Now, the repertoire for the final concert has been set - besides playing for the singers' lessons, additional rehearsals start! It is actually my first open air concert (never performed "outside" - solo piano recitals are almost always in indoors. Excited! Collaborative piano performance and its preparation are so much more fun than just working on the solo stuff... Also it is so useful/ applicable to my work as a music director relating to choir rehearsals, their repertoires and preparation. Another half way to go!
Just arrived in outskirt of Florence to be a part of Casentino Voice - a wonderful master classes, lesson/coaching and performance series run by my dear soprano colleague and mentor, Valerie Girard. I am so excited to work with those fabulous singers and observe some coaching tips during the course. I truly love summer when I am allowed to have some extra time to spare for my performance enhancing projects to maintain my pianistic (especially on collaborating with singers) skills. So look forward to a week full of music! Despite of the jetlag, I feel so energized!!!
Summer is the time to squeeze in extra performances and learning new repertoires to make some "reserve" to keep up with my pianistic capabilities besides working as a music director at St. Andrew's and also as a piano teacher. Pianistically speaking, though I still enjoy working on the solo repertoire, I love working with singers for the amazing experiences what we could create together as one performing entity. The time also is an issue - for solo repertoire, it takes a lot more time to be fully ready whereas collaborative piano repertoire takes less time for preparation (but more time for rehearsals).
It is interesting to note that if things are a part of routine (preparing for weekly Mass, doing search and work for new and more liturgically interesting pieces on both piano and organ, prepping choir pieces, etc), it becomes "the norm" and it does not stand as a challenge much these days. On the contrary, the additional repertoire for non-routine performances (i.e. additional vocal repertoire, new solo programs, etc) becomes something which require extra effort and hard practice to feel ready for performance quality. It is a little funny that until I became the music director (as my main work now) at St. A's, the feel was the total opposite, practicing for solo and collaborative piano repertoires was a part of routine and I felt it was more of a challenge to search and consistently incorporate the new liturgically meaningful pieces either on the piano and/or on the organ on weekly basis.
I suppose it is all relative - the more comfortable and regularly "performed" repertoire or genre of music becomes more instantaneous/ implicit per se. I have about a week more to go left to get ready for a vocal workshop. It is truly energizing experiences to extend my expertise as a musician/pianist and, though it could be a challenge at times due to time management, I hope to keep up with any genres of music I cherish.
As for teaching, "Project Ipsilon" is a spin-off project in progress using my teaching experiences as a piano teacher, which I also enjoy and cherish as a part of my career. Performing is great, yet I also believe music has a great power to nurture people, especially children as a part of their life experiences and education. Hope to be able use my tips of effective learning and music's influence in cognitive development and its optimization to contribute back to the society! It is almost like the collaborative piano performance, teaching is always a teamwork with the student to make the best out of his/her capability together. During summer, it is rather more relaxed and I am more performance oriented, yet this will be back to one of my main topics to face in fall semester.
Hope I have more than 24hrs a day to get to all those I love to do...!!!
As I grew up in Tokyo, where I was born and raised, I have participated in numerous lessons - piano, Kumon, exam prep classes for literature/ Japanese and math getting ready for the private middle school, Japanese caligraphy, skiing (winter), volleyball (my piano teacher was not happy...), etc, during my years in elementary school, from 6 to 12 years of age. That is quite a curriculum and I recall I had very limited days I could play with friends... My mother was not so-called "tiger mom" - I think it was just the way things were there when I grew up...
Anyhow, apart from the piano, I have to say those activities on the list were registered by my parents and I simply participated and practiced them. One among such which I am very grateful taking is Kumon. They are becoming popular in north America, you can find one even in small town where I live for reading and math training. What I have experienced as a child taking their program was math/ arithmetic. They train you with repetitions over simple to complex calculation patterns on small sheets of paper containing set numbers of mathematical exercises. After months of doing the same, you are able to mentally do the calculation with good numbers of digits fast and with great accuracy. The combinations of numbers were visualized almost instantaneously for whatever the calculation tasks I was given (addition, subtraction, multiplication and fraction/ division) and able to complete each exercise without using any calculator. I was able to do that for good numbers of years until the effect of it gradually evaporated over the years after stopped taking their program... I believe you have to keep up with training to keep up with such skill, just like piano playing...
Though I can not do the same calculation mentally any more, I see striking similarities in music reading with this type of visual processing. If we see the music more by patterns, teach ourselves repeatedly (but with RIGHT information) for the exact movement pattern for each hand, theoretically, it will work. That is how I came up with my reading training method/ app (still in process of development), Muspuzzle. It is almost as if storing the database of each musical pattern we see/ move into our mind/ memory. The more "vocabularies" of such are stored and practiced, the more efficient and automatic/ implicit you can respond by playing. Probably because of this "imagery" aspect of musical language, some of the students who have reading difficulties otherwise (i.e. dyslexia) were able to read and play fairly comfortably with it in my teaching experiences.
I would be very curious exactly what differences it makes between conventional way of reading and using the imagery and mental processing of it. Those who happen to come across with my blog/ this site and are interested in running such research, please do let me know! Kidding aside, with my most sincerity, if the efficient way of reading method/ approach could be put together and scientifically decoded how well it works, there would be so many children (and adults) who can build so much more self confidence and enjoy reading. In music in particular, the reason why students quit or start to experience the negative feelings in musical lessons is often due to the difficulties faced in music reading (well, that is so at least for the piano since we have the most number of notes to read). When the patterns become increasingly complex, the reading becomes somewhat of burden. But it does not have to be that way. If this issue could be overcome, music could be cherished for much longer in his/ her life and may open so many different life experiences....
My exploration and experiments with processing in music continue...