Friday, May 17, 2013

Plugging along on piano

I am of course continuing my piano lessons. Bach, Brahms, Bartok, and Debussy are all on the plate at the moment. At a recent lesson, my teacher asked if I was planning any performances any time soon. I wish! The dates never seem to coincide with my availability and level of preparedness. He opined that I hesitate because I have "standards." Maybe so, though I'm hardly a perfectionist. I think the problem may be that I'm working on such hard pieces.

This is good in many ways. It's challenging, and I'm learning techniques (like fast repeated notes, how to voice thick chords, and how to play fast in general) that have always been baffling to me. But are they too hard? Are the tasks insurmountable?

The bad part is I don't have anything simple I can just toss off on request. I suppose I could remedy that on my own by working up a few pieces that are within reach just for this purpose. But as I keep lamenting, I have so little time; every week is a scramble just trying to make progress on what I'm doing for my lessons.

All that being said, I'm still very happy with my teacher. He always tells me things I find interesting and useful, and I think we work well together. So I will press on. Perhaps it all will come together in time.

I got the job

I found out a couple of days ago that I got the teaching job! I'm pretty excited about it. Stay tuned ...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Music/life happenings

I see another month has gone by without a post from me. It's not that I'm not doing anything musical -- on the contrary, I'm going crazy and only wish I could quit my job tomorrow so I could have time for everything I want to do.

As the date for this fall's performance of the Schumann concerto hovers ever closer (looks like it will be in November), I am motivated to practice by a combination of fear and desire to do my best. This past weekend I had my first full lesson on the piece with a cellist from the National Symphony, and I'm both surprised and grateful that he's done a lot of prep to help me, including consulting with the principal cellist in the symphony and getting me a copy of the latter's part with all his bowings and fingerings. We went through the entire piece and he walked me through some of his choices on these points as well.

Good and appropriate bowings and fingerings for most pieces are obvious, at least to me, but there seem to be infinite plausible ways of playing this concerto that create subtle emphases one way or another (should there be a slide here, or there? change strings or shift? connect all these notes or break into shorter bows?). So I'm feeling like I need to try out as many as I can think of before I settle on something. Either it's something about this piece (which may very well be true, because it's technically complicated) or I'm getting pickier, or both. In any case, I'm glad I pushed myself to find someone to work with me on it rather than trying to do it all on my own. I've already garnered a lot of wisdom.

Another thing that's been going on is that over the past couple of months, something has been driving me to pursue more teaching opportunities. I've been teaching one adult cellist for more than a year now, and this winter I took on a child beginner as well. I realized that this is something I really enjoy doing. I like the human interaction (which I get very little of at my day job) and the challenge of explaining and conveying technique and music, and trying to do it well. It also reinforces everything I know and gives new insights.

That is why I've put out feelers about acquiring more students, and this week I had an interview for a part-time job at a small private arts school (music, dance, drama, visual art). The interview consisted of talking with the school director, who is someone I know from college (yay networking!) and the outgoing cello teacher, teaching a 20-minute lesson with a current student at the school, and performing a short bit of something (I played a page of a Haydn concerto). I will find out in the next few weeks if I got the job or not. Even if I don't (and I can understand if I'm not the best choice), the whole experience was totally engrossing.

I'm going to continue to explore teaching possibilities and am looking forward to what happens next.