Saturday, March 28, 2015

Simon Lepper Talks About What It Takes To Be An Accompanist And Why the British Are So Awesome At It

I'm very glad to have recently made the acquaintance of Simon Lepper, the Head of Piano Accompaniment at the Royal College of Music in London. In an interview from a recent Vrije Geluiden episode, Simon talks about the British tradition of accompanying and how collaboration works so well with the British psyche. What particularly resonated with me was the way Simon explained how poetry informs his approach to the keyboard.

Kudos go to Vrije Geluiden for how they are able to bring to life the immediacy of classical music with such a contemporary and genuine context. If only this approach could be found more often in North American television and radio commentary...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wendy Hatala Foley and I Will Be Performing This Saturday at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts

When Wendy and I lived in Vancouver, we performed together all the time. Astonishingly, since we moved to the Toronto area in 2002, we have never yet shared the stage for a concert. Wendy quickly got work in the opera, symphony, and described video fields, while I've been mostly busy with the worlds of contemporary opera and piano pedagogy.

Each year, the Oakville Symphony holds several outreach events to introduce younger audiences to the instruments and voices that they will hear throughout the symphony's season. On Saturday, March 28, Wendy and I will be performing two free concerts at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. If you're interested in hearing our varied program of opera, musical theatre, and art song selections, call (905) 844-6920 or send an email to osochildrenprogram [at] gmail dot com to reserve your seats. From what I hear there will only be seating for around 100, so reserve your seats as soon as possible. This will be the first time that Wendy and I have performed together in many years!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The 2015 Edition of the Royal Conservatory Piano Syllabus is Now Online

After several years of preparation, writing, performing, producing, finalizing, proofreading, editing, and amending, the 2015 Edition of the Royal Conservatory Piano Syllabus is finally available in pdf form, with the print edition soon to follow in music retail stores across North America.

This Piano Syllabus will form the foundation of piano studies in the United States and Canada for thousands of students, teachers, adjudicators, and examiners over the next 7-8 years.

It was an honor to have collaborated with so many brilliant individuals in the preparation of this syllabus, and my contributions have included the following:
  • With Dr. Thomas Green and Anne-Marie Page, playing through well over 600 works in order to choose new selections for repertoire lists at all levels
  • With Dr. Janet Lopinski, co-writing the technique revisions that went into both the Technical Requirements of the Syllabus and the revised technique books.
  • As Artistic Advisor for the recordings, working in the studio with the legendary Anton Kwiatkowski through the process of recording the repertoire and etudes. The many fine pianists featured on the set include Peter Longworth, Robert Kortgaard, Lang Ning Liu, Li Wang, Janet Lopinski, Dianne Werner-Simon, Ben Smith, and Michael Esch. I also played a few of the repertoire and etude selections in the latter stages of the recording process. 
  • Playing all of the intervals, chords, chord progressions, and playbacks for inclusion on the recorded online content for the Four Star books. The online content for the sight reading and ear training is perhaps the most ground-breaking portion of the entire publication series, as it is an online musicianship training course on a scale that has not been attempted before, all utilizing acoustically recorded samples on a grand piano (not MIDI!). 
  • Writing the Helpful Hints section of the dropdown menu content on the online portion of the Four Star books. 
The new syllabus takes effect on September 1, 2015. If you have any questions about the content and/or implementation of the 2015 Edition of the RCM Piano Syllabus, please leave a comment below and I would be glad to respond. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Huge List of Famous Music Students, Organized by Teacher

via Wikimedia Commons.
Musicians are like Zen masters: it's all about the lineage. Wikipedia's List of music students by teacher is a useful way to understand the delicate strands that are interwoven between the bonds of teacher and pupil throughout the centuries.

It's also a great way to settle late-night bets about who studied where and with whom.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Liz Upchurch Talks About How to Be a Vocal Coach

I'm a big fan of the work of Liz Upchurch and it was a very pleasant surprise to see her interview with Jenna Douglas of Schmopera:

Singing from the keyboard, bringing your experience as an instrumentalist to the studio, and respect for the singer's art are all touched on. I hope that a lot of young pianists are inspired by Liz's words.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Practice Time

Much of what I tell my students about practicing involves explaining ways of making their work more efficient and rewarding given their often limited time at the keyboard. so it was a pleasant surprise indeed to see Noa Kageyama's 8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently making the rounds on Facebook this week. 

A research project at the University of Texas at Austin tested 17 piano majors to see how accurately they could learn a musical passage under controlled conditions. The performance results were then checked against how each pianist had practiced, and the researchers came to the following conclusions about those who had played the most accurately:
1. Playing was hands-together early in practice.
2. Practice was with inflection early on; the initial conceptualization of the music was with inflection.
3. Practice was thoughtful, as evidenced by silent pauses while looking at the music, singing/humming, making notes on the page, or expressing verbal “ah-ha”s.
4. Errors were preempted by stopping in anticipation of mistakes.
5. Errors were addressed immediately when they appeared.
6. The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.
7. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct).
8. Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials. 
Much of what I talk about in lessons involves slowing down, finding mistakes, practicing in smaller chunks, and repeating passages until they're right. It was a pleasant surprise to see this type of method backed up in research.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Live-In Opera Coach?

As seen on Craigslist:

Seeking live in Opera Coach to help soprano prepare music for auditions and concerts. Must be good with romance languages, especially french. Looking to put together a concert or production too. Play on a grand piano. Please send resume and samples of your work. Please include experience with specific operas and language ability. Must be willing to accompany/play some parties and events. Transportation to and from New York is possible and will be discussed. Interviewing now. Singer's goal is to perform at an international opera house so please let us know how you think you can help her reach that goal. In the old days...the singer lived with the teacher to bring about greatness so that is why we are looking for this type of arrangement.  
 Free room and board and food.

Is this for real?

(Via Jennifer Tung)