Monday, October 26, 2009

Piano Duets and Jingle Bells

On the fourth Saturday of April each year, my local piano teacher's organization hosts a Piano Ensemble Concert, a gala event featuring five grand pianos on a stage with student duet teams at each piano. Not only do participants learn to follow a conductor; research has shown that students who are involved in instrumental ensembles show improved musical understanding compared to those who do not. Students who are members of an ensemble tend to develop increased motivation towards their personal music study, as well. Bonus!

At our October meeting, on the fourth Wednesday of the month, teacher duet teams preview the music selections for the rest of the teachers, to acquaint them with the pieces in order to facilitate music selections for their students. Traditionally, my longtime friend Tim Wheeler and I present the Teacher Piece and the Advanced Pieces; this year is no exception. So this morning, I went to Tim's piano teaching/recording studio, Double Sharp Music (click here), for a rehearsal. We spent a very pleasant hour and a half catching up and practicing our three pieces. I love making music with Tim and I am looking forward to performing on Wednesday morning.

In other music news, my students and I have been busy selecting their pieces for NFMC Federated Festival on February 20, 2010. Also, we just started working on Christmas music. I have three holiday concerts scheduled at area assisted living centers the second week of December, and I want everybody to be well prepared to play one or two selections. We will conclude our concerts with a sing-along. The residents really look forward to these events. Of course, they enjoy the holiday music, but most of all, I think, they enjoy interacting with the children.

I had a wonderful experience with one of my students last week. She is the youngest of three; her two older siblings also take piano lessons with me, so most of her lesson books are hand-me-downs. But somehow she ended up with a brand-new Christmas book, and the first song she wanted to learn to play was, of course, "Jingle Bells." I helped her find her hand position; we surveyed the music and prepared to play; and then she went for it. As she found the notes, and began to hear the tune, her face lit up. It was a look of pure joy and satisfaction. She was so obviously happy and proud to be playing a song she could recognize. And I felt privileged to be a part of of that.

I have seen that happen a thousand times, but it is a rush EVERY TIME. The day I am no longer excited by hearing a beginner play "Jingle Bells" is the day I will stop teaching piano. And you can substitute "Fur Elise" by Beethoven or "Turkish March" by Mozart--or any of the dozens of other "war horses" that piano teachers are required to teach over and over again--for "Jingle Bells." Because I remember the thrill it was for me the first time *I* learned to play those pieces. I don't want to deny that thrill to any of my students.

I am truly blessed to be able to make a living sharing one of the joys of my life with other people. I can only hope my enthusiasm is contagious.

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