On the 5th of June, we held our annual Summer Piano Recital in The Old Library at Dulwich College. There was a packed audience of around 130 students, families and friends that had gathered to hear the wonderful performances from pianists and instrumentalists. Our most hardworking students were presented with medals and trophies to honour their achievements.
Thank you to Pianist Magazine for providing copies of their magazine and Mini-Marks for our goody bags. It has been lovely to see so many students turning up to their lessons with pieces that they would like to learn from the magazine. I do encourage you to subscribe to the magazine, especially as they have a special subscription offer for all our pianists and blog readers.All watermarked images are available to purchase from James Eppy: firstname.lastname@example.org
To start the concert, our senior students played a varied programme of post-grade 8 pieces by composers such as Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Bach & Ginastera. We had the lively opening duet, Dvorak’s 8th Slavonic Dance by Joe Ruddleston. Joe is heading off to Bristol University this September to read music so very warm congratulations to Joe on this next exciting musical journey.
We were then treated to a beautiful operatic song called “Vilia” from Franz Lehar’s ‘The Merry Widow’ performed by Teuta Koço. Teuta is a busy soprano singer who is much in demand with her touring work, most notably with The Scottish Opera this year so I am very grateful that she was able to spare her time today to perform at this recital.
One of the highlights of the programme was four year old Alanna playing a lovely duet by Diabelli called “Scherzo & Trio”. Alanna has been learning the piano for nearly a year and shows amazing promise – definitely one to watch!
Then we had the piano trios, a collection of well-known tunes. The piano can be quite a solitary instrument to learn so playing in an ensemble is a fun way to improve rhythmic and listening skills. The prize winning performance was judged by my piano teacher, Denise Patton. She commended Grace, Albert and Maggie-Anne for their performance of the Russian folk song Kalinka – a piece that starts off slowly and increases in speed which was executed perfectly and demonstrated brilliant listening skills.
The Beginners’ Cup was presented to Luella, one of my most hard-working students that always has a smile on her face and loves to play the piano. Luella has great support from her parents who have a routine at home where she practices the piano every day with their supervision. This ensures that she works through all the homework requirements and doesn’t just practice the bits that she already knows how to play, which is often what happens when young children practice unsupervised. Luella is always well-prepared for lessons and is very receptive to learning new music without complaining that it is too hard! Luella recently played in The Croydon Festival and the adjudicator, Vanessa Latarche, complimented her technique at the piano and said that she is developing a very musical touch which shows that in her first year of playing, she has acquired a solid foundation in the basics of piano playing. Good habits are important from the very first piano lesson as it is often a mammoth task to correct technique if it has not been mastered properly. Congratulations, Luella!
The Theory Cup was awarded to Jonathan Wilmshurst who has achieved Distinctions at his last three theory exams – all of which he has taken over the past academic year. He is also preparing for his Grade 1 piano so is doing extremely well to fit all of his music work around his full-time job. I am looking forward to Jonathan receiving another Distinction at his Grade 4 exam this term!
I am sure everyone is sick of hearing me saying “you must practice daily” but I don’t say this just to sound like a stuck record, I say it because it is the only way to become a truly great pianist. All of the performances you heard today from our older students are a culmination of months of toiling and sweating over the piano. We don’t just pick up a new piece and play it perfectly in the first lesson, it takes lots of hands separate practice at a snail’s pace until we get to the point where it starts to sound better and get faster. My last piece of the concert, Malambo by Ginastera, took me about 6 months to learn, bar by bar, hands separately.
Young pianists need to play daily in order to retain the vast amount of information that we are teaching them. To develop muscle memory, enhance note-reading skills and produce a pleasing performance, you need to chip away at your pieces every day to hear sufficient progress each week. To honour the hard work and perseverance of our most dedicated students, I presented Practice Medals to Grace, Gracie Dot (Gabby’s student), Safiya, Albert, Alanna and Amalia. Juno (Rachel’s student) also received a medal for her hard work.
Another vital skill for pianists is the ability to read music. Again, reading music becomes very easy if you practice a little bit each day. Many students rely solely on finger numbers to read music, without using the rhymes that make note-reading a breeze to master. Once pieces move beyond the first piano book, it is not possible to rely on finger numbers as your hands start moving around the piano, so it is vital to be able to read the notes accurately and quickly, otherwise you will remain stuck at one level for a very long time! Last term, all students were given note naming tests and medals were awarded to the following students that scored 100% on their tests: Maggie-Anne, Boo, Sean & Abel. I would like to give Abel a special mention as he has worked very hard at improving his note naming skills and has had great support from his mother Emmanuelle who has been drilling him on note naming each week. This really has made a massive difference in a very short space of time to his note naming skills.
Gabrielle and her father Andre, a professional double bass player, performed two Brazilian songs. Gabby sang and played the piano which was a wonderful demonstration of vocal and pianistic skill. I would like to thank Andre for giving his time to come and perform at the recital.
Following this, we had several performances of Grade 8 and Diploma standard pieces. There are eight piano grades and it takes approximately 10 years to progress through all eight grades. Irene performed a Debussy piece from the current Grade 8 syllabus. After Grade 8, many students do not realise that this only the beginning of the musical journey, not the end. Once you start playing at Diploma level, you are freed from the constraints of the exam format and you can start exploring many wonderful (and weird) pieces. The first Diploma is equivalent to having completed the first year of a degree at a Music Conservatoire. The second Diploma is equivalent to a graduate-level recital and the third Diploma is something that you usually undertake when you have been performing as a pianist for many years. All the pieces played by me, Shareen, Angela, Tim, Tom and Peter are on the current syllabus for the first level diplomas, either the ATCL or the DipABRSM from Trinity College or the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
Finally, this concert is dedicated to Barry Mason of The Surrey Docks City Farm who tragically died last week in Spain. Many thanks to Alan for coming along to represent the farm. So far, The SE22 Piano School has raised £442 for the farm and we will continue fundraising for the farm until the end of 2011. You can donate online and this will go directly to the farm. Next year, we will start our fundraising efforts again for another locally based charity.
A big thank you to Selena from The Couture Cookie Shop and her helpers for providing all the catering for this event. The cup cakes sold out before I could even get one!
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