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My Hawaii Studio Recital & My Birthday

22 Nov
Gifts of Hawaiian Lei & Koko-Pele

Gift & Music from students for my first Studio recital in HawaiiFlowers for the Instructor

I arrived with a batch of recording equipment. One of my adult students  immediately “lei’d” me with a beautiful and soft fragrant lei. The lei smelled soft, light and fruit-like and really changed the aura around me to being immediately pleasant.  It was only my 2nd lei made of flowers that I have received since being in Hawaii. So, it is something very special to me.  Three beginning students of mine committed to performing that day for about a half hour. My prior studio recitals were 20-25 beginners playing short works of 1 min. a piece over 30 minutes.  So, this felt more like a recital should to me. Two of the composers prepared original works for they day. We had performances of a Christian based song called “An Angel is Born” by a Hapa-American composer that I accompanied on piano in the style of Pebble Hill Inter-faith Church, and a piano piece entitled “CY7” by a young Japanese-American composer.

Others adult students bailed out on performing, days before, or had business trips and other things planned. The Studio recital this year went well. Held on the 20th of Nov. 2011. Some of my adult students were able to perform, and in the aftermath of APEC that greatly affected the island and our schedules. And, on a weekend before the Holiday season “officially begins” with Thanksgiving day in 4 days.

I was very happy with everyone’s efforts. Before the performances I gave everyone performing a copy of Ruth Laredo’s book for advice and to aid them in their first performance. And, very proud of an adult student who had to play and carry most of the music time in this beginning recital with more lengthy and intermediate classical & jazz works.
 At the end, I was given a Hawaiian Koko-Pele necklace (aka as Kokopelli) with the spirit of the music muse. And, for the first time in my 20th year of teaching;- I gave out awards. Awards are something that I usually reserved for students who were in my studio in excess of 2 years or in the rare case of exceptionalism. This time was quite different. My youngest student and only child student has studied with me since August, barely making the 3 month mark. Another student who was on-again/ off-again and never having much time for learning piano and practicing pulled through with lengthy song lyrics and a melody that I helped to arrange.  What a wonderful day! All ended with another

Asian Lillies- fragrant
Flowers for the Instructor

bouquet of Asian lillies and requests to hear me play, despite my attempts to clear the hall for recording. I realized that I normally make and evaluate self-recordings before performing as part of my artistic process.

It was nice to see happy faces. Thanks to everyone for making it a wonderful day.
Later, I got to cash in my Starbucks Birthday coffee card for a Venti Peppermint Soy Mocha. Then, I was able to get some extra hall time to try out the piano and recording in this hall (a new place for me). Afterwards, I was taken to dinner at PF Chang’s for some Vegetarian spicy eggplant and yes, a Chopin Dirty Martini- Shaken not stirred.
(reminiscent of a small group of male tweens in my  piano studio, years ago who performed the James Bond theme, and one made the Philadelphia Inquirer re: his serenades)

Recording piano music

22 Nov Self Recording at the piano
Self Recording at the piano

Hoping to start recording. I need more than prayers. Photo- self.

Recording piano music is quite a life-long endeavor for me. It’s an achievement I hope to attain in my adult life with my thorough artistic education in Classical piano as an art-form. My alma mater Music school was so against my performing;- but they kept me in the Music college regardless of demolishing a potential career in my youth. My parents, both being in the graphic arts industry & tile & textile design, never seemed to value recordings much. They even tossed away my great-grandmother’s recordings from the 20’s-40’s, as they proudly announced one day. The irony, is that I am a musician. And, aside from teachers who recorded me;- my family never cared to make recordings of my playing even for competition. I don’t even want to comment about how thankful I am for simple software to use on computers and I-pods today. However, self-recording is still difficult. Hiring the tuner, bringing equipment, doing takes of passages and all these things are time-consuming for the Classical pianist. It’s not like being in a band and tossing together everything you’re going to record in the studio. Classical piano recordings should be practiced and performance ready before entering the studio.

My Current Technique

22 Nov

 

A glimpse of Angela M. Kneale's Piano techniques

 

 

Briefly on Technique

17 Nov

Technique for the lifelong pianist is something that one grows into from the time the young pianist is able to press her/his first key on the keyboard. This is much like any child who grows into becoming an all-star athlete in his/her chosen sport. And, I try to explain to students that playing with straight and un-curved finger is like trying to run a race with locked knees.

The mindful part of the developing pianist is within the inner-ear development and leads to a delicate/sensitive musicality which emphasises subtle tones to contrast the more bombastic elements of technical power. Lest we forget, the art is NOT to bang exclusively as a show of control of the instrument. Sometimes I have male student who see my small frame and try to outplay me. When, the focus and bigger show of maturity and refinement as a pianist is in the musical control of being able to play subtle and sometimes nerve-wracking slow passages perfectly.

Two Metronome Method differences

27 Oct

There are a few approaches when it comes to the perpetual ticking, tocking, beeping, and flashing that aggravates any piano cat to the point of metronomic annihilation.

The two approaches are:

1. Develop strong rhythm first and then later develop artistic technique.

The first way, is usually used with developing a good sight-reader and accompanist who won’t falter the tempo. These learners can become powerful sight-readers, and we see and hear them at auditions. However, many of them lack artistic sensitivity because they are literally just pounding out the notes without a significantly more skilled control of their voicing, crescendos, and rubato. They can make decent group players rather quickly, in band and other endeavors, however for some more picky ears;- they may not be a desired accompanist to perform with another inclined artist at a different instrument.

2. Develop a personal rhythm and artistic approach to the piano and then impose the metronome.

The second way is the reason why some students attend auditions and are given comments that say they have a nice musicality about them, but have a weak rhythm that needs work. However, the artistic process is long and to develop students to masterful maturity can sometimes take years. This type of playing is where they have developed their own sense of rhythm and musicality and phrasing that is pleasing to a well-trained artistic teacher’s ears, and then that tone and touch is put into the metronome beats. Even today, online, there are pianists who display their videos and have still not reached maturity with this process. That is to have a desire to play like a master with the Composers intended tempo, and not at a tempo that is convenient for themselves. It’s important for parents to understand and support this process at the Piano.

The difficulties and the “lost” art of musical artistry

Unfortunately, there is much teasing and ridicule that befalls students of both categories of metronome and rhythm learning. The students who are avid sight-reader early on make fun of the artists who are concerned about the shading of each note and “lack rhythm”. And the artists, who have musical control, usually remain silent for a long time, detest the hoards of sight-readers who lack a decent sense of rubato and musical phrasing to make sense of a contemporary period modern piece. The battle goes on until the second category artist catches up in sight-reading ability (that many mistakenly neglect for their lesson assignments).  The first category is full of learners who usually have a more solid attitude to secure work with the public and impress people with the quantity of music that they can make. This is because masses of people  in the USA can be easily impressed with a large quantity of piano music rather than the quality. However, many of these players are not going to be winning prizes for interpretation. But, as the piano industry changes and the art of creating musical control and tone becomes “lost”, due to a high number of electric keyboard players, more of the sight-reader (I expect) will win because they have more money to spend in their industry. Maybe in time, that will make them better artists. It’s difficult to say. I can only hope, as an instructor who was held to a high artistic standard, that the art isn’t completely lost among the American masses that are so abrasive and not understanding when it comes to these things. Yes, developing your own sense of rhythm, touch, and control at the piano way of learning is an art and tradition that is ultimately expensive in numerous ways. You must afford the time, humility in practice, and such until one day you emerge like a hard-pressed diamond who doesn’t expect any reward.

Differences of Adult piano/music lessons

27 Oct

Live without piano lesson regrets.

Piano teachers everywhere have heard parents talk about their own experiences with piano, and with some hint of regret that they didn’t stay with the piano. Adulthood is a wonderful time to learn the piano as a safe and enriching hobby that can be done easily in one’s home or office.

Why piano?

There is something, as an instructor, that makes me giggle when I hear colleagues who made the life commitment to teach stringed instruments. It usually occurs sometime when I’m walking down the hallway and I can’t help contain my laughter. I’m happy as a piano instructor that I don’t have to focus on getting a student to improve the sound quality of a squeaky tune. However, that’s probably the only laughter I get to have as a piano instructor. The things that I focus on improving as an instructor with pedagogical technique/method are far more serious in producing quality and quantity of piano music.

The Focus and differences of Adult piano/ music lessons

1. Training hands that are accustomed to other movements & using fine motor skills that are previously untapped.

2. Ear training in tonalities;-  the Adult ear has a musical awareness the new child learner is only forming.

3. Memory work that can, for some time at the beginning, be inconsistent from week to week. One week it’s easy for an adult to remember something and the next week the focus isn’t there. We adults simply have more pressing matters on our mind than most children. And, we have to mentally prepare ourselves to block out those thoughts and keep the cel phone turned off for the time that we are practicing, if possible.

Memory and focus for adults is one of the biggest trials for me as a piano instructor. And, I can also relate in adulthood. Adults simply have more things going on in life. And, unlike a life threatening rock climb, piano doesn’t require complete focus to stay alive, as an enriching hobby. For this reason, it’s important for adult learners of all ages to treat their time at the piano as a musical meditation time. When one begins to equate learning slow finger movements to a slow walking meditation, we have begun to enter a more focused mindframe. This level of awareness is needed in the first months of adult lessons so that performance frustrations don’t overwhelm the chance of success at the piano.

4. Performance self-conciousness for adult piano learners is usually higher than for children (who accept that performing is another kid thing they’re supposed to do, and all kids understand this). It’s important for beginning adults to perform in a peer friendly environment. Everyone has different amounts of time to give to their piano study in adulthood in order to maintain their adult responsibilities. And, this time is everchanging in our adult lives. We must be patient with ourselves and our life circumstance, breathe, and accept where we are at the instrument. It’s more important to embrace our piano study as a gift to ourselves, and accept any performance opportunity as a step in our progression at piano learning.

5. Musical awareness is a bigger difference with adults taking piano/music lessons. Adults simply have heard more, seen more, and experienced more in life than a child. Because of these factors and the life long experiential depth that has developed a full range of emotion;- adult learners who take their time at developing tonal/muscular control of sound will have more to express than many adept child performers. In part, as performers, we call this practicing the aura or emotional maturity of a piece rather than just practicing getting the keys and basic rhythm.

I hope that this helps adults who are looking into taking piano lessons. The most important thing though is to have fun with playing the piano and performing. For adults who want to begin on their own, I suggest checking out Alfred’s Adult Piano Course level one with CD. The CD is a bit “fast”, but work through the book at your own pace. Find a teacher to correct your written work in the book (which may be a good review if you’ve had prior lessons), and maybe if you feel ready;- assign some pieces.

I have my own 2-3 year syllabus that has 14 pieces selected from the Classical Repertoire for children or adults to learn from, and to expand their understanding of the Classical piano performance and dialogue. The pieces range from simple Bartok to Mozart and Bach, and then Mostly the Great Romantics – Beethoven & Chopin followed with Debussy and Shostakovich.

Aside from the above mentioned syllabus, I primarily teach adults how to work on anything that they want to play.

When I started my Studio

26 Oct

by Angela M. Kneale

I had been competing at the then named
MTNA Baldwin piano competition 1986 and MTNA Yamaha Piano Competitions 1989, 1990 etc. at
the Pennsylvania state level for 3 years (when making state level
just 1 year was unusual). I also had at least 2 years of choral
accompanying under my belt in High School for an approx. 80 voice
choir, and other special choirs. Though mostly I focused on my solo
work, outside of the occasional concerto competitions (reserved wins
for a particular other teacher’s daughter in the area, known fact
going into the competition) And, since I was a child, I alongside my
brother had some publicity playing at various local & Lehigh
Valley events and college repertoire classes for the better part of a
decade. This first 8 years of experience was the precursor to my
first advertised piano teaching in my 9th year at the
instrument prior to starting my undergraduate degree at age 17. I
can’t say there would be that many teachers/piano instructors like
myself who had success at competitions prior to commencing teaching.
I was never encouraged to obtain even an MTNA certification in
discussion of my “teaching career” for which I prepared for from
age 12.

 

The first method books that I used at
that time for beginners were Alfred d’Auberge, and the John
Thompson’s Scale Speller and Chord Speller for music theory. And, I
used Chopin Preludes and other Technique books with some older
students. My starting lesson rate at that time in the early 90’s was
a meager $14/ hr. And, my parents controlled how much time I was
allowed to teach on my piano, enough to pay for my own lesson for the
week with additional class and maybe part of my brother’s lesson. The
money I made teaching as a known child pianist went right back into
piano.

 

The good part of having such a low rate
was that I quickly secured a waiting list. I advertised in a local
area Penny Power for a reasonable/affordable rate with my lunch
money. Having the waiting list allowed me to be more selective about
choosing who stayed in my studio. And, I even had a small number of
intermediate students who were close to being my peers. I was able to
pick and choose who I liked to teach because some personalities were
not compatible with my own. This way I began to develop my
instruction style, and learned to have parent – teacher meetings.

 

My pedagogical study preparation was to
read two books about teaching piano under tutelage of my teacher at
the time. I knew from the Sokoloff influenced lessons I had, what
scale requirements were for Curtis Institute at the time (no internet
then). And, later heard that everyone thought I’d be wasting my time
to audition at Curtis due to my mixed-race and my family’s lack of
money in the US (the Curtis Institute supposedly seeking large
donations from any place). However, I barely touched on scales with
my first group of students and I had a more interesting time to teach
a student who had permanent dyslexia.

 

That was the start of my studio, I had
not many more than 10 hours of teaching at any time. It was my last
year of Senior High School that I began advertising my teaching. I
had other audition requirements, accompanying commitments,
performances, and schoolwork that last year. However, I completed
High School performing at my Baccalaureate service. I had scholarship
offers from every school to which I applied including;- University of
the Arts, Temple University’s Esther Boyer School of Music,
Westminster Choir College, Ithaca College to name a few. And, after I
left Pennsylvania;- decidedly for my safety (though proving untrue
later on), I managed to secure a handful of students while at
College.

 

My sophomore year of my undergraduate
degree was the beginning of my second decade at the Piano, and my
third year as a piano instructor.

 

Big Studio, Small Studio- Recital Differences

25 Oct

30+ students in recitals or >10 students in a recital what’s the difference?

When parents are selecting a piano instructor, the recital size can make a difference.

On the positive side of the bigger studio recitals:

  1. Students & parents will hear the same repertoire performed and can begin to assess performance differences. The bigger recitals will generate a new dialogue for the entire studio to talk about piano performances. This dialogue will mature as more outside piano concerts and recitals are attended.
  2. Beginning student performers have safety and comfort of only being on stage for a piece or two (1 min – 3 min avg. ) in case of a memory slip or anxiety. It’s quickly over with.
  3.  30-45+ min recitals to listen to. Some of the larger recitals are at the local conservatory or music school and are combined with other studios and students can perform representing their instructor’s studio.
  4. Instructors can disperse a “smaller recital fee” among more students for the piano, tuning, etc.

On the positive side of small studio recitals:

  1. Students & parents will hear different repertoire performed. Usually, smaller piano studios have parents who are more frequent concert goers or had a pianist in the family and are already more educated about Classical piano performances. The conversation about the performances will have a more mature depth to them.
  2. Beginning student performers have safety and comfort of being with people who they are more familiar with and will perform longer with 3-4+ pieces (1.5 min – 10+ min on average). If there is a memory slip or anxiety, the audience will usually be more understanding and supportive. *this is typical to do with students preparing for auditions in any studio size.
  3. 20 – 30 min recital to listen to with the possibility of hearing the instructor perform on the same day/ recital.
  4. Instructors can arrange these recitals more frequently, as students are ready, giving students more performance opportunities.
  5. The audience can be more critical and smaller, more like an audition.
  6. There is extra time for students to “re-record” a performance on video/audio if they are unhappy with the initial performance.

On the flip side of big studio recitals

  1. Parents often complain about the same repertoire being performed each year by numerous beginners.
  2. Children can make blatantly cruel comments about their peers rather than being supportive, before leaving the recital hall.
  3. Adult beginners are usually outnumbered by children 99,5% & are  extremely self-conscious about performing with 7 year olds or 12 year olds and try to make light of it when they reach the stage with a talk, rather than performing as a student should.
  4. Some recitals scheduled run over 45 minutes. Younger children start crying and become irritated easily.
  5. Students don’t hear the instructor/faculty perform that day due to a number of Student recitals. A separate time/day is arranged for a faculty performance that students may not be able to attend.
  6. More difficult to “re-record” a performance because of the volume of people present and moving after the recital.

On the flip side of small studio recitals

  1. These are more difficult for the instructor to publicize in the community since fewer community members are involved in the performance.
  2. The audience is smaller by about 50% or more.
  3. If recital costs are assigned, they are higher for each student performer
  4. The student becomes too comfortable in the performing hall
  5. The student has more anxiety because the audience is more educated, or there is no way out until the last piece has been played.
  6. An unusual rotation of the performers after each piece, rather than sitting through and playing all pieces.

Though this is just a short list of important things off the top of my head, it is something a parent/student should ask the instructor about when interviewing for lessons. It’s important to define the type of piano experience you are seeking for your young pianist. I have simultaneously taught in both of these situations and am happy to answer questions that you leave in the comments section.

Things for a Student Recital List

25 Oct

Student Recital:

1. Students

2. Students with memorized pieces for a recital,  3 to 4 pieces from each student is preferred or more than 4 for a better time.

3. Student recital agreement contract (I’m finding that this is a MUST in the 21st century, and for Adult students)

4. Venue & piano

5. Concert Piano Tuner

6. Chairs for hall

7. Refreshment Table

8. Flowers of some sort (nicer though not necessary)

9. Recording equipment

10. Printed Programs

11.  Certificates

12. Camera/ Video Camera

13. Chair for a page turner ( if works are not memorized)

14. Refreshments – Non-dairy, no-eggs, no meat

15. Table Cloth

16. Press Release (possibility if students vote for public concert)

17. Prizes (if Fundraiser event with recital)

18. Give notice to students that 10 days to 1 month before recital they should be ready to perform.

19. Students/ school  should have mechanical licenses for copyrighted works, register each song @ $15/ song even for video taping.

20. Schooltube.com not Youtube.com may be safer for posting video.

My Piano Syllabus & Method

22 Oct

20 years of my teaching & creating successful students. Yesterday, I spoke briefly with someone in my family who works for Czerny, a music publisher, about my publishing my piano method. I will most likely self publish, though securing library matters is necessary for future consideration. I have been teaching mostly and successfully producing quality students without following any particular method book;- though I have delved into several beginning method books. My focus in my teaching has not been financial. My syllabus simply is an outline of the Method and how I have successfully taught hundreds of children and adults. It is a complete method with all elements of pianistic skill for Classical & Jazz that include: Rhythm, Theory, Sightreading, Fingering, Artistic development, Memorization, Performance, Quality Recording level, Composition & Arranging.  Though I have used portions of this method for children as young as 3 years old, the age level may vary greatly for each student as well as the depth and immediacy of understanding concepts.

My Method book title is: “A Performer’s Piano;- Learn a Virtuoso’s Perspective.” for ages 3-adult

It is meant for a 2-3 year course of piano study that should be conducted by a well-trained pianist. This is not meant to be taught by piano teachers who still cannot clearly voice or play the works of Chopin.

Though the onset of my method is very accesible to nearly everyone, the method is for those who truly desire to play piano well in a non-competitive forum. This isn’t a method where one is going to learn to play… and then somehow fail to meet the Classical Literature that is performed by virtuosos. There are select pieces from the Great Masters for the student to choose from. Younger students will spend more time in Bach, Bartok, & Mozart. The adult student will learn from Bach, Bartok, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Mozart & Shostakovich. And, the study of these pieces and my Stamina & Technique excercises that include Performer’s theory should aid beginning pianists of all ages in understanding the piano virtuoso a little more. That is aside from developing skills from the first months of lessons that can last and be useful into a concert performing career should one desire a more serious course of piano study.

Please write to on Facebook if you have any interest.

 

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