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A Need To Perform

Music is to be performed!

I am quite sure we all can agree that to perform music is the only way to know and be good in music, particularly, for the young music student. Though we can acknowledge this fact, much still needs to be done so that musical performances will be a frequent and regular happening in and around your area.

A musical performance need not necessarily be a major event like the annual concerts that many music centers organize for at the end of each year. It can be done on a small scale that can occur with more regularity. In fact, it has been done! So, let’s take a cue from our Chinese counterparts and follow their fine example.

Those who have been following our articles may remember our report regarding a visit to Xiamen, China by piano teachers from here. Xiamen was little known until we reported that Xiamen apparently produces many fine pianists. One major contributory factor that nurtured the immense talent is through the community holding regular music performances every week. It seems that individual households take turns to organize and host piano performances during weekends. Neighbors and friends are the audience who come for some music appreciation and to give encouragement to the performers.

Obviously, one can arrive at the conclusion that growing and developing under such suitable conditions can only make the performer better in many ways. Besides promoting music and providing a platform where young pianists can hone their skills and musical thought, it also promotes great neighborliness and communal integration.

While trying our best to encourage and impress upon every music student and teacher to look for opportunities to perform music whenever possible, we do not hear of much regular performances. Perhaps, the virtues of performing regularly are not fully realized and often get overlooked.

Let’s take a look at the virtues of performing music:
· It makes you think about how you are going to present and perform your music.
· Makes you a critic of your own performance to be more sensitive to the nuances in your performance.
· You practice more to ‘stay in shape’.
· You feel a desire to explore more music and it widens your repertoire.

Now, let’s consider how the audience should react:
· Be appreciative and not overly critical of the young performers. The young performers need time to mature musically.
· Even if the performance is not up to your standards, applaud to give encouragement. The next time you hear them again, they would have improved.

In short, we are trying to encourage everyone learning or teaching music to put his or her art into practice. This was the reason Rhythm MP organized a series of Piano Festival’s over some years in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and we are still encouraging students to perform through some of our music education support programs that we conduct.

Preparations for performing:
· Select the musical work/s that you would enjoy performing to an audience.
· Think about how you wish to perform your music and explore your ideas.
· Put in a lot of practice time to be able to perform well.

Dressing has become a bane for many people. People in general, are ‘dressing down’ these days. This is rather unfortunate because I can recall during my young years when my family was very particular about how I dress and how I carry myself publicly. I was taught to take pride in dressing suitably for an event and to take into consideration where it will be hosted, and I still do. For example, I would dress casually for a dinner at a friend’s home but I would dress smartly if the dinner was held at a restaurant, hotel, etc. Likewise, I attend weddings wearing a suit or at the very least, a coat.

Personally, I find it quite distasteful when I see people dressing inappropriately for a function. At the very least, we surely do have some common sense to dress proper when the occasion calls for it.

In the music world, dressing well for a performance is part of the grooming process that music accords an individual. I have frequently come across students who are dressed inappropriately to perform. For those who make an effort to dress well for a performance, I commend you well.

However, dressing ‘proper’ for a performance does have some problems too. These problems have to do with our understanding of what dressing proper means. Some girls tend to wear tight fitting clothes and high heels to perform, which is not recommended. Tight clothes restrict movement, especially of the arms when performing on the piano. High heels arch your feet and you find it rather awkward to work/control the pedals on the piano. For the boys, please do not wear t-shirts, shorts and slippers on stage to perform. This is very unsightly.

I cannot understand why dressing well is considered a chore, a hassle and/or an inconvenience. Some even complain that it takes too much of an effort to dress up. I am sure all you readers find these so-called ‘reasons’ unacceptable as they also breach social etiquette. Dressing appropriately should be something that we do naturally. We ought to be moving forward while retaining the good values instilled in us, rather than to denigrate ourselves for lack of effort to dress proper.

Dress Code: Dressing well for your performance.

· Dressing well is a sign of self-respect.
· It is also a sign of respect for your audience as you are dressing for them as well.
· You become conscious and aware of your outlook to be as presentable as possible in public.
· It also helps you develop the correct demeanor to have dignity and gain respect for your impeccability.

Here are some fine examples of students who dress well at our events.

Stage & Performing Protocol

Now that we have dealt with the attire for performing on stage, another important factor to consider is what I call ‘stage protocol’. It simply implies the proper manner to present oneself to acknowledge the audience. It is also a gesture of respect between the performer and audience.

Many performers feel self-conscious and almost embarrassed to bow to the audience properly. It could be anything from shyness to stage fright that particularly affects the young performers. This problem can be easily eradicated by having the student perform regularly to an audience to build his/her self-esteem.

So, what is the proper manner to bow to the audience for the pianist? Here are a few simple steps to follow:
· Walk properly on stage towards the piano. Do not stroll leisurely or rush towards the piano.
· Depending on which side of the piano you are, stand with a good posture and place your left or right hand on the piano to signify that the piano is your principle instrument.
· Look out to the audience with a smile and bow.
· Although ladies curtsy in most other circumstances, a bow is standard for female performers on stage.
· Most importantly, do not rush through the entire process before performing.
· After completing your performance, step to the side of the piano, place your hand on the piano and take a bow before leaving the stage.

The photo below is of a piano teacher bowing to the audience before and after performing for them.

What do we notice from the photo?
· Dressed very appropriately.
· Pleasant look on her face and smiling to the audience to signify that she enjoyed performing for them, and hope that they enjoyed her performance too.
· Good body posture.
· Hand on the piano.
· Feet together. It is acceptable for one foot to be slightly in front of the other, especially for the ladies. Never stand with feet apart as it will look and feel awkward to bow this way.

It is always relevant to train young kids stage protocol as early as possible. When done often, they will not feel shy or inhibited to bow on stage.

Off To A Whole New World

While awaiting my application reply, I indulged more into jazz and looked for any opportunity to perform. Finally, when the college’s reply came and I was accepted, I was thrilled to the core and immediately called home to inform my family. They rejoiced in the news and I only had a few months before leaving for Boston.

Meanwhile, my motivation and enthusiasm got more intense. Soon, I will be off to a whole new world, a different land, a different culture, where everything would be different, but I was brave enough to just head out and fend for myself.

A new chapter was beginning for me. Everything I learned, experienced and gained during my college years were invaluable. The friends I made there, the impressionable faculty members (who always kept me in awe with their knowledge and skills), the college itself and all the people I met during my years there were instrumental in my development.

It was after college, when I had some anxiety about where I will head off to next to start my life in the working world. I was contemplating on a few places to go but I finally came home. My dad called me when I was in San Francisco (after college) and suggested coming back to see if I can use my knowledge and skills to back home.

It took a while for me to decide coming home but I finally agreed to give it a try. I flew home with a heavy heart having made great friends there at college and at work.