On Saturday, May 23, we held the fourth annual Student Salon, an event I started so that my piano students could have a space to play without the stress of a formal recital. For the past two years, I’ve added the requirement that they play by memory. Keep ’em on their toes. I could see them more worked up over this and sometimes I’ve wondered whether this takes away from the casual music-sharing feel of the event. I even added a program so that they commit to pieces they have decided to play. No backing out last minute! It’s a tough thing, challenging them and making it feel like performing isn’t this be-all, end-all moment.
Last Saturday, though, I think it worked out. A couple of students surprised me by deciding to play, by memory, pieces that we had decided in advance to play with the score. I know how difficult this is in front of an audience and how vulnerable one can feel. And they handled it with humour and honesty. Students shared interpretations and even their own compositions. Every one of them got in the cypher and did their thing.
This could not have happened without the supportive audience that created such a comfortable environment for musical risk-taking. I wish I had this while developing as a musician. Instead, I only had recitals and competitions in which the pressure to be perfect made me anxious and messed with my focus on the day of performance. I learned a lot in those settings, but sometimes I wonder how I ever got through them still loving music.
So, thanks to everyone that participated for filling my home once again with warmth and music.
(P.S. I never did mention what I played despite being kind of asked that day. It was the Prelude from Bach’s Partita No. 5.)