Why I love Guild

Yesterday my students participated in the annual Guild piano auditions.  Each student played a ten-piece audition, which included technique such as scales, chords, and arpeggios.  I was so proud of them!  They all played very well.  Of course there were small errors here and there, but they played confidently and musically.  They were raring to go after having prepared for the past 3-4 months.

These are the things I love about Guild:

1.  Guild gives your students a goal to work towards.  Some students choose to play a ten-piece audition, some choose only two.  But each student can decide for themselves how much of a challenge they want to tackle.

2.  The Guild auditions are comprehensive.  The older students play the scale and cadence chords which coincide with each piece before they perform the memorized selection.  This connects the dots between the technique we learn apart from pieces and the actual pieces.

3. The students get to perform a wide variety of music.  Whether the student is performing an audition of two pieces or ten, they can showcase their musicality in a variety of musical styles.

4.  Guild is non-competitive. It is so refreshing for students to only have to be judged on their own merits, not in comparison with somebody else’s.  Each student earns C’s (for commendation) or A’s (for needs attention).  There is no number score based on how the individual is ranked within a group of peers.

5.  Guild is highly motivational.  After my students get over the initial reaction of having to learn ten pieces for one event (jaw drops, eyes open wide…a deer in the headlights moment), they get to work!  And they perfect their pieces with greater attention to detail each week until the day of the event.

6. The student receives a written critique (called a report card).  I have found critiques from Guild judges to be the most helpful and encouraging of any piano festival or event.

7. It is good for the teacher, for all of the above reasons.  It helps me set goals for my students, incorporate technique in a practical way, pull music from a wide variety of styles, motivates me to help the student reach for a higher level of mastery.  The critique is so useful in providing me with feedback on how well I’m doing my job.

8. The teacher is able to have a social outlet with other teachers.  I’m able to converse with other teachers I see at the event and exchange ideas with the judge.  Oftentimes we are in our own little worlds of teaching, but we as teachers also need the sharpening that takes place when ideas and plans are discussed among peers.

If you are thinking of entering students in the Guild piano auditions next year, let me encourage you to go for it!  Find a Guild teacher who can mentor you through all of the paperwork and preparation involved.  Then work hard and reap the benefits for your studio and your students!

Mistakes are Gifts

Last weekend, I hosted my studio recital in my living room.  I only have a handful of students since moving across country.  But I still wanted to hold a recital and make it special for the families involved.  Actually, my main purpose was a practice run for Guild, which will be held this coming Saturday.  All of my students will be performing a ten-phase program, so I had each student perform four of their pieces for the recital.

Each student struggled with some aspect of their performance during the recital.  One student forgot the endings to two of her pieces.  Two students just simply forgot notes and had to start pieces over again.  One student needed her book to continue playing the piece.  One student (which was actually my son!) let out an audible grrrrr as he struggled to find his place in his piece.

All of these students have played these pieces perfectly in the past.  We have all heard that excuse – right?  But, actually, in this case, it is true.  I can attest to this because I actually have heard their immaculate performances in lessons.

So, what I had before me was a wonderful teaching opportunity.

In lessons today, I gave my much-used View Your Mistakes As Gifts speech.  It goes something like this:

Be grateful for the mistakes you make when surrounded by those who love you. (I get the student’s attention.)

Be grateful you made these mistakes a week before Guild [insert competition/festival name here], when you have time to learn from them.  (The student’s eyes widen, in disbelief that mistakes can be good!)

You now know where your weaknesses lie, and you can fix them! (A little smile plays about the student’s face, a light of comprehension dawns in the student’s eyes.)

We continue on in the lesson, addressing these little gifts – a.k.a. “mistakes”.

An encouraging word has been sown, a connection has been made.  Hopefully, another life lesson has taken root.

Learning from my Kids

I attended my kiddos’ spring recital at their school a few weeks back.  They each played one solo piece on the piano that was memorized.  My third grade boy played “Rain Dance” and my second grade girl played “Forest Drums”.  Both played very, very well.  I have to admit I was proud of how well they did!  A mother can admit that.

There was a high level of anticipation and joy.  What’s interesting is that the anticipation (or rather, anxiety) often came more from the parents than from the students.  I have to admit that I was nervous for my children as they awaited their turn to perform, even though I was confident in their ability to perform their pieces well.  But as I searched their faces for any sign of fear or nerves, I instead found joy.  Of course, that may be because they were missing school!  But they were so happy to partake in this experience with their schoolmates, their friends.  They were excited to watch each others’ performances and were happily cheering each other on.  There was a real feeling of camaraderie.

Can I find a way to create this level of camaraderie and joy within my own studio?  Can our recitals be a celebration of music that surpasses the fears of performing that may come along with a recital experience?