THE BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATING IN EVALUATIONS
As a child growing up in a household where my Mom was also my piano teacher, I had a built in practice partner on most days. She was my “AutoCorrect” listener, a patient, loving, musical parent and teacher giving me valuable advice and tips well into my teenage years and beyond.
Today students may also have feedback and guidance from their teachers and parents, but they should also put their electronic devices to good use and AutoCorrect their own performances. As the recording is played back, students can critique in writing, highlights of strengths and weaknesses on their music. For more creative editing students can use colored pencils or erasable highlighters singling out areas of note (for example green for great, red for readiness level, blue sky for overall picture, pink for pretty etc…) Students can have even more fun personalizing their music creating their own color code key.
As an independent piano teacher, I am always giving feedback to the student in the weekly lesson on ideas for improvement and praising areas that are successful. This communication extends to the parents when I see or write to them, keeping them informed of progress and goals for the student.
Objective feedback on an annual basis has come most recently from outside organizations. For the past several years I have entered students in various programs, the National Piano Guild, the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program, my local Music Teachers Association, MMTA, and now this coming fall the ABRSM program.
There are several benefits from my experience in entering students in these national programs. Professional development in choosing unfamiliar repertoire and new composers, lesson planning with a performance goal or musicianship skill in mind, instilling confidence in young performers motivating them to reach for their highest potential and finally receiving recognition from these same organizations through membership or certification.
Perhaps the biggest benefit is having these independent comments from the judge as to how each student is progressing. Many times he or she will reaffirm what I have been instilling for weeks leading up to the performance. At other times, the judge may suggest a different way of voicing a particular passage or pedal approach. The constructive approach is almost always supportive in nature, after all, music can be interpreted in many different ways, AutoCorrect fine tuned in dialog.
My students benefit from this exposure to non competitive auditions. Required repertoire choices focus on different composers at an appropriate level (forcing them to learn music from all eras!) and technical, sight reading and ear training skills are prepared and drilled for even greater musical comprehension. From a performance standpoint, as the audition date approaches practice goals and strategies become even clearer and the music is brought to much more meaningful levels.
As students get older, these auditions can be a nice addition to a college resume and prepare them for independent study skills such as time management and commitment to a project. However, the most important benefit is the student reaching for and creating artistic beauty, expressing the composer’s musical intents and sharing this notable accomplishment in a beautiful performance.