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  • Future Stars Today

    Future Stars Today

    2017 Simon Fiset Competition

    2nd — Jonathan Staley; 3rd — Shichu “David” Liu

    2017 NW Chopin Festival

    Gold — Shichu “David” Liu; Silver — Robert Yee

    2016 Outstanding Artist

    1st — Robert Yan; 2nd — Jonathan Staley; 3rd — Shichu (David) Liu

    2016 Crescendo Int’l

    1st — Nile Camai, Nicholas Chin, Travis Lee, Angela Lin, Shichu (David) Liu, Caroline Oei, Catherine Oei, Ivan Penev, Annika Renganathan, Rebecca Sun

    2016 American Protégé

    1st — Arthur Yan; Robert Yan
  • Practice Tips—No. 2: The Practice Environment

    One of the biggest misunderstandings that takes place is the idea that music is just fun and basically, an entertainment. It might be the truth with pop and rock music (even though you hear on TV many times over how they refer to pop musicians as ARTISTS), however, not so much with classical genres, or even jazz. What we need to assert here is a little bit unfashionable in today’s world—classical music is hard to master. (Don’t get us wrong. It is fun, but getting to the fun part requires work and discipline.)

    It is hard to learn, it takes ear/brain/eye coordination. It takes quick wits and physical endurance. It takes monotonous work, which will one day turn into something inspired, beautiful, and ethereal. Because of these reasons and many more, parents should help to create the appropriate condition for productive practicing and concentration. Yes, the grand piano is a beautiful piece of furniture in your living room—but a living room, as it is, often is not the best place to practice due to family traffic and kitchen noise.

    Students who have to practice in the living room should expect the family to show the maximum respect for their work…yes, for the WORK. Because practicing is work. It takes lots of energy and concentration. Imagine doing your own most difficult job projects in the middle of the living room: how distracted would you be? Now, imagine that piano practicing is that difficult project…

    Ideally, the student  should be surrounded by silence with no distracting activities around him or her (even walking by quietly is distracting). Ideally, the student would have a piano in his or her room, or at least a secondary instrument, such as a good quality keyboard. Violin students have an advantage here—if it’s noisy or distracting, one can just pick up his or her instrument and music stand and find a better location.

    Parents differ widely with regard to practice supervision. Generally speaking, we do recommend a high level of supervision for those students who are beginners and really young (4-7 years of age). After this time, many parents continue to practice with their children, follow detailed instructions of the teachers well until the students are 10 or 11. One may wonder, though, when is a good time to stop being like that type of helicopter parent… We might say—the good time is when the student understands the idea of correct practice. As soon as they understand what it means to practice with “rhythms” or “grouping”, “slow” or “small passage repetition” or any other methods, or when they realize they have to practice the most difficult spots first and much more than the entire piece. Often good students get to that level by the age of 10 or 11.

    Ideally, piano or violin practice should be treated as part of everyday homework—something that has the same time slot every day of the week, something that is non-negotiable and becomes a constant feature in daily activities, like brushing teeth. It would be best if in your daily planning you choose a block of time and mark it “practice.” Piano and violin practice should never be shorter than the lessons time. That should be a minimum requirement. What is the point of doing a 60-minute lesson if the student practices twenty minutes a day? What a waste of money and the teacher’s work! If there is not enough material assigned to cover that amount of daily practice, then perhaps there needs to be an adjustment to the lesson duration. In a perfect situation, the student should take breaks every thirty minutes, but not more often (unless they have injuries or any other particular conditions), and should refrain from disrupting this time, such as using the phone, texting, internet, or anything else unrelated to music during the scheduled practice time.

    Parents should resist making comments such as, “Again you repeat the same old piece?” or, “When will you get it and learn something new? I am sick of hearing this over and over!” or, “Do you have to repeat it all the time like that?”

    Practicing means repeating. As we mentioned in the beginning, classical music is not easy—it takes thousands of hours of scales, arpeggios, and repertoire to get to any decent level. It is not a “fast achievement” sort of activity. Please, encourage your children by making positive comments like, “I love the sound of that piece! Can you play it again?” or, “I love the atmosphere at home when I hear you practice,” etc.

    To summarize:

    1) practicing of classical music is work: let’s give students a work environment: silence, lack of distraction, and respect

    2) if possible, let’s keep the practice area away from family traffic

    3) if possible, get a second instrument for practicing in the bedroom or any other secluded room (for such occasions as family visits, guests, parties, etc.)

    4) let your children practice on their own as soon as they understand what ‘real’ practicing is: they will enjoy the freedom and trust and will open emotionally in music when it comes from them

    5) refrain from negative comments and practice encouragement at all times