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Laurie Niles

November 22, 2004 at 5:18 AM

My studio's recital last night reminded me that I find as much joy in teaching as in performing.

I used the opportunity to air out my Tchaikovsky Concerto, a bit of a self-indulgence. But if anyone was going to appreciate the effort, my students, their fans and my friends would. I've always wanted to perform it, and now I know why. What fun it was! During the rehearsal, when I was able to play through it twice with the pianist, I felt like the second time was just a joy ride.

Though my own performance was important to me, I found that I was equally invested in the performances of every single student who took a turn last night. In the end, I was quite proud of myself, but even more thrilled with the accomplishments of my students.

I realized, from performing something that is right on the edge of my own ability, that I had required every one of them to do the same. “Twinkle” may not seem like a big deal, but it certainly is if you've played the violin for only six months and never performed for anyone.

So here are some of the amazing feats that my students performed last night:

A two-year-old walked up in front of a sizeable audience, stood on a foot chart, and played an opening “song” called the “Eing Concerto.” She bowed beforehand, played her song, even corrected her right hand position when it was out of place, then bowed afterwards, picked up her foot chart and went back to her parents. Go, little girl!

A four-year-old with a rather quiet disposition sang the “Rest Position Song” all by herself, quite boldly, getting all the movements and words right.

Another four-year-old played the “Cat Kitty Song,” a scale song, with wonderful accuracy and the stage presence of a movie star.

A six-year-old student who started just last summer played the marathon “Twinkle Variations,” completely in tune with wonderful position. I told the audience that by the time a student masters the “Twinkle Variations,” he or she has learned 45 new skills. Pretty amazing, eh?

A five-year-old girl whose attention is prone to straying played “Song of the Wind” with complete focus, and quite well in tune! This was after a dress rehearsal in which the fingers went far from the tapes, resulting in a week of concentrated effort to set them straight. She did it!

A second-grader conquered all the confusing double up-bows and rests in “O Come Little Children.” She was so on-target that I could see her starting exactly in the middle of the bow, where I'd put a red tape, then dividing bow exactly in half for the double up-bows. Beautiful!

An adult beginner, who has been through a difficult year of job changes and challenges, got up and played Perpetual Motion, perfectly in tune. She smiled the whole time!

A fifth-grader, who in the past has gotten quite nervous on these occasions, truly made the “Happy Farmer” sound like a happy farmer. If she was nervous, she had wonderful poise. Not to mention good form and intonation!

A 10-year-old boy, whom I've subjected to a great deal of technical overhaul in our six months of collaboration, played “Witches' Dance” like a star. I was pushing him to play it with more energy, and there it was!

An eight-year-old, whom I started when she was four and a half, played the Gavotte by Martini, which is wickedly hard to memorize for all its repetition, and it has a rather contrapuntal piano part to further confuse the mind. And, she had not made it to the rehearsal. Did she flub up? Not a bit! Played it like a pro, without a memory glitch, and with some nice musicality that is going to shine gorgeously when she gets a bigger fiddle with sound.

My teenage student played the slow movement from Mozart 5, and though it was a struggle to put it with the piano for the rehearsal, she did it from memory for the recital, having patched every point of rhythmic confusion. Plus, it sounded like Mozart! We all know that this is not easy to achieve, it takes a lot of patience and attention to seemingly simple and “boring” detail, though she never shied from that work.

Another adult student, after some 30 years of orchestra playing, was performing a piece from memory for the first time. After always performing with the music, it is a major accomplishment to throw it aside! He played a gorgeous “Meditation from Thais” that had everyone clapping for a long time.

All of my students' accomplishments belong to them; they are the result of their own hard work and of the support of the people around them. But I am thrilled to have a part in shaping their progress, and to be able to watch them grow into this art. For some, I am watching them grow up! What a privilege, to have this vantage.

Good work, all!

From Henry Liao
Posted on November 22, 2004 at 10:45 PM
Wow you're an excellent teacher :)
I hope I can learn the Tchaikovsky as well you have!
From Henry Liao
Posted on November 22, 2004 at 10:47 PM

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