The Spring Soiree

Those students who have been with Flourishing Muse for  while know that the Spring Soiree is coming soon.  Each semester I have a soiree (fancy name for late afternoon concert) at Croasdaile Retirement Community where I am so fortunate to be able to hold my events.  The details:

Flourishing Muse Spring Soiree
Sunday June 3 at 3 pm
Croasdaile Auditorium, 2600 Croasdaile Farm Pkwy, Durham, NC  27705
(directions will being coming in May)

Why do I do these concerts?  Of course one reason is to give students an opportunity to experience public performance but my primary rationale is to give students an opportunity to share their love of music in a very supportive and non-critical environment.  Family and friends and the Croasdaile community are delighted to be part of this sharing.  Another important aspect is to give students a twice a year goal to work towards.  Perfecting a piece is a little different to playing a piece.  Playing is fun but there is something special about getting a piece up to performance standard.

All students are invited to perform but performing is not mandatory.  I know all about performance nerves and I will have to work on mine to be able to accompany a few items.  There are two important things to know and work on: first, every person in that auditorium is on your side and will love whatever you do; secondly, the trick is to focus entirely on what you are playing, shutting out all external sounds and voices, like that terrible on in your head that says “you can’t do it”.  Thinking positively is very important.

I have a tentative order of performance which I will share with you in lessons.  I’ll help you make your choice of repertoire but you have a say in this too.  I will have many items so in most cases students will only get to perform one piece.  Guitars and ukuleles (and the odd violin and mandolin!) will perform in groups.  In some cases, parents are going to play with their student – even grandparents!  So wonderful!  I could have a whole day of playing but I have to keep the concert to not much more than an hour and a half.  The first half will be the younger piano players and the guitars and Ukuleles.  The second half will be the rest of the pianists and the vocal students.

Summer Opportunities

Flourishing Muse Spring Semester will end on June 16.  After that I will be teaching camps and will not be teaching lessons during those weeks.  Fall semester will commence on Monday August 27 and will end on December 7 when I am going to Australia for 3 weeks to see the new grandchild due in August.

However, I know there are some students who would like an opportunity to have a lesson over the summer.  There are 3 weeks when I could do some special lessons or group activities: July 3-6, August 8-17 and possibly August 20-24.  At the moment I am just considering this idea but I would like some feedback if you are interested in:

A half or hour piano lesson
An hour or more group guitar session(s)
Individual or very small group (2-3) work on music theory
Individual or very small group (2-3) work on finale (have to have finale on a laptop)

Carnegie Hall Achievement Program

I am very happy that more students are interested in sitting for the Carnegie Hall Achievement Program assessments in Piano and Music Theory.  The curriculum is carefully graded from Preparatory to level 10 in piano and the certificates you earn are recognized nationally and internationally.  Imagine having a series of these certificates in your portfolio for college!  The other advantage is once you have achieved a certain level you can become a student music teacher or an intern for a studio, another great thing to put in your portfolio.  And of course you can take your certificates and your piano playing expertise to an audition for a college major or minor in piano.  These assessments are fairly new in the USA but they come in association with the Royal Conservatory in Canada and it was founded in 1886!  You can read about the Carnegie Hall Achievement Program at this link.

The repertoire for the assessments is carefully chosen but the pieces are usually short.  You only have to prepare 4 pieces.  There is nothing to stop you learning other repertoire at the same time, either classical or popular.  Imagine the assessment requirements as the basis and your other repertoire material you have chosen and want to learn to play.  My job as your “coach” is to help you prepare for the assessments and to support your other goals.

In addition, the Carnegie Hall curriculum takes students slowly and thoroughly through technical studies and I think this is admirable and makes technical work less onerous for students.  However, there is nothing to stop you looking in Hanon and learning other scales or exercises.  Ask me about Hanon.  In the end you are the one in control and the one who has to put in the practice time.  I am not demanding about practice but I have to say that by age 15 I was personally doing at least 2 hours practice a day (and 3 hours every Saturday in theory class) and at 18 it went to 6 hours piano practice each day.  In my opinion that is too much and I think more can be achieved in far less time if the practice is focussed and on the right elements.

Lorna’s Piano Teacher

Some students have asked me who was my piano teacher.  Her name was  Marjorie Hesse and she was a brilliant performer.  However, she was also very down to earth.  After I graduated from the NSW Conservatorium, at one point I was living in Cairns, North Queensland (tropical, very hot, very far away) and Marjorie came to give a concert and masterclass for students.  The church hall piano for the master class turned out to be really terrible and I started apologizing.  She said “Don’t think about it. A good pianist can make any piano sound great”,  and she played Peter Skulthorpe’s “Stars” and it made magic that afternoon.