As many of you know, I try to incorporate some music history that is a little out of the box. Our schools do a really nice job of exposing our children to music, which affords me the opportunity to be creative. This year I thought it would be fun to focus in on piano performances. When I have a minute or two, I have been sitting down and practicing my own pieces in front of the students. It gives them a chance to see what practice looks and sounds like. Plus I am trying to show them just how involved a piano piece can be. They sometimes follow the music while I play which is another worthwhile skill.
Last year I had them watch a couple of piano performances centered around the composers we were studying, and many of the students seemed to enjoy that. I was able to reinforce a couple of technical points for them to consider. This year I am going to focus on the actual performer. So of course, I am beginning with Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry. I’m sorry, but seriously – some of the best. The kids will love it. Then we head to the Marx Brothers – the power of the internet! I would have loved to have an actual video clip of Jelly Roll Morton or Fats Waller but next best thing is a couple of pianists playing some of their amazing Ragtime. And then, there is Liberace from the 40’s and 50’s.
After watching these speedy pianists, I fully expect your children to come home and play as fast as they possibly can. Playing too fast is something kids absolutely love to do. Don’t be discouraged. It is a great way to become more dexterous at the piano. I remember practicing a piece a million times to show my teacher how fast I could play it. She was not impressed and I felt she did not understand 8 year olds at all.
If you happen to be with your child at church or a concert or anywhere someone is playing the piano, you might want to choose your seat so that you have a good view of the keyboard. We have been focusing on two elements: “releasing” or letting go of the keys, and moving forward on the keyboard (closer to the wood) using the entire depth of the keyboard. This feels weird at first because your fingers are literally between the black keys.
Most of all just enjoy watching. It is like a dance on a very special stage. This awareness is something I hope will stay with your children forever.
“Music Lasts a Lifetime!”