-Becky Corley, guest blog with over 40 years of teaching experience. Becky is an amazing mentor to Stathia and taught her so much about teaching piano and running a music studio.
A few words about Achievement Auditions. Every spring we send our students (usually students third year and above) to perform. Students play three pieces of contrasting style: a Baroque piece, a Sonatina, and a solo of their choice. They are judged with a written critique for each piece and given an overall rating. Based on their rating, students earn points toward trophies. These Achievement Auditions are the culmination of the piano year for early intermediate and advanced students.
Most students have experience preparing ONE piece for performance, but many have never before prepared THREE pieces for performance at the same time. I’d like to offer some practice hints for preparing for this big event – and some things you can do at home to help out.
Ideally, pieces should be securely memorized three weeks before performance. Auditions are scheduled for April 22; that means all pieces should be memorized by the beginning of April. That’s pretty soon! Work in small parts for memory. Don’t rely on finger memory only – use your brain, too! If all three pieces are not memorized by the deadline, it’s not the end of the world. That’s a GOAL date. The sooner you have the pieces memorized, the more time you have to polish them and let the music become a part of you.
Make sure you have marked practice parts with your teacher. This will help in practicing and help in having a starting place in the unlikely event of a little memory slip.
After you’ve got the memory down, go BACK to playing with the music – that’s sort of crazy! But now you’ll alternate between playing with music and playing by memory. Pay attention to every detail of the music. You also need to alternate between playing at a very slow tempo, at a medium tempo, and at performance tempo. At first, you might not have the tempo as fast as you want it for a final performance, but you’ll get there. This is where the metronome can really be your friend. With your teacher’s help, set different tempos to practice with. This will be a great tool for you!
Arrange to have opportunities for playing your three pieces for other people – your friends, your mom and dad, your grandparents, your music class at school. These practice performances will help make you more comfortable playing your pieces for others.
Parents, sit down at least twice a week during the three weeks before Auditions. Thoughtfully listen to your child’s performance and offer comments about what you liked about their playing. Be encouraging at all times. REMEMBER THAT EVERY STUDENT’S SUCCESS PROBABLY DEPENDS MORE ON PRACTICE THAN ON ANY OTHER SINGLE FACTOR. From now on, it is vital that students practice at their scheduled time (not catch-as-catch-can) and that their mind is actively engaged.