Jul 12, 2016

The Annual Recital

A few weeks ago I attended the annual recital of my wife Marcia’s piano students, who range in age from six to eighteen. Annual student piano recitals have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother Helen taught in our home in Philadelphia, just as Marcia now does here in Bedminster. The weekly parade of children sometimes seems to me like the only real constant in my life!

There is also my recollection of my personal feelings about participating in these recitals throughout my own career as a piano student. A mixture of exhilaration, dread, pride, abject terror and sheer joy in performing attended these recitals from the time of being one of my mother’s students all the way through music school, when my formal piano lessons ended.

The annual recital of a class of piano students is, however, much more than my own memories of them as a participant. Attending one of them as an audience member gives one a very different perspective.

These events give every young instrumentalist a goal to aim toward. And in listening to Marcia’s students, it was obvious that they all really took some sort of quantum leap that evening. That, in itself, is a very worthwhile moment to have in one’s life.

How do I know this? I have eavesdropped on their lessons – to a degree – all year long leading up to the big evening! I know how “Jennie” had previously been performing Edvard Grieg’s Elfin Tanz. At the recital she was positively transformed! An opportunity to reinvent oneself. . .wow!

It was also nice to see how well these young people had been trained – by Marcia – to calmly walk to the keyboard and bow from the waist, acknowledging the initial applause. Ah ha! The annual recital also includes lessons in poise.

But perhaps one of the greatest gifts of preparing oneself for a recital appearance is having the chance to deal with the unexpected. I have heard Marcia say to her students in a lesson: “You know that you will not be able to stop playing in this spot in the recital. So – if you make that same mistake – what will you do?” And in this manner she prepares her students to “think on their feet” or “think on their hands” as it were. “How can I improvise myself out of this problem and go on?” That is an invaluable skill to learn and applicable to many situations in life.

So the next time you think you are just providing your daughter or son with piano lessons. . .think again!

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