On Saturday 6th July 2019 I held my 10th student concert. My twice-yearly concerts provide an opportunity for all my students to perform to a friendly audience. Because many of them don’t take formal piano exams, the concerts provide an alternative goal for them to aim for, preparing a selected piece or pieces of their choice to a high standard. Unconstrained by the requirements of an exam syllabus they are able to select any piece that they like and, most importantly, motivates them to play! Often they will be keen to learn a piece from a film such as Nathan, 10, who played the theme from Jurassic Park:
Daniel, also 10, chose Hedwig’s theme from Harry Potter:
Both Nathan and Daniel found good arrangements of these pieces in books. However, Dan, 11, chose to arrange his chosen song – A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman – himself, using a few different arrangements he found online as inspiration:
Pop songs are also a popular choice for my students. I try to discourage them from using sheet music arrangements of current songs as sometimes such arrangements can be of variable quality. However, lead sheets – which provide only a melody line and chord symbols – can be a great way to learn the basics of a song whilst allowing for a creative interpretation of the core ingredients. Luca, 13, used a lead sheet to create his own arrangement of Coldplay’s Clocks which also contained his own improvisations based around the chord progression:
Gabriel, 10, also used a chord progression from a famous song; but rather than use any aspect of the actual melody he used this chord progression to create his own piece. He challenged the audience to see if anyone would be able to recognise the song but because he had changed it so much from the original (John Lennon’s Imagine), no-one was able to identify it!
There were also a couple of debut performances including this from Jago, 4, who played I Like Coffee – a wonderful and very popular rote piece. Do make sure you check out the look on his face when he takes his bow at the end and realises everyone is clapping for him!
Sophia, also 4, was playing in her second concert and performed her version of Mary had a Little Lamb – she had worked out how to harmonise this herself:
I love to play duets with my students. Here’s Myla, 6, and myself playing Broadway Star:
And Izzy, 11, and I playing Simple Samba:
These twice-yearly student concerts are a great opportunity for my experienced students to prepare a chosen piece to a high standard and for some, to perform their own composed or arranged piece. For my new and very young students it’s a lovely way to boost their confidence and provide them opportunities to perform in a friendly and informal setting. For me, it gives me a wonderful opportunity to look back on previous performances and see how my students are growing and developing both as pianists and as people. I’ve now hosted 10 concerts and plan to host many more – watch this space!