This summer was more about recreating old music than creating new music, and for very good reason.
Many piano students are victims of the silo effect. The student takes solo lessons, practices in a corner, learns music that he doesn’t hear anywhere else, and has one awkward recital a year.
Not how it’s supposed to be.
The practice of music should be, like any craft,
It should be shared.
It should be relatable.
It should be a way of life, or at least serve one’s way of life.
It should be learned to a degree where it can serve a greater purpose than mere self-display.
As a teacher, I’ve tried to fight the silo effect with group lessons and tailored recitals, but something more was needed. This year, the studio had a breakthrough when we partnered with local music educator Heather Wilson to offer a summer youth chorus and piano ensemble program.
Chorus offered accompaniment opportunities for piano students, but it also offered a social way for pianists to experience another dimension of musicianship. Furthermore, we had a goal to integrate the students’ work with local, experienced musicians to bring the community a pleasant outdoor performance. The performance wasn’t a recital; it was a way to bless attendees with art that fit the season.
How did we pull this off?
We started with the program selection. (I guess that’s classicalese for “setlist.”) We wanted the program to
- Be achievable
- Expose students to good literature
- Be interesting to the community
- Have an energy arc (an ebb and flow of speed and mood)
- Suit the season (summertime)
A preplanned program was essential to recruiting local musicians, since we could ask for a very specific part to be played. We adapted as needed when no one was available to fill certain roles. The final setlist included classical, popular, folk, and Christian numbers - and room for a surprise, like when the piper volunteered a performance of "Shenandoah."
Felix Mendelssohn, “You Spotted Snakes” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Opus 61
English folk song arranged by Elizabeth Mitchell, Froggie Went A-Courtin’
(Children’s chorus with guitar and fiddle)
Scottish folk song, Wha Saw the 42nd
(Youth chorus with bagpipes)
this is when the piper swelled into Shenandoah
Edvard Grieg, medley arr. R. Hall and G. E. Holmes, Elfin Dance / In the Hall of the Mountain King
(Two pianos, four hands, and tuba)
English folk song and Paul McCartney/John Lennon medley, Ah, Poor Bird / Blackbird
Adam Young arr. Mark Brymer, Fireflies
R. Hall, September
(Piano and cello)
Ruth Moody arr. Marcelline Moody, One Voice
Brooke Ligertwood, King of Kings
(Youth chorus, children’s chorus, guitar, and two pianos, six hands)
The students rehearsed for about eight weeks; community musicians rehearsed as needed. Then, with ample help from local folks, we pulled together at a big backyard on Friday, August 20, and sang till the moon rose.
Music that was shared? Yes.
More than mere self-display? Judging by the smiles I saw in the audience and the words of parents who saw their kids grow through and enjoy the program, I think so.
It was a team effort and a labor of love. I hope we can do it again.
P.S. If you're curious, here's a playlist of the program.