When students are ready for public performance and competitions, the Main Line Conservatory of Music provides them with a variety of opportunities which set goals, stimulate their best efforts, help them grow musically, and experience personal development through music.
Concerts and Recitals
Performing in recitals and concerts deepens the students' understanding and control of a piece, and is also an invaluable tool for general personal growth. The ability to prepare a piece over a period of time requires planning skills on a high level, as well as analytical knowledge of the music to help form strong memory.
To present it to an audience, the student needs strong mental focus, self-control, and practice in communicating the beauty of the piece. It is a tremendous help in developing responsibility and gives self-confidence to the students performing alone on stage, something that will be very useful later in life.
Last but not least, the students get to share their love of music with an audience, who can give valuable feedback and appreciation not only for the wonderful performance, but for the students’ participation in their community.
Competition preparation is a fascinating process for the young pianist to reach his full potential as a musician and a person through performance preparation. Teacher, student, and parent all have a role in the process, which at its best can offer lasting enrichment and empowerment to the life of the child.
The topic is an important one for many reasons. Parents of students comment to us again and again over the years, that they notice their children learn, progress and practice more, when they face the challenge and the deadline offered by a competition.
Learning to be comfortable when reaching out to others (communicating) in a public setting is a psycholgical state; opening oneself to others is often difficult for people of any age, and yet, we all face the experience, whether in the form of tests at school, projects at work, interviews for jobs or college acceptance--the possibilities are infinite. Competitive situations of any kind test our knowledge, our talent, our social IQ, and our ability physically and mentally to endure stress, deal with anxiety, and shows our level of maturity in these matters.
The process is like tempering a sword to bring it to a desired balance of strength, toughness and flexibility. Competitive experiences forge stronger and more capable human beings. Win, lose or draw, our students who choose to prepare for competitions always come back transformed, ready for new challenges. Our students like to play for others, and competing is a part of that.
Playing With Orchestras
Preparation for this category is for the gifted student who has the time for the added work which goes along with learning and performing either a solo piece, or a movement of a concerto which might be 12-20 mintues. But playing with an orchestra is a peak experience itself, especially when playing one of the masterpieces of the entire piano literature.
Preparation for this piano ensemble experience has all the ingredients of concerto preparation, with the added fun of sharing your practice with a friend! It does mean acquiring better rhythm so you stay together, and learning to listen intently to your partner so the person with the melody can be heard. Lots of negotiation takes place, leading to better social skills, and of course, much fun. The literature is huge for duet playing, leading to wider experience with different composers and styles.
The challenge of collaboration with a partner changes the students forever; they see a positive relation between their joint effort and the result. They see themselves in a new light-stronger, tested and successful. They learn a great deal about time management, and organization of a massive work for an important goal. They experience what perseverance and determination brings them. They make new friends with common goals and interests. And they finally really understand that they will perform just about they way they practice. The result is a huge increase in their appetite for practicing new music, and learning lots of it. And their aspirations generally are much higher for themselves. In short, they have motivation, which could be described as having powerful inner reasons for what you choose to do.
Masterclasses are an invaluable tool in bringing the student to a new level of awareness about the piece he or she is peforming through the ideas and example of the master teacher. The job of the master teacher is to explore the possibilities of creating a new and enlarged understanding of the piece in all of its dimensions which the student is performing. Of special attention are the many ways the student might increase his effectiveness in playing. Both the performing student, as well as everyone listening in the audience end the masterclass aware of new and different ideas and possibilities to try.
Chamber music, which means making music with other musicians in small groups, like piano duos, or collaborating with a violinist playing a Beethoven Sonata, trios, quartets, quintets, etc. with or without a pianist, is the single most important musical growth experience which develops high musicianship and imagination for a student. The instrumental and vocal combinations are endless. That first investment in chamber music classes brings untold benefits since students who develop a deep relationship with music carry that love for a lifetime.
The benefits are many: Playing in a chamber music group leads to the ability to hear and co-ordinate with other performers, which inevitably leads to hearing oneself on a very high level. We call this critical listening; it is a powerful source of change and development in the student. This in turn sharpens the students’ touch and tone and rhythmic sense which comes from noticing how other instrumentalists deal with bowing, breathing, attacks, releases, crescendos, diminuendos. In addition, the natural differences in piano tone quality from strings and wind instruments stimulates a wide palette of tone colors and helps the student acquire the touch which creates the difference.
The chamber music repertoire contains some of the best music ever written, and is wonderful to explore. The beauty of playing it with colleagues is one of the most compelling musical experiences, causing both a deep bonding to the music, as well as developing personal friendships between members of the group. Experiencing and understanding style differences from different musical eras, like the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern puts the student on the path to independent learning. Lucky is the piano instructor who teaches a student who already has a firm grip on differences among composers and the style appropriate for each.