the names of the notes as you play them, and after getting familiar with the music using the metronome and counting aloud. This forces the brain to be engaged and strengthens the reading skills. Mrs. T. explained that the brain loves to be lazy by relying on the ear, and speaking aloud the rhythm or notes remedies that problem. You can accomplish more with less repetitions using this method.

The one residual plus from her Suzuki experience is that she learned to play her pieces in any or every key. Once a piece was memorized and perfected, it would be re-assigned in a different key and used as a practice exercise. I am slightly jealous of the ability Melody has of switching keys so effortlessly. For some reason, I always found key signatures with sharps more difficult than key signatures with flats. I do not know why this is, but I have talked to other pianists who seem to share this weakness.

Suzuki recitals were, I must admit, BORING. Because all children had the same repertoire, you heard the same songs over and over and over. Mrs. T. has an innate gift for guiding her students to choose music that perfectly fits their personalities. She has mentioned to me the need for the girls to be playing not only pieces that hone their technical skills, but songs that feed their souls. Her recitals are anything but boring! You may hear ragtime, pop, contemporary Christian, patriotic, classical, and original compositions. To be allowed to play in the recital is a privilege that must be earned. There are deadlines for preparing the music, and if those deadlines are not met the student has to sit out. I love the gentle discipline in this rule; it teaches young pianists to pace themselves.

This recital the girls played the following musical works:
* Melody- Nocturne in C Sharp Minor (posthumous) ~Chopin. Beautiful, ethereal runs
Nightfall- her own composition
A fun duet entitled Big River Barn Dance

* Joy- Morning Snowfall by Matz
Reflections--her own composition (She wouldn't let me hear this one until the recital! What a wonderful surprise!)

* Artiste- this was Artiste's 2nd recital, and she played a cute little beginner piece called The Magic Pony. She was nervous, but came out all smiles in the end.

Part of the wonder of the day was all the support our girls received from Grandparents and members of our church family. I was touched to see an older man from the church with his hands on the girls' shoulders after the recital praying for them; asking the Lord to continue to give them fresh music and to use their gifts and talents for His honor and glory always. This kind of support makes parenting so much easier. I am a blessed woman.

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