Monday, December 13, 2010

"Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells....what?!"

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned here how much I love Christmas and Christmas music.  I love, love, love it!  I'm one of those who will start listening to Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day.  Gets me into the festivities RIGHT NOW.

So, imagine my excitement when I was asked to sing a mini-concert of Christmas music to a large group of Kiwanis Club members in one of the swanky athletic clubs in the Seattle area.  I had not done specifically Christmas music before, although I have been a soloist for years, but this was right up my alley.  So, I got right on it.

I called my ex-roomy, who was an excellent pianist, and we met at her house to "rehearse".  We picked a set of songs and ran through them maybe once.  After all, Christmas music -- how hard could it be?!  Easy as pie.

As I sat up on the stage in front of these several hundred people I felt confident, maybe even a bit smug.  I was going to be singing the songs that I love the most and I was going to blow them AWAY!

How wrong I was!   The second I got up to the microphone I knew there was something wrong.  Something was rising up inside of my body that I had not ever felt to that extent before.  And, my friend felt it, too.  She started playing.  Fast.  Faster than we had practiced.  And all of a sudden I realized...."I DON'T KNOW THE WORDS TO THIS SONG!"

But, I could do nothing about it.  The intro had completed and it was my turn.  My turn to sing.  My turn to wow them.  My turn to make a complete fool out of myself...

"Just hear those sleigh bells ringling, rijerjlelijlkngln-ing, too,
Come on it's sdlkjf;oasdkf for a a;sldjfa;sodjf ;laskjfdl asf with you!
Outside the asodjfaslkdmf;l and oeoirj;oasiejr asff YOO HOO!
Come on it'sapsodfijaosdifja;soidf for a poajsdf;oajsdlkfja sdd with you!"

What had come over me and taken over my voice?  What was taking over me that I couldn't make stop?!  My mind is racing as quickly as my mouth is spewing out nonsense.  "Wait!  Those aren't the words!" I am thinking to myself!  But, I didn't know what they really were, and  it only got worse:

"There's a birthday party apsodfjalmwe;lrjlj asdpofjasdofj Farmer Gray,
It will fpeoajs;eljejfoij l  sadpofiasd of a perfect day!
It will poasijdf;laskdjfl;asdkjf o o;tijasoito sf asotija;soti;oisdj

I looked at my incredulous audience.  Many had their mouths open in disbelief.  Others were adjusting their hearing aids.  Many of the faces said to me, "I can't believe I have to sit hear and listen to another 20 minutes of this!"

But, in my professional training I KNEW I had to keep going, to not quit, and to keep a smile on my face like I knew exactly what I was doing.  And finally, the song was over.

It was not the end, however, as I had 5 more songs to peform.  And the rest of them were not much better.  It only got better when I got to "O Holy Night", my closing number, which I actually DID know because it is my favorite Christmas song on the face of the earth.

My friend and I left that place holding on to each other necks both laughing and crying together as we walked out to our cars.  Several weeks later, I called to ask when we might be receiving our checks in the mail.  The agent replied, "Oh -- that was a charity gig."

Needless to say, I use this constantly as an example to my students to know their music 100% or they will end up like me.  I hope they listen.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Piano Parties - Woo hoo!

We are just heading into the Christmas season, and I can feel the excitement. My students love to play Christmas music, and for my Jewish students I offer Hanukkah music for them to play as well.

In the past, I have had a Winter Recital, which has been a great mid-season event. This is where they can play their Christmas or Hanukkah songs for the guests, as well as an additional song they have been working on. I have had up to 35 students, so instead of having one recital, I would do two on the same day, and it makes it so much more enjoyable for the listeners -- I have found that even with great music the guests get a bit restless.

However, this year I knew I would not be up to a full-fledged recital due to a recent minor surgery, so I have decided to do smaller "Piano Parties" in my home for the students to play their Christmas music. The kids LOVE these.

Piano Parties are events I have at my home the week before a recital, and are used as a "Dress Rehearsal". Parents are typically not invited -- this is for the students to perform their piece in a non-threatening environment and "work out the nerves." I show them how to walk in, enter the piano bench (if they need refreshers on this), play their piece, then exit the bench and take a bow. They also have to learn how to be good "guests". After they have performed, we embark on some fun games, and then they eat some nummy snacks – cookies/cupcakes that some of the parents might bring, and fruit drinks. The game of choice is always "Flash Card Challenge". I split the students up so they are competing against each other in two lines (two teams). The first child (in the front of the line) who names the note correctly receives the flash card and goes to the back of the line. Once all the flash cards have been "guessed", we count up the total of "points" and that team wins. (Typically the cards with ledger lines are “bonus questions.”) The winners get a small prize and get to choose from the snacks first. Piano parties typically have 8-10 kids in each party and usually run about an hour, and take the place of their lesson for the week. I have them sign up on the wonderful website that I use called "Music Teacher’s Helper."

This year, however, I will hold Piano Parties as mini "recitals". I don’t want to “jip” the parents out of hearing their children play their Christmas music, so I will hold Piano Parties next week that the parents will be invited to. They will not be long – probably 45 minutes long at the max, due to the fact that people are so busy during this season, and the kids are studying for finals, etc. I will offer three different evenings for these events, which they can register for using my Student Website at Music Teacher’s Helper. (If you are a teacher and have not checked out this website, please do so…they offer a free trial and website! It is a time saver and wonderful way to keep a calendar and do billing, etc.)

I'm so looking forward to next week and my Piano Parties!  So are my students!