Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Children's Party Pianist - Inspire and Entertain!

I was asked by a piano teacher to provide live piano music for my daughter's friend's 7th birthday party. In particular for a party game - "pass the parcel" where children pass a present around and when the music stops, unwrap the present (within a present) to find and keep a toy or chocolate. Usually this game is played using a CD or nowadays, an Ipod.
Pianist as Party Entertainer!

However, I was doing a live version, so I grabed the nearest Classic piano compilation book and started playing excerpts of some famous classic pieces I had learned during my piano lifetime - familiar classics like Chopin Waltz in C Sharp Minor, Fur Elise, Chopin's Minute Waltz. Fortunately I'm good at sightreading, my forte so could play most of those pieces fairly confidently (not improvising or playing by ear - but improving on that!) I even played some more contemporary pieces I was working on such as Bumble Boogie (Jack Fina) [ a boogie woogie version of Flight of the Bumble Bee], and the popular Axel F theme.

Piano Sage playing Bumble Boogie at a recital

After I played, a 7 year old girl came up to me and said, "How can you play like that!?", I must admit, I felt slightly defensive, thinking she didn't think much of my playing. So neutrally, I said, "how do you mean?". To my relief, she said, "You're so GOOD!". I was thrown and surprised by this comment, as I always compare my own playing to the great pianists, in my ideal of what is good playing. And often when you play in a non recital environment, especially when you can hear people having conversations in the background -  you wonder are people really listening to what you play? What I said in reply to this compliment was "Practice Practice Practice".

 I think this story illustrates just how personal an expression music is, when we play music, we are prone to criticism but also, praise. Sometimes we lack the self confidence in our own playing. We become self conscious of the possibility of failure in terms of wrong notes, or risk of not playing well or prepared, that we therefore, do not share our musical gifts with others, which is a tragedy. It's very likely many of the children there never heard live piano music before. And perhaps one day when their parent asks, what musical instrument they'd like to learn, they might even say 'piano'.

And what a revelation that live music works wonders, it entertains, it inspires. Just how much live music inspires was evident that evening, two children, my 3.5 year old daughter and the birthday girl's 2 year old brother who never usually go up to the piano, started experimenting and took a keen interest in the piano, then and there. The moral of this story is to go out and spread the music, find conventional and unconventional situations to share it, communicate music, and last of all, just don't keep it to yourself!


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