Anne Ku arranges Mozart’s famous Eine Kleine Nacht Musik for easy piano for four different levels, for solo or ensemble playing.
Mozart’s “Little Night Music” was originally written for string ensemble, consisting of string quartet plus an optional bass. I played the quatre-mains version with my classmate Jeff Beaudry one summer at New College, Oxford for a talent contest. We won a bottle of champagne which we shared with the other team at our next bridge game.
College students who attend classical music concerts for the first time give impressions of the concerts at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC).
Every semester I require all my music students to attend an approved concert and write a review. The review must demonstrate they actually attended the concert. They can write about the concert-going experience, their impressions, feelings, thoughts, and anything else that resonated with them and for which they wanted to share. I then select the most relevant passages from their written reviews and write a so-called “Review of reviews” on this blog.
Whether to take individual lessons or a group piano class depends on the time and money you’re willing and able to spend to get the results you want.
“Should I take private one-on-one piano lessons or should I take a piano class with other students?”
This is a question I get asked from time to time.
The answer: it depends on the time and money you are willing and committed to spending on lessons and practice. It also depends on the results you want to get. In other words, it depends on your goals.
The traditional private individual piano lessons once a week may be outdated by today’s time-challenged adults who have to balance the demands of work, study, and other responsibilities.
In individual lessons, you develop a relationship with the teacher. You set the pace. Except for improvisation classes, all my piano training has been individual lessons with a teacher. I must say that group lessons were unheard of when I was growing up.
Nowadays, because of time and financial constraints, group classes are not only a possibility but also a growing trend. Digital pianos also make group classes possible as everyone can put on headphones.
For beginners, the progress may be faster in a group setting, because of the effect of learning from and with others. The social aspect of learning in a group causes accountability and responsibility. You practice. You show up to class. You participate. You have a benchmark. If you miss a class, you have to catch up.
I say this because I have witnessed the positive results from teaching adult group piano classes for four consecutive semesters. My goal is simple and two-fold — get my students to
be able to read music and sightread new music
to experience “flow”
Being able to read music notation opens a world of possibilities, for the repertoire for piano is greater than any other instrument. Once a person experiences “flow” he or she will want to do it again. This is the adrenalin-kicking, endorphin-releasing natural high that performers and athletes experience. It’s what keeps us going.
Why does learning to read music work well in a group setting? Short answer: it takes less time and is more effective.
Before playing a new piece of music, I get my students to analyze the patterns and discuss what they see. Everyone gets to participate. By the time we finish and are ready to play the music, most of our anxiety about tackling an unknown piece of music is gone. It takes more time in an individual setting to discuss a new piece of music.
From a financial perspective, it may be more affordable to start with piano classes and continue with individual piano lessons after you’ve reached a level that requires more one-to-one time with the teacher.
At University of Hawaii Maui College, Hawaii residents pay $106 per credit per semester. Consider a 2-credit piano class that meets once a week for 2.5 hours for 16 weeks (or twice a week for 1.25 hours each) versus private lessons that range from $60 to $100 per hour on Maui. You can get up to 6 credits this way (i.e. 3 semesters at 2 credits each).
How big are the piano classes? We need a minimum of 10 students per class for the classes to happen. Check the Spring 2014 music course schedule for class times and availability.
The best quotes from student reviews of concerts on Maui from October to December 2013: Anderson & Roe, Dan Tepfer, Maui Holiday Pops. Ukelele Festival, and Harps and Horns.
One important assignment I require of my students is to attend an approved concert and write a review during the 16-week semester. It’s always refreshing to read their impressions afterwards. Below are some of the highlights from their reviews.
“There was not a moment of pause or boredom as they introduced and linked each work to the next.” — Concertblog, Dec 9, 2013
“These artists are known for their intense and not-so-traditional ways as a duet. Anderson & Roe will take you on a vertical joyride. As soon as they began to play the Animal Suite, I took that vertical joyride and was sitting at a bar and this cool cat comes walking in, looks at me, takes off his hat, and takes a seat with his jazzy swag. Then we move into the elegance of the swan and the next thing you know, I’m in this electrifying swarm of bumblebees racing.” Mauro C.
“The ability to have such skillfulness of control over volume, speed, intensity. As an adult beginner piano student, I know the effort it takes to have even a bit control! How much they must have put in, to develop the seeming ease — to make what sounds they desire to express actually come out of the piano. With grace and speed and sheer elegance!” Jessica V.
“This being my first piano concert, I thought it would be like sitting in a room in front of a ‘Bose’ stereo system, listening to a piano CD, but it was far from it. At times it was like watching a magic show, I sat there wondering how can she cross over, under and around and still play in sync.” Clement A.
“All too soon the concert was coming to a close but not before the audience gave the pianist a standing ovation urging them with words of ‘Hana hou!’ and whistling so loud I was sure someone’s ear drum was going to burst.” Tenajah T.
“When the duo returned after intermission, Elizabeth Roe had changed her dress. She was now wearing something that looked like a beautiful silk aloha-type dress.The duo received standing ovations from the crowd on at least three different occasions that night.” Daniel G.
“They added humor in the way they shared the stories of the pieces. I liked the variety of music they played. It makes me want to continue playing the piano.” Debbie F.
“Studying piano has many benefits. When I sit down to play, it is like not having any trouble things in my mind. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe are duo pianists on a mission to make classical music a relevant and powerful force in society.” Shuang X.
“At times it was hard to isolate who was playing what part. it sounded as if they were one pianist.” Stephanie R.
“They were all over the place and never seemed to get tired. I was very impressed with their communication style, the way they looked at each other and knew what to do.” John d.
“I think they made the order of the show according to mood and tempo which was nice to have a flow to the music rather than bouncing through ups and downs. They had wonderful chemistry, and I kept watching them both. It was very mesmerizing. What made me go to this concert as opposed to the others was that everyone else was going to this one.” Brandi K.
“Their enthusiasm and joy of music was so evident that it was contagious. They shared with the audience and you couldn’t help but like and have a raport with them. The variety of pieces, moving between pianos and seamless switching for introductions and descriptions of the pieces were marvelous.” Cindee B.
“They had a finely dressed narrator, who was accompanied by a local comedian who also helped with the narration and the translation of the well-dressed man’s fancy words into pidgin. This made the time in between the songs much more enjoyable than expected.” Steven C.
“Not only was the music beautiful but it never grew tiresome as you couldn’t predict what key, dynamic, or tempo would come next. Being able to witness and hear such creations was such a privilege and has left me wanting to attend more and more live performances.” Geena G.
“Dan Tepfer did not speak a word. What he did was talk with melodies. Dan’s music also reminded me that finding what you really can become serious about is how you make your life truly yours.” Hidenori S.
“The concert was at Seabury Hall which I thought was a bit too open.” John P.
“Tepfer did not interact with the audience at all during his performance. He did not have to, in my opinion, because his talent did all the talking. If I had to guess, I would say that he played every single key that was on the piano in one performance.” James I.
“Though I felt that if the whole 60 compositions were cut down into maybe ten, he could have used the rest of his time to explore other composers and other reinterpretations. I felt that the performance became too repetitious, and I would have cared for some variety.” Paolo P.
“The improvisations and style Tepfer showed with his variations of the classics was without question a passage from the olden time period to new times.” William M.
“He used his everything to play the music. Not only his fingers and foots, but also he was using his soul.” Misako F.
“The setting was great for the event, with the evening cold breeze, the dark path that made it easy to notice the clear starry sky. I am used to loud concerts and everybody dancing around so to sit in my seat for an hour and a half was a little uncomfortable. The animation that Dan displayed while playing was entertaining.” Josh R.
“I had a difficult time finding the building. … I was interested in the way he played. His hand movements, his facial expressions, the way he danced with the music, and he actually hummed to the music.” Melody R.
Promoting a concert involves more than announcing an event in one medium. It requires multiple media: television, radio, newspaper, and posters. View an example by photo, video, and audio of Ebb & Flow Arts Piano Synergy Concert on Maui, Hawaii.
Once upon a time, the concert was the talk of town. It’s the end result of all things. But nowadays there is too much competition for your attention — to0 many other things you can be doing, including staying at home and watching TV. To get people to come to a concert, you’d have to promote it.
Identify a concert’s unique selling points. Below is a photo of something quite rare: 4 pianists sitting at four grand pianos. It would catch anybody’s eye. This appeared in a free weekly paper that gets published on Thursdays — and just in time, too — the Thursday before the Saturday concert.
How to attract people to come to a concert? Mention the composers and repertoire, particularly if they are interesting and connects. In this case, there’s the premiere of a new piece written by a composer based in Honolulu, Thomas Osborne, who also teaches at University of Hawaii at Manoa. The date of the concert, 14th July 2012, also coincides with Bastille Day, celebrating French independence, hence a concert of music by French composers, including Darius Milhaud’s Paris.
Appeal to different audiences, including those who have access to television. The following 10 minute video clip was aired twice a day, every single day in the week of the concert on Channel 55, the 24/7 cable TV of University of Hawaii Maui College (UHMC).
Reach audiences via different avenues and media. On the Wednesday before the Piano Synergy concert, the following 25 minute clip was aired on local radio.
Besides local paper, TV, and radio promotions, there were also color posters, postcards, and local newspaper listings mentioning the forthcoming concerts.
What can we learn from this? While the musicians are busy practising, the concert organizer (producer) is busy letting as many people know about the concert as possible. These “previews” are important to help potential audience decide and anticipate. Here is a blog post anticipating the event.
It’s simply not enough to tell someone to come to a concert. It needs to reach all audiences in more than one way. Before doing so, one needs to think through what appeals, what attracts, what is relevant.
Maui College Choir prepares for spring concerts entitled Earth Songs.
First I met the conductor, Celia Canty. Then I saw the college choir perform. Next I wrote reviews.
Now I accompany the singers, arrange for them to perform, and blog about their upcoming performances.
I asked Celia about her choice of songs for the Spring 2012 concert. “They all have to do with the earth,” she replied in a recent interview. “The songs are from all over the world, and the choir sings them in original language. But ‘earth’ also has another meaning, too — as in planting trees, jasmine flower, etc.”
In the beginning, the choir was a collection of individuals with separate voices and universes. After weeks of rehearsing, they blend into one single sound. It requires hearing oneself and hearing others. Celia Canty, who has perfect pitch, can hear if someone sings out of tune. She says it’s both a blessing and a curse to have this ability to hear absolute pitch, as it’s sometimes called.
When we arranged to have the college cable TV crew film the singers, it was intended as a concert performance with no audience. I would have preferred a video of a rehearsal, for that’s far more interesting than a concert. At a rehearsal, one gets to learn. One gets to see how the raw material becomes refined into something beautiful. See the video below of a rehearsal of the popular Chinese folk song — Jasmine Flower, which Puccini used in the opera Turandot and which I once arranged for harp (PDF) because I loved it so much and wanted to play it.