Saturday morning I gave a presentation at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Music Teacher’s Association which was held close to home this year at The Inn at Pocono Manor. My topic was “Innovative Performance Opportunities for 21st Century Students” and my goal was to encourage teachers to provide their students with many varied performance opportunities, both formal and informal, and stop stressing kids out with one big end-of-the-year Spring Marathon Recital.
That evening I was fortunate to attend the recital of guest artist, Frederic Chiu. The scary drive through a heavy Pocono Mountain fog back to the Manor last night was well worth it! The first half of the program included the lyrical (Chopin), the colorful (Debussy and Ravel) and the percussive (Prokofiev) culminating in the symphonic for the second half of the program – the exhilarating Liszt transcription of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Mr. Chiu’s powerful command of the keyboard seemed to come from somewhere deep inside, since his upper body was practically still during his performance. Earlier, during his morning workshop, Mr. Chiu spoke about the balance of body, mind and heart and his performance demonstrated this to perfection.
Interestingly, one aspect of Mr. Chiu’s teaching program, Deeper Piano Program, involves cooking. I asked him about this after the recital and he explained how the process of putting together a dish is similar to his method of learning a new piece. Much of the work is done away from the piano, taking the piece apart and putting it back together. I suppose the analogy can extend to adding spices and stirring it all up. Unfortunately, many of us learn our music start to finish on the bench because that’s the way we’ve been doing it since we started lessons.
After hearing Mr. Chiu speak and perform, both live and online, I realize just how important it is for piano teachers to start their young students out with a well-rounded musical education (listening to music, moving to music, learning basic theory, studying the score) and try not to rely so heavily on keeping the children’s butts on the bench and noses in the method book.