April has always been a very important month in the lives of piano students for several reasons. In this article, you'll not only learn why this is such an important month, but also how you can use this time to have the greatest impact on your piano playing for the long term. In honor of this month, I've also included my video performance of the standard I'll Remember April.
Why Is April So Important in the Lives of Piano Students?
When most people think of April, things that come to mind are the season of spring, the religious and family holidays of Passover and Easter, planting and gardening, longer days, baseball season and ah yes, taxes. In 2022, this month also brings hope that the effects of the pandemic will be reduced greatly so we can return to some sense of normalcy. When it comes to the lives of piano students, April brings with it something quite different. This comes in two parts:
Why Is It So Important to Prepare for Piano Recitals in April?
For more than 40 years, I have encouraged my piano students to organize their favorite pieces into a performance repertoire. Needless to say, with busy schedules it's not always easy to keep these songs up to performance level (which is the goal of course). However, during the month of April, we add the major goal of recital preparation. This involves five steps:
Select 3-5 songs as potential recital pieces
Practice all of these songs daily and pick two that work the best
Experiment by playing the pieces at different times of day
Explore the possibility of creating medleys of two or more of your favorite songs
Make videos of your performances and assess areas for improvement
Why Is It So Important to Select a Musical Elective to Include in Your Summer Lessons?
One of the greatest things about playing the piano is that you can do it for your entire life regardless of the season or your age. In order to do this though, you need to stay motivated. Certainly, the warmer weather and its seasonal activities, especially here in the Northeast, can draw you away from the practice room. However, summer also brings with it a slower schedule with fewer demands. What better way to capitalize on this reduced pressure than to energize your musical life? In addition to continuing your studies of new material and the new skills and techniques it brings up, you can focus on a musical area that will enlarge your musical vocabulary. Many years ago, I took a one-week summer class at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. My class was focused on helping me to become a better church musician. The impact of this one week course had an influence on my work as Music Director for the Hartford Street Presbyterian Church for the next four decades. A period of exposure and concentration on a specific topic, such as playing the blues or improvisation, can have a similar impact on you and a piano student, and bring into your life a new direction. What surprises me, is how many people spend a week of their summer vacations from corporate jobs, taking courses to enrich their musical lives.
What Are Musical Electives and How Can They Help You Become a Better Pianist?
Needless to say, as someone who teaches students one-on-one, piano lessons with individual students have taken many different directions because I always seek to me each student where she is. However, like the summer courses offered by many colleges and universities, including my alma mater New England Conservatory, I have designed electives that are geared to individual students. The difference is that there is no need to leave the comfort of your own home, nor adjust your schedule to meet some institutional course calendar. The Musical Electives are:
Accompanying Yourself While Singing
Improvisation including playing the blues
Let's take the last item, but certainly not the least important, improvisation. Many of my students have the opportunity to explore the art of improvisation in short sections of songs they learn. However, when you set aside a certain number of lessons dedicated to focusing on improvisation, you'll learn how to play the Blues, how to create patterns that work with the chords of a song, how to use chord scales and modes to improvise and a variety of other skills that will have an impact on your piano playing for a lifetime. Just listen to the improvisation that's part of today's featured selection, I'll Remember April, and you'll see how much more exciting a piano performance can be than if you only played the melody of a song.
My Recording of Gene dePaul's I'll Remember April Complete with Improvisation and Arranged as a Samba
Want to Enrich and Energize Your Piano Playing this Summer?
You can do this when you take one of our Piano Lesson Electives this Summer.
Diana Mascari has taught piano to hundreds of adults and children for more than 40 years. She holds two Masters of Music degrees from New England Conservatory and taught keyboard harmony to music majors while pursuing doctoral studies at Boston University. Her work as music director for a multi-cultural Presbyterian Church has continued for four decades, and her jazz and classical compositions have been performed worldwide. Diana has been performing for more than 50 years. From solo jazz piano (her first love) to commercial groups touring the East Coast to leading her own jazz ensembles at many colleges and jazz clubs throughout New England.