I will have to do a spotlight on Frances Madden. A really talented young lady. This is one of her own songs, for you to enjoy!
On the 31st October, whilst many were preparing for the Halloween festivities ahead, I was celebrating firstly my lovely partner, Eef's birthday but also preparing for an exam I had been preparing for over the last two years.
In 2013 I had successfully completed Grade 7, so this year was the year that culminated in the last of the 'Grades' for piano and something that I had set myself for a long time. Ever since my return to piano after taking a hiatus during my early to mid twenties, I had wanted to complete my piano grades. Not only was it due to a sense of completion, but I felt it would aid and progress the other facet of music which I love, that being sharing and teaching.
The morning was first filled with sharing Eef's birthday and sharing the celebration and sentimentality much to Eef's chagrin. I then had to put my pianist cap on and hit the piano- time to get to work!
Technical is something I'm very wary of and something which I didn't want to lose any marks on, so I went through my C majors and minors, B, G#, and Am...melodic, harmonic, contrary, arpeggios, 3rds, 6ths...the list seemed endless!
A run through of my four pieces was done and I was set. Nerves are a funny thing and although I had a high level of excitement in the lead up weeks to the exam, as the hour approached, that niggling ball of nerves started to appear, and there was little I could do to suppress the butterflies in the stomach. With nerves came also a wave of thoughts - "What if I forget stuff? How did the fugue start again? What was the fingering for...?" All these thoughts are completely natural for the student going into the exam and the secret is how to best manage them.
Arriving at the Clarence Street Studio, I was able to fit in a 5 minute warm up in one of the practice studios especially for Grade 8 and above. I must admit I felt a level of pride using this room- again, the culmination of work resulting in now taking this exam was very satisfying for me.
Before long, I was at reception again waiting my turn- my exam was scheduled for 1.15pm, and when I arrived all examiners were out to lunch, I thought to myself, "This is good- the examiner will be well fed, rested and relaxed going into my exam!".
At last I was called in by Mr. Francis Louran, and I took my seat and prepared my sheet music.
Technical work- started solidly however I was very aware of my nerves. I was actually doing quite well until the chromatic 6ths for E flat was asked by which my fingers decided to play freestyle. I had to stop and start again but unfortunately the combination of nerves, a sense of time elapsing, an absence of finger memory heralded my first significant slip. Nevertheless I was waved to move on and finished the technical with a bit of a limp...the always awkward arpeggios for the Dom 7th of C major with all its inversions reared its ugly head.
Apart from a false start to the fugue, all four pieces I thought were played with a level of confidence and by the time I went through Bach and Haydn, and came to my favourite composer/era (that of Schumann) I hit my stride.
Playing from memory certainly does free you up as a performer and I recommend this highly to students- if you know the piece well enough even to play with nerves, then playing from memory will certainly enhance your standing in the exam. Debussy was the final piece and by this stage I was very much relaxed- perhaps the relief that I had come towards the end, and the satisfaction of how I performed the Schumann were probably contributing factors.
Sight reading was good and solid, and the aural tests were not that confident but I managed to get by them!
The final section was general knowledge and I felt I did well in this. Having studied Ross Hamilton notes, I was able to answer all the questions on each of the pieces played (which surprisingly was the most time ever spent in general knowledge in all the exams I had done). I'm very fortunate to have studied the notes intricately since some of the questions were quite involved, so being able to answer these with a level of confidence was pleasing.
Having finished all the sections, I was thanked, then informed to leave the room. I thanked the examiner then left- almost forgetting one of my bookmarks which I had missed as I made a beeline for the door. All that was left, was to wait for the result, in which I was informed would take up to two weeks....
Two days later, in the late evening, I received a text message from my teacher hoping that I hadn't gone to bed and asking if she could send via email my results.
The nerves returned however Eef and I were eager to finally lay to rest the suspense which had built ever since the completion of my exam.
What a delight! I had received a Credit (B) for my efforts which I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear as I read the report. There were certainly areas in which I could improve however most of the marks deducted appeared to come from errors or slips borne from the nerves which I just couldn't shake off during that day.
Most of the other comments were highly positive and one of the most motivating ("There is a lot of musical potential here...") has urged me onwards to continue enjoying my music and to strive for further achievements in the world of piano!
Nothing can't be done!
Bring on the next challenge!
Here's a photo of the new Three Ravens Piano Studio in Turramurra. An intimate setting with comfortable seating for the waiting parent- with reading material of Albert Einstein and the cosmos if it takes your fancy!😉
I thought I'd drop a line since it kind of is an official start to a new chapter in the Three Ravens Piano Studio history.
Today marked the first lesson at the new studio in Turramurra and I'm pleased to say all went well. It was interesting getting back on the horse after a bit of time off due to the move and wanting to prep the studio for it to adequately look like a dedicated piano studio.
More furniture was bought and although it's not COMPLETELY how I want it, it's about 99% there- just a change of sofa cover and hanging stuff on the wall will bring it to full fruition.
I'll post up some photos of the new studio soon (I've dashed out to commemorate Anzac Day) and will get another piano piece recorded for the website soon.
In any case I hope my new student Carla is enjoying the world of music- I absolutely love introducing new minds into the wonders of the piano and guiding them to the process of making music themselves! There's something very rewarding about seeing a student for the first time, tentatively press the piano keys, then as their journey continues, put it all together with this strange thing called music coming out of their fingers!
Anyway, just a short blog to acknowledge the start of a new chapter- one I hope I can continue for quite some time.
Recorded this for a couple of friends and their upcoming first child...
Well we are well into 2014 and Three Ravens Piano Studios have returned into the swing of things!
Whilst 2013 had been a successful year, with one of my students performing in an annual Christmas concert, and steady progress being made through the books by both students, 2014 has already produced many exciting challenges.
Three Ravens Piano Studios is happy to welcome a further two new students, who have started (or recommenced) their musical journey with the piano. Personally, for me, it's a great challenge to have new students as it requires to be attentive to their needs and so now there are four wonderful students with four varying intentions of what they would like to gain from learning the piano.
Also, I have commenced my own continuing journey to learn more about music, with my Grade 8 music lessons commencing not long ago. The four exam pieces I've chosen are absolutely awesome pieces, and each very different - A Bach Prelude and Fugue; A Haydn sonata; A Schumann fantasy, and a Debussy prelude. So far, I'm working through the Bach and the Schumann and have still to look at the Haydn piece, but there's plenty to absorb and even more to discover each time I revisit the pieces. That's the beauty of piano music and music in general - the constant exploration and discovery and the utter amazement at the human beings who wrote such masterpieces.
May this year produce many exciting moments and may those that learn the piano enjoy every moment! All the best, and will see you soon!
Today was a big day for one of my students, Dean, who participated in an Annual Christmas concert held at the Polish Club in Ashfield, and hosted by the Inner West Music College.
Alongside many pieces from the John Thomson piano books, Dean had learnt Beethoven's famous, "Fur Elise" on the side, and it was this piece that we decided to showcase for the concert.
A massive 150+ students attended the concert with hour-block intervals, playing piano, guitar, violin and singing too. After nearly an hour wait, Dean was called up to play his piece.
In a very humble and professional manner, Dean introduced himself, got seated and prepared to play.
What a performance!
Dean started off at a steady quicker pace, but didn't seem fazed at the pace he set, and the audience were captivated as he played through the classical piece without fault. Even at the end, Dean ensured to keep the final chord ringing for effect, before releasing the keys and standing up to receive a warm, positive response from the audience - well done Dean!!
I remember a few months ago, playing through 'Fur Elise' for Dean and Dean saying, 'I'll never be able to play that!!" Well, today, Dean played the piece as good as anyone could ever play the piece and for that I can not say how proud I am of him!
Afterwards, there were even audience members coming up to Dean and his Mum, Vee, to say how impressed they were at his performance. When you get audience members feeling compelled enough to come up to you to say how much they enjoyed your playing, you know you have connected with them on a deeper level, and have succeeded in accomplishing what music is all about.
My results are in, and it looks as though I'm on track to tackle Grade 8 next year!
A few days ago, after diligently checking online at the AMEB website, my results arrived and am happy to announce I received a B+ for my efforts.
There is still an A or A+ above that, however, I'm aware due to work commitments and other co-curricular activities, a B+ is pretty good considering the amount of practice I had been able to do! Ok, Ok - there is always more time for practice, but I'll keep this in mind when preparing for Grade 8 - the 'final' grade which requires a whole lot more preparation and is another massive step up in technical skills compared to Grade 7.
Feedback from the examiner had my List 1 Bach as a good interpretation and what appears to be one of the stronger pieces from my set. Only comment was to control nerves which resulted in some minor slips.
Beethoven was by far the weakest of my pieces, but I still managed to get positive feedback with interpretation, tone and style. Technical skills had to be developed more and a focus on the pulse and tempo of the piece.
Chopin was good too, though the comment was that I used too much rubato and this affected the tempo. Also, a harshness of tone hindered the legato. But overall again the style and detail were addressed.
Albeniz's Tango was the last piece and I felt this was another strong piece and the only comment here was again rubato and keeping the pulse. Extra mention here was a good involvement in the performance, and a development of the style and character of the piece, so was happy with those comments!
As a friend told me, "Technique can always be worked on, but an understanding of a piece and the expression is something that can't be taught readily"…
So with a smile on my face, I have a week break, then resumption of lessons starting Monday. Technique will be worked on for a few weeks, before deciding what pieces to tackle for the Grade 8 Ex