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Preparing Pianists For Service
Service for others has been demonstrated in many ways in the
past few weeks as the United States and the world offer aid to the victims
of terrorism. Service is not a new word, philosophers throughout the ages
have referred to service for others as the primary reason we exist. Many
states have a high school graduation requirement of community service in
an attempt to uplift the teenagers’ thoughts from themselves to the world
around them. How can we, as piano teachers, instill an attitude of service
into our students’ outlook on piano study and performance?
For adults, teaching is probably the first thing that enters
one’s mind when thinking of service. Occasionally concert artists are involved
in service by playing in benefit concerts. But students can be involved
in their community in a variety of ways, including accompanying community
music groups, visiting and performing in senior citizen centers, and participating
in local church services.
Even intermediate level students can realize the gift of service
as close as their local church. In a time when more people are returning
to weekly worship, churches across America are experiencing a shortage of
musicians. Often they would welcome students to assist the worship experience,
even if only occasionally. The benefits to the student include:
frequent performance goals for the music they are studying,
usually a performing environment of less stress and greater
appreciation because the focus is not on themselves but the overall meaning
ensemble and/or leadership experience if they play for congregational
the rewarding feeling of serving others,
and a developing sense of commitment if they play every week.
Students are never too young to train for this activity.
One Washington, D.C. area teacher holds a "Hymn Festival for Junior Church
Pianists" every year in which students of all ages, including first year
beginners, learn a hymn to play with congregational (mostly their parents)
singing, including an introduction, and then also perform a solo piece appropriate
for service music, such as a prelude, offertory or postlude. Parents were
amazed at the ability for youth to generate a spiritual experience, and they
appreciated the introduction of a deeper dimension to playing the piano.
Music abounds at every level that is suitable for worship.
Almost every piano method course publishes a supplement book of religious
pieces at every level. There even exists a method course designed around
Christian music entitled "Keys for the Kingdom", published by Glory Sound,
which has three hymn supplements at every level. In 1989 Alfred Publishing
put out a series of three books for the intermediate pianist entitled "Classical
Music for the Church Service", compiled by Maurice Hinson. And most creative
teachers can find music students are already learning that would be appropriate
for the worship setting.
The style and suitability of the music depends highly upon
the type of service being practiced, whether it is one of contemporary praise,
gospel or more traditional, and the theme of the service itself. But I
personally think that short and well-prepared classical music is appreciated
anywhere, as well as well-written hymn tune arrangements. The key is thorough
preparation and an attitude that performing for the service of others is
just as important as performing in recital. And don't we have the best
role model for this in the life of J.S. Bach!
Young people are looking for meaning in their lives and in
the world around them. Why not redirect their view of performance as one
of service and enrich their perspective on life for years to come?
written by Rose Eide-Altman
published October 1, 2001
copyright 2001 PianoWomen.com