Friday, April 30, 2010

"Where do you play?"

I get this question a lot. I'm never sure how to answer it.

I could say, "Mostly in my basement," which would be the truth. But I'm sure people really are asking where I perform, and I give my usual equivocating answer about freelancing, a couple of amateur groups, and so on.

However, most of what I consider my important music making is done in my basement, with my piano. "If you play the piano and no one listens to you, are you really playing?" I'd like to think I am. I've tried sending my recordings to family and friends, and I post some of them here, but I get little reaction so it's hard to tell if anyone actually listens to them. It's also a little remote, and definitely not the same as giving a live performance.

My husband keeps urging me to find a teacher and really pursue piano study. I feel like I am really pursuing it. I've made so much more progress and learned so much more in the past 5 or 6 years when I've been working on my own than I ever did when taking piano lessons. But I also feel that learning to play an instrument requires three basic things: absorption of knowledge (whether imparted by a teacher, by books, or by observation), practice of the mechanics, and performing. Though it's certainly true that a crucial part of the equation is the amount and quality of individual practice, lessons fulfill both the first and third aspect, and all are about equally important. None means much without the others.

Many adult students don't want to perform because they hate the fear and anxiety that are involved, but I believe it's crucial to do it -- because isn't that the whole point of playing? That is, music is meant to be listened to. You also discover how well you really know something when you play it front of someone else. It's also a form of communication, which I find sorely lacking in my life (even with all the blogging, tweeting, and facebooking going on everywhere).

I would like to play the piano someplace in addition to my basement, but I have not figured out how to go about it. I joined the Adult Music Student Forum a couple of years ago, fully intending to perform as much as I could, but somehow it never works out that I have time to either attend an event or to prepare for it. I've played at only two events in the entire time I've been a member. I've hesitated to arrange for lessons because I don't know how to find someone who's both simpatico (i.e., someone who is both kind and knowledgable -- IOW, a good teacher!) and who is willing to teach an adult student.

And so I continue to waffle and wait. And play the piano in the basement.


ray said...

Lessons seem a very good idea if only to help you network into a group of people to play with. But I also think a teacher helps out with things one isn't aware of (technical stuff, etc.). I've been plugging away without a teacher and I think I'm making progress, but I do wish I could afford a teacher. I also think, in my case, he/she would be able to give me a good program of study, work that would interest me and which builds upon itself. Most of the adult study books are useful but dull.

Anonymous said...

Do you post your music on YouTube? I know you mentioned in an earlier post that you don't usually post your music in the Pianoworld Adult Beginner Forum (really Adult Amateur Forum) recitals or the Monthly Piano Bars but I think YouTube provides a cool alternative venue for performing.

Even though you get the occasional crackpot comment (I've only had 1 out of several hundred comments) it is kind of neat to look at the counter and see that real people are in fact watching you play.

As good as you are I'm sure you'd become a YouTube star, plus you wouldn't have to leave your basement.

Harriet said...

Ray: The expense of lessons does give me pause. It's a major commitment (also of time). The networking is part of the advantage, though.

Anonymous: Well, thanks! I've not ventured into YouTube. I don't have video capabilities (not to mention hair and makeup assistance :)), though I know a lot of people just post still pictures with their audio. I have participated in some of the ABF recitals. They are just getting so huge (I think the last one I did had more than 60 entries!), and I feel guilty putting my entry in there and not commenting on everyone's recordings.

On the one hand, I really like playing for people, but on the other, it's hard!

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

I play for myself, mostly. I don't play the piano in public. Occasionally for a friend or small group of friends. And that's enough for me!

I do play the guitar and sing in church; it's easier because it's not a solo activity. I guess that's what friends are for...