December 25, 2011

Holiday time is performance time

It’s Christmas time, which is also performance time. The holidays are a time to celebrate, and they offer a wonderful opportunity to perform seasonal music.

Piano recitals at this time of year remain, at their heart, a high-stakes experience for both the music student as well as the teacher.

The ideal performance is memorized because it enables the performer to focus on interpretation; the basics of hitting the right notes have been internalized. Not that memorization is easy. When asked, “How do you memorize a piece of music?”, Tomoko replied , “It is like building a house, You build on the foundation. The hardest part is the starting stage. You have to persevere. You can’t be impatient. You must repeat, making sure that you play the right note so that your hand muscles will remember where to touch the keys. Don’t listen to the quality of the music at that point. If you continue with discipline, one day you will find that it’s done: you’ve memorized the piece.”

Next comes the process of analyzing the piece. Tomoko states that each piece has a number of elements that need to be considered: tone quality, articulation, rhythmic sense, phrasing, flow, and feeling. As Tomoko teaches her students she shows them these elements, typically giving them a good and a bad example, and asking them to choose. She trust her students to tell the difference, especially since she carefully selects the examples to scaffold critical analytical skills.

Just as she uses a building metaphor to describe memorizing, Tomoko applies that metaphor to developing the recital program. As the impresario for her students’ recitals, Tomoko loves the programming aspects, and chooses pieces to showcase each student’s ability, wherever they are on the performance spectrum. She puts together the program with a clear path in mind, and then matches the details, preparing all the music. Tomoko sees herself as a designer and fashioner of the musical program.

It takes up to four months to get ready for the recital. Students need time to memorize well, and they can’t peak too early. By the time of the performance, everyone is excited: the students, the parents, and Tomoko herself. The recital is stimulating, like a good game; all the students try their best. Recitals are not the time to criticize but rather a time to celebrate, like the holidays.

Tomoko has performed admirably for decades at recitals, and her recordings show her at recital level. Enjoy the season by choosing from her rich collection of CDs. Go to
It’s a good way to start the year too.

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