This article is written by guest blog author, Melanie Spanswick. Melanie is an experienced teacher and examiner and has entered many students for piano festivals. Melanie is also co-founder of the Saturday Piano Salon.
Melanie has just written her first book about piano playing which will be available soon. She writes an excellent blog about all things music-related. This article on stagecraft is very timely as my students will be performing at two festivals this weekend.
I have been attending several amateur music festivals lately giving me the perfect opportunity to observe the musical skills of many young people (and some older ones too). Most competitors are understandably nervous when faced with the prospect of facing an audience for the first time and it is especially daunting for very small children. Its interesting to watch how humans react to nerves and stressful situations. Everybody manages to get up onstage, play through their piece and run off stage after; but its the differences in this scenario between each competitor that make it a fascinating spectator sport.
One comment that comes up time and again at festivals is the importance of stage deportment, or how you present yourself onstage before, during and after you have played your piece. Some students rush to the piano, not looking at the audience or adjudicator at all – they just want to get on with playing – or maybe get it over and done with; they often forget to adjust their stool or rest their foot comfortably on the pedal, sometimes with unfortunate results. Other competitors saunter to the piano, take their time, smile at the adjudicator and wait to be told to start and then amble off afterwards. The latter are very much in the minority.
One of the important elements that participation in music festivals teaches its participants, is how to present yourself effectively in public. This is so important for many events in life – not just for playing the piano. So here are a few tips for those intending to give a performance soon:
1. Before you go onstage collect your thoughts and keep calm. Try to think positively and tell yourself that your impending performance will be fine – and then it will be.
2. Walk slowly onstage to the piano (if that is your instrument) take your time, adjust the stool, sit up straight (this is often an indication of confidence) check your music, rest your foot on the pedal (its amazing how many forget this and then end up in a panic mid piece!) and make sure you are sitting comfortably.
3. Announce what you are going to be play in a clear voice looking directly at the audience (and adjudicator, if there is one), after all they want to know what they are hearing.
4. Take a few moments to stop and think BEFORE you start playing; this can make the world of difference to the performer and the audience (who are impressed by the performer’s sense of calm, as is any adjudicator too).
5. When you have finished playing, get up immediately and take a bow. Lots of amateurs forget this but it is only polite to say thank you to your audience for listening and clapping at the end.
Try to implement these simple rules the next time you (or your child) performs and you will be amazed at the difference it can make. When I was an examiner, I could tell a candidate who was going to get a distinction the moment they walked in the door (its true), so exuding confidence really will make a difference. Good luck!