The junior music club
has always occupied an important place in the
life of a young pianist.
In training for the piano, and in music generally, the question of when a piece is
finished arises. It is not enough to learn the piece, only to forget it after playing it
complete in the teacher’s studio. Even when the student is a little nervous there--many, if
not most students retain some performing anxiety in front of their teacher (I did)--it still
gives no sense of finality. (I maintain that no performance is totally free of anxiety; it is the
fuel that fires the best performances.)
There are examinations, such as those given by the Royal Conservatory of Music of
Toronto, but these are generally one on one experiences between student and examiner,
and include a variety of tests in addition to pieces--and there is no applause. Not a
complete performing experience at all.
And that is what it's all about--performing. Playing the piano is a performing art.
The piano is an instrument designed for performance. Works for the piano have been
composed for performance. We have inherited a tradition, now over 150 years old, of
piano performance in public.
Where will the student perform? Often the teacher will provide opportunities for his
students. There is the traditional end of the year recital, or concert. At my school we
hold such an event. But many teachers do not have a large enough studio, or for whom it
is not possible to organize one. This vacuum is filled by the junior music
Even for a school like mine, a venue where students can present their work, in an
environment a little more stressful than our end of the year recital is desirable. Generically,
the junior music club will require an audition, by memory, of
the piece to be performed. And unless there are serious problems--say, the student is
unable to finish the performance--she will be accepted for the next meeting of the club.
For those students feeling performing anxiety, the club is one place to
exercise. I generally use its first, fall event to get my returning students back into
shape. Their best piece from the previous June's examination, not previously
performed, is resuscitated, and the stylistics, interpretation, and the performance of
it concentrated on; this is easy, since it is already learned, and tested.
I usually send up to ten students to that first concert. They spend the Sunday before at
my first piano class of the year. Such a large group, in the concert before the audition, and in the audition
itself, provides support, even for the experienced.
The club I send my students to was at least 30 years old when I attended it, about that many years
long ago. Then, it was held in a high school auditorium. I was the oldest boy participating.
In my final year in high school, I was appointed stage manager. I got to raise and
lower the top of the grand piano for the vocalists, and other instrumentalists. I
comforted the older students when younger ones played the same pieces, with fewer
After I left the scene, my mother took the bookkeeping at the club for many years.
I guess you could say this junior music club has been a family