Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Music festival calm

It's easy to make the Music Festival seem more important than it is. Everything comes together at once in a way that makes it seem like a bigger deal than, say, a recital or regional Suzuki performance. Amongst my four kids there are twenty pieces that are being worked up for the same four-day event.

I saw the potential for stress and chaos with all that music, so we've kept the scheduling simple. While the festival organizers seem to love offering multiple piddly classes, given the long travel time and the competitiveness that tends to be engendered by age- and grade-levelled classes, we streamlined things and kept everyone in broadly-defined general classes. That's led to delightfully odd juxtapositions, like the fact that Erin and Fiona are in the same class ("String Solo Recital Group, Junior"). In fact, those twenty pieces my various kids are playing are all within only three classes -- Erin's piano class, the junior string solo class and a string ensemble class.

But scheduling simplicity aside, the fact that it all culminates during the same week following a prolonged period of preparation has made it seem bigger than it is. I've always been taught to strive for excellence in preparing kids for performances, but I've just let some of that go this time to help moderate some of the intensity. Noah's quartet has rehearsed twice in the past three weeks, and we actually spent a large part of the last rehearsal reading through things for the future, rather than working on their Festival pieces. They won't even play together for the week prior to their performance. Erin missed her March violin lessons and we didn't manage to get anything worked out in lieu of those lessons, nor did we manage to get her an April lesson prior to Festival. She's actually only had two working lessons on her biggest piece, the last one almost 2 months ago. It'll be what it'll be. There has been no chance for the kids to try their repertoire out with a pianist. That will happen once, less than 24 hours before their performances. (This latter situation is by necessity, not choice, as the festival is having to bring in an accompanist from elsewhere to play with the kids -- the only pianist within the region who can handle concerto repertoire has some family issues that prevented her from accompanying this year.)

So here we are in the lee of the busy festival days shrugging our shoulders and just letting it happen. There's so much music to be played that even a little bit of preparatory stress will quickly add up. We are part of the Festival mostly for social and educational reasons and neither of those purposes are going to be better served by obsessive preparation.

Erin played in a piano class yesterday. The adjudicator spent a lot of time on master-class-like teaching at the end of the class, which we always like. I got the first inkling that maybe Erin is going to need a new piano teacher before too long. The adjudicator had clearly taught this piece before and could play it brilliantly well. Erin's current piano teacher has certainly taught at this level before, and has an excellent pedagogical approach to technique, but Erin already plays better than she does. There were a few [in retrospect] fairly obvious corrections to pedalling, fingering and rhythmic issues that were pointed out immediately --and easily fixed. It kind of made me wonder. I'm not a pianist by any stretch, though I can thrash my way through Grade 7/8 stuff. But I'm no help to Erin with this repertoire -- and yesterday we both got a little glimpse of where there may be limitations studying with a teacher who doesn't have inside-out knowledge and mastery of the advanced repertoire. It's food for thought; her current teacher has suggested that occasional lessons in Calgary might be a useful supplement and maybe I need to take this more seriously than I have.

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