October means Halloween (and Harvest Festival!)

Hello Students and Parents

Cannot believe it is already October with Halloween coming soon, falling leaves in the forest, Farmers Market full of wonderful fruits of the harvest, and enough chill in the air to send me looking for a warm jacket!

As we start this week, can I remind you about a couple of things?

  • Fees for October are due this week; Monday and Tuesday people have 5 weeks and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday people have 4 weeks (your turn coming next month).  There is a note below for Tuesday people.
  • Halloween is on a Tuesday. I know the younger ones get very excited about trick or treating but I understand the older ones not so much?  Please let me know if you are NOT coming Tuesday 10/31.  I usually have candy for trick or treaters from 6-7:30 pm.  Some older students might need to moves times and I can work on that, just let me know.  Wednesdays are not busy days so far.
  • Everyone should be contemplating the Holiday Soirée 12/10 from 3-5 pm.  You play best when your piece has had at least 2 months practice.  Performers usually say they have to get their works up to 120% to give 100% on the day.  This week I will be working on possible Soiree selections.
  • On 10/12 from 7-8 pm I will be playing soothing piano music during the Immaculata Fund Raiser Silent Auction at Bay 7 on the American Tobacco Campus.  It is already sold out which is so great for the team at ICS.

I have written before about the Royal Conservatory Examinations.  The reasons I am so keen on these assessments are 1) I really like the curriculum which includes ear tests, technical work, and musicianship as well as exciting repertoire, and 2) these assessments are internationally recognized.  (In addition they are the exams held in my own country for which I sat through from grade 1 to Associate – will find my certificate!). The Royal Conservatory is based in Toronto but they serve students all through North America.  There have been some annoying name changes (Carnegie Hall was going to host the program at one stage) but it was always based at the Royal Conservatory which is home, among other things, to the Glenn Gould School of Music.  I have a list of students I think would do well with these exams which range from Preparatory A and B, and grade 1-10. It has to be students who are currently showing that they like to practice.  Please ask me if you are interested.

My adult students had a very pleasant evening last friday where they played and sang for their colleagues.  Love to have everyone come around and share their music.  Some were nervous and I will be deeply working on nervousness myself before 10/12 and the ICS fund raiser! there are several important points to consider and as I said, I am talking to myself as well here!

  • First and foremost you have to know your piece(s) well (more about practice below).
  • Second, it is about what you are saying in your head. eg “I am going to mess up” (bad).  It has to be “I am well-prepared to share my music and I am going to play well” (good).  If you really want this to work, try hand writing your affirmation 20 times every day for at least a week before you are going to play.  Am I going to do this?  You bet!
  • Thirdly, I have just started to think about this:  give your self more time once you sit at the piano to settle in – play a few notes, adjust the seat, breathe, go over your affirmation, check what key you are playing in (my bêtes noire), and get truly focussed.  None of this “what are people thinking, and are they looking at me, and is my hair right”). I tend to launch straight in to playing but I am working on not doing this.

Practice:  It is a perennial subject in a studio.  How often, how long, in what order?  There is no one answer but there are a few ideas I would like to offer:

  1. Regular works best, at least 5 out of 7 days a week. 
  2. Regular times of day work best – some people can work it into their mornings, some afternoons, some evenings.  For kids, a practice plan with places to check when you practiced works well.  It probably works well for adults too! 
  3. When you practice do the hard work at the beginning and award your self enjoyable playing at the end
  4. I cannot practice without warming up.  If I try to go straight to the pieces I am always disappointed in how I play.  Warm ups I like are either Dozen a Day or Hanon. 2 – 5 minutes will make a huge difference.
  5. Make a list each week of the pieces you are going to work on.  I usually do this in your emails – maybe you can print them out or have them on your phone beside you (working on my set list this morning!)

This Saturday evening I will be going to see Simone Dinnerstein play the Goldberg Variations (One of my favorite works).  However, it will be very different – she will have 6 dancers performing around her as she plays, interpreting the music! If you are interested this will be amazing – hope she can keep concentrating but maybe part of the performance will be more interplay between Simone and the dancers!  Very exciting!

Happy October to all.