Success at the Sonatina Festival

Please note that a version of this article was first posted on the Shepherd Music School Website

Two of my students from the Shepherd Music School participated in the annual Sonatina Festival held at NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) on November 11, 2017. The group sponsoring this, the NW Arkansas Music Teachers Association, is a local affiliate of the Arkansas State and National Music Teachers Association.

Each of the students must perform a piece with Sonatina or Sonata in the title and must perform two contrasting movements by memory unless the piece is of significant complexity, in which case only one movement is required. Since this is essentially a public performance, with parents, teachers, and a judge in the audience, even the most confident kids will admit to being a little nervous at first. However, it helps that the end goal is not competition, but to play the best possible since everyone has the possibility to attain the highest ribbon and score.

Below are those students, playing a four-hand arrangement at a piano lesson, who earned the red ribbon (excellent) and the blue ribbon (superior).

two pianists

You never know…

As part of my job as a church organist, I occasionally program a series of piano pieces.  Frequently they will be a series of compositions by the same composer, such as the Impromptus of Schubert or Songs without Words by Mendelssohn.  For the month of November, I planned a number of unrelated pieces that I wanted to play.

Since I haven’t played a lot from memory recently, I went with the easiest from the set of pieces first, the Bagatelle “Für Elise” by Beethoven.  I expected that it would receive at best a few pat compliments since it is not a difficult piece for a professional musician.  My surprise was how much I connected with people by playing this.  My only reasoning is that it’s a piece many adults know first hand since it’s one of the first pieces played past the beginning level.

Still, in my mind, the compliments were outsized compared to other pieces where the difficulty was so much higher, yet didn’t connect in the same way to my listeners.  It even sparked the interest in an adult who came up to me afterward to say he was considering taking lessons again.

I’m sure there are many lessons to draw from this, but the most obvious one is not to be afraid of doing something simple or easy, as long as you do it well.  In retrospect, the reaction I received shouldn’t have been a surprise.  I had a similar reaction when I heard the piece on a CD played by Claudio Arrau, one of the great pianists of the 20th century.  It was the inspiration for me to re-learn this piece!

My first step into a new world

As much as I love to create and edit Websites for others, I find it really difficult to do it for myself. This creation, which is far more ambitious than my last effort at self-branding, has been particularly difficult. Even where to start was difficult.

Q:  Should I create a separate site for music (part-time) versus computer-related (full-time) work?
A:  No! I’m one person, and any attempts to “hide” one part of my life from the other will easily be uncovered in a Google search.

I became emboldened when I read the following article on the Harvard Business Review site.  It talks about someone whose career has similarities to mine, and he’s not at all shy about it.  Why should I be?  Why You Should Have At Least Two Careers

Q:  Should I include some helpful information, including a few recommendations that I believe in where I might actually generate a tiny bit of revenue to help pay the expenses of maintaining this site and my restaurant review site,
A:  Yes, of course!  If major corporations use affiliate links and redirects to generate revenue, why shouldn’t I?

In spring 2017, I decided to take an eight-week online Codecademy intensive class in HTML and CSS, along with an introduction to Bootstrap, JavaScript, and jQuery. It was a great experience, but it didn’t cover anything about how to connect those skills and concepts to a hosted framework.

Before I start working more on those skills, I need to finish setting up my site to say who I am.  Once that’s largely done, I’ll move on to making it look more attractive!