I’m currently preparing for my ARSM (Associate of the Royal Schools of Music) Piano Performance Diploma Exam this April.
How’s it going? I’m losing hope….. motivation……. and patience………
This always happens a fortnight before my performances, I get a sudden dip in motivation and I don’t seem to connect with what I’m practicing. Every time you force yourself to practice, it does more harm than good as nothing really processes.
Fingers crossed, I will run through my programme before the actual exam date. At this rate, I don’t see it happening 😦
Help! I need to inspire myself in one way or another. 😦
I have had a hectic start to 2019, preparing for my Piano recital and Bachelor of Education (Music) audition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions, panicking here and there internally during practices and then having an unusual wave of calmness on the day itself.
Glasgow City Halls: Piano Recital
29 January 2019
Last year, in November, I sat an ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) Performance Assessment for the first and third movements of Beethoven’s Sonata ‘Pathetique’ in C Minor, op. 13. I challenged myself to play from memory under pressure and pushed through! The examiner definitely enjoyed my performance and gave me lots of feedback on it, areas to develop and improve on.
I took her advice and started working on the whole Sonata, November to January may seem like a lot of time but it wasn’t. I barely had time to have consistent practice as it was peak season in retail so I had to work a lot with long hours, many days in a row, leaving me too exhausted to practice. Once January came, I had more time to focus on it in practice and during lessons – playing from memory under pressure is a huge obstacle for me and fear overwhelms me always.
I did all the work, I knew the piece inside out, knew all the notes as I have been working on this Sonata for over 2 years now. I hesitated performing the whole Sonata as it was daunting – it was 18 minutes long and it really tested my performance endurance.
When the day came, I was still in panic mode in the morning at the Piano Day in Glasgow City Halls. My mentor and Piano teacher who organised the event spoke to me to help me calm my nerves, reassuring me that everything is going to be alright. I taught some upper secondary school students in groups and individually on Piano, giving them a masterclass style lesson on how to improve their playing and performance. It was inspiring to see them progress and enjoy performing on Piano in front of an audience, as if no one was watching. It reminded me of when I first started playing and how much I loved and enjoyed it.
I took that inspiration from the students and focussed during my pre-recital practice. Reminding myself that I love performing, bringing me back to that feeling of enjoyment instead of performing for the sake of getting it done and over with. Within that hour, I managed to change my mindset and performed the whole Sonata from memory.
I was the finale performer, so the pressure was on but I find speaking about the composer and the piece to the students calming and eased me. It was a huge achievement for me to have played the whole Sonata from memory, all of the years of hard work was worth it! It was so fulfilling to receive the reception from others and I am glad to have inspired the young Pianists. I hope to perform again soon!
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: BEd Audition
14 February 2019
Soon after the Piano Recital, I got my head back in gear for the audition. This is my third time auditioning, after unsuccessful ones.
For the Bachelor of Education (Music) audition, I had to prepare for the following:
Theory Paper Entrance Exam
I was at the Royal Conservatoire for 4 hours and spent Valentine’s Day auditioning – who needs a Valentine anyway?
The audition pieces I chose for Piano were the Brahms Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118 No. 2 and Bartok’s Bulgarian Dance No. 3 from ‘Mikrokosmos’ Vol. 6. It shows an interesting contrast between pieces, Brahms was a Romantic style piece and Bartok was a folk song in the 20th Century period. The singing audition piece I chose was Handel’s Aria Lascia Ch’iopianga from the Baroque period. I had an interesting programme and showed different styles from different musical periods.
In the audition, I had to present a singing piece, two audition pieces, a set piece, keyboard harmonisation and sight reading – all in a 20 minute audition. In preparation for this, I attended regular Vocal and Piano lessons at the Royal Conservatoire as part of the Transitions programme and also some audition preparation courses. It was an advantage for me as I knew the audition panelists as they have taught me before.
I was surprisingly calm the day before and when I entered the audition room. I warmed up in one of the practice rooms with a Steinway Grand Piano and I enjoyed it, I took it as an opportunity to showcase what I have to offer – the nerves went away as I started to play. There were 3 panelists in the audition: a specialist of your principal study, head of department and a principal/school teacher. I loved how calm they made me and I found time to settle down before starting. It wasn’t as daunting as before. It was ecstatic to get my hands on a Steinway Grand Piano again, as this is a rare opportunity.
I then took a Grade 5 Theory Paper which lasted for an hour. I found it manageable, although I did forget one music concept and it was a basic one. How could I have mistakened Largo for fast? For those of you who do not know, it is a Tempo marking (speed of the piece) that means slow and stately. That was probably my only regret of that day. Other than that, I was satisfied with the exam.
Lastly, I had my interview with the department of Education. The head of the panel remembered me from last year. I spoke about my performance and teaching experience in the classroom. Music has always been something so dear to me as it helped me discover who I really am and it gave me a way to express myself. With the guidance of my Music teachers, I was inspired and want to pass on the experience and knowledge that I got to the next generation of Musicians. It introduced me to a community that made me feel welcome, I found my sense of belonging playing and performing with others in ensembles and bands. It helped with my discipline and kept my passion burning.
Fingers crossed, I hope that I get the results that I worked hard for. I am already feeling excited about getting my own classroom and Piano studio someday and I will do whatever it takes to get there! 🙂
Believe in yourself, challenge yourself to grow and keep striving for your dreams!
I visited Edinburgh recently to watch Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, one of my all time favourites. I always watch it live whenever the opportunity comes around and fortunately I had time this year.
I love Rachmaninoff’s music, having learned one of his preludes – Prelude in G# Minor, Op. 32 No. 12 – as part of my Diploma programme, I immediately fell in love with it and listened to his other works and researched about Rachmaninoff and his work. I came across his famous Piano Concerto No. 2 on YouTube (https://youtu.be/rEGOihjqO9w) performed by Anna Federova and the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie – conducted by Martin Panteleev – in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. That performance was heavenly and moving that I kept going back to it whenever I had a rough day or week.
The first time I watched the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 was in 2016 at the Glasgow City Halls, performed by Steven Osborne and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The live experience was much greater, I remembered the bell-like opening chords, it was haunting. It overwhelmed me and moved me to tears and it also gave me a sense of reassurance.
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
This time, I went to the Usher Hall to watch it performed by Freddy Kempf and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. It is truly amazing to hear different interpretations of the same piece, played with the performer’s own touch and flare. This was my third time watching it performed live and I am still amazed by the Music. Freddy played it with power, passion and spirit in the Music which is different from the sensitive performances I have heard previously. The Russian Philharmonic Orchestra was absolutely brilliant, they really embodied the true Russian influence in their playing – it lures you into a spell.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 was composed from 1900-1901, it was one of his well-known pieces and it established his fame as a concerto composer. The second and third movements were first performed in 1900 and the complete concerto was premiered in 1901 performed by Rachmaninoff himself and conducted by his cousin, Alexander Siloti.
Rachmaninoff fell into depression after a disastrous premiere of his first symphony and due to struggles in his personal life; it lasted for three years. This was his recovery composition from depression and a creative block, he underwent hypnotherapy and psychotherapy, with the support of his family and close circle to help him get better. This concerto was dedicated to his therapist, Nikolai Dahl who helped him gain back his self-esteem.
It’s nearly the end of January and I’ve pretty much planned my year ahead. I have taken some time out of social media just to focus on upcoming recitals, auditions and exams – so far so good, I only ever go on it on the weekends to check important messages. My headspace is much clearer compared to how scattered my thinking was last year.
I now have a clear idea of how to reach my goals, with the help of my mentors, teachers; support from family, friends, colleagues and community; and guidance from Him. I am certain I will do well!
With workshops and performance trips ahead, I will improve on my performance endurance and musicality when practicing and performing and stay inspired by watching professional musicians in live concerts. I have a few concerts coming up to watch and I am really looking forward to seeing Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Valentina Lisitsa and my all-time favourite Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.
It gets lonely sometimes when you’re doing your own thing and treading your own path but at the same time it’s great knowing that you’re progressing! Also, seeing and hearing others pursuing their dreams and treading their own paths are inspiring, no matter what field it is.
Even though it’s easy to get stuck in a routine of work, lessons and teaching and get burned out. We just need to remember to take a break from time to time and be still. All of the hard work will pay off and it is for the best.
Here’s to 2019, a year of growth and financial breakthrough.
I have finally fulfilled one of my long term wishes to start a WordPress website and hopefully be consistent with blogging.
Just a little bit about myself, I’m Patricia and I am currently on the journey towards getting into Music School. 2019 is the big year that I finally get into university! I am a first study Pianist and was classically trained from the age of 11 – so it has been a decade since I started playing.
My journey in Music started in first year high school and I immediately found my passion and sense of belonging in it. Shortly after taking up Piano, I also took up the Flute throughout my secondary school years but stopped playing ever since I left school.
Being a part of Music ensembles makes me feel at home, playing Piano in the Jazz band and Flute in the Concert Band – the people around me are full of enthusiasm and joy when it comes to playing Music. That kind of environment kept me going and made me want to pursue Music.
I taught myself some Fingerstyle and Classical guitar – although I am no master at it. I done it purely out of enjoyment, one of my inspirations in Fingerstyle guitar is Sungha Jung and I have been following him even before I started playing Guitar. I have always wanted to play Guitar like him so I learned one of his arrangements ‘So Sick’ by NeYo and uploaded it onto YouTube and surprisingly got 11k views for it!
Ever since I left school, all I have been focussing on is Piano, after all it is my first study. For the past few years taking some time out, I have performed at recitals, hotel gigs playing solo and accompanied others, accompanied a String Orchestra at Christmas concerts and so on. Being able to perform is an honour and I enjoy every second of it, it gives me the opportunity to express myself and pour my heart out into every single performance.
The journey to Music School isn’t always sunshines and rainbows. I have faced some tough challenges and sometimes… it gets frustrating when you feel like you have no direction. Performance opportunities do not show up often and it has been a while since I last performed solo, sometimes I get bad performance anxiety. I remembered one time when I had to perform in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Piano Summer School and once I sat down in front of the Piano, it feels like I have been disconnected from the Piano and playing feels odd and different. It was a tough and intensive summer school but it was worth every second of it, being taught by some of the top professors in the world.
I am also part of the Transitions programme within the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where I get Piano and Voice lessons as well as mentoring guidance. I have been blessed with this opportunity after having an unsuccessful audition a few years back. It knocked my confidence and when Transitions reached out to me, it felt like a new hope. It is the best thing I have ever been part of since I left school, it felt like I was stranded in the dark but I found myself once I joined.
I took part in collaborative projects and made new friends who are likeminded, having dreams of getting into a Performing Arts school – some are from different art forms such as Acting, Musical Theatre and Film. Transitions also offer performance trips and short courses that are all paid for and some allowance to help students to get by during the year.
Now, I have sent in my university applications for Music and have auditions pending. This is exciting! I have also started teaching Piano to primary school students and fingers crossed, I get more students in the near future. Currently, I am preparing for two Piano Diploma exams in March and July – it feels like ages away but it isn’t! I am still a work in progress but I look forward to what 2019 has for me in store!
Thank you for reading til the end! I’ll be sure to keep you posted.