Sonata Sonatina Celebration

Last Updated on 2022-11-13 | Originally Posted on 2019-10-02
This is a past event for 2022. However, key dates for most years are similar.

Key Dates for 2022

  • Start Preparation: No later than mid-August
  • Decision Week: October 10-14
  • Halloween Piano Party: Saturday, October 22
  • Warm-Up Recitals: Sunday, November 6
  • Festival at NWACC in Bentonville: Saturday, November 12

Start Preparation

Participating in festivals like the Sonata Sonatina Celebration can be a rewarding part of piano lessons. However, festivals should not become all-consuming for months at a time, even though typically there will be a several-week period of intense, almost exclusive focus on the festival piece(s).

Decision Week

Your sonatina should be fully learned and ready to memorize by this week of lessons. Even though the application isn’t due until the following week, this is a good reckoning cut-off for determining whether or not to go forward.

Halloween Piano Party

I hold an annual fall event that was created just for students to try out their sonatas and sonatinas. Over time, it morphed into a Halloween party with costume contest, so that kids not participating in the upcoming festival felt equally welcome. If you don’t have a studio event, playing in your own living room with family and friends present works fine. Do this at least several weeks before the festival to figure out how much more work you have to do.

Warm-Up Recitals

These are organized just for festival participants. They are group recitals for students of multiple teachers held in both the north and south of our region. All performers must perform from memory, which makes this milestone a great test of festival readiness.

Please note: If you don’t do a festival pre-recital, you should plan your own warmup event. It should be somewhere that has a grand piano. If you don’t have one, you will find these at a church, school, library, or perhaps a neighbor’s home. Professional musicians organize warm-up recitals before big events; you should do the same!

Festival Day

Bring Your Score

Please bring your score; that’s the only way your judge can evaluate your performance. Make sure the measures are numbered so the judge can give you specific comments. Erase anything from the score except fingerings and essential markings that guide your performance. Non-essential markings would include practice zones, comments from your teacher, big circles or brackets showing problem areas. Let your judge decide what your problem areas are; don’t show him/her!

Dress for Success

Adhere to the clothing guidelines for the festival, which simply put, advises against casual clothing items like t-shirts, jeans, shorts, and sneakers. If you don’t have comfortable shoes but do have all-black sneakers, don’t worry. Dress comfortably. Don’t wear your finest outfit unless that makes you comfortable and confident. Finally, if you wear a dress/skirt, keep it on the long side since you will be visible from many angles.

Arrive to Thrive

Make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled start time if you want to warm up on a practice piano. There could be a line. Even if you choose to warm up at home instead, arrive in plenty of time to get to your performance space. Be calm and awake. Even if tempted, don’t nap on your way to the festival.

When It’s Your Turn

You will be given a few seconds to try out the festival piano when it is your turn to play. Adjust your bench if necessary. Create a warm-up based on your piece that will quickly help you assess the instrument you are playing. A 15-second or so routine should be enough to assess basic things about the instrument. However, don’t play the opening phrase of the piece, because that lessens its impact when you do begin.

Warmup Ideas

Beginner Warmup: Play a 5-finger pattern or scale slowly in the key of your piece. Follow that with a couple of chords, broken or solid. If you use the pedal in your piece, try some chords with the damper pedal. Locate your starting place of each hand on the piano so that you’re ready when the judge lets you being.

Intermediate to Advanced Warmup: In addition to above, test the balance between the treble and bass using simple chords or an improvised melody high in the treble against some bass notes or chords. Test a short internal passage from your piece if you like. Play a chromatic scale to learn about the voicing if it’s important to you. Focus on the piano’s action, treble vs bass balance, and how you want to scale your dynamics to the room, within reason. Don’t overplay on small or dead piano in a dead room.

Ready to Go

You can indicate to the judge that you are ready to play, verbally or with eye contact and a head nod. Let the judge invite you to begin, and pause at the end of the movement. The judge will tell you when to continue. Don’t forget to bow. Show respect to your audience no matter how well or badly you think you played. A simple bow, courtesy of YouTube, works great. Emulate the singer at the right, with his hands at his sides.

In Conclusion

You’ve done everything you can do. Sometimes the judging results will be as you expected, but don’t be disappointed if you didn’t do as well as you wanted. It could be that you just got nervous, or did as well as you could but others did better. The judging also varies by room and year.

Enjoy the process and not focus too heavily on the result. Make sure to read and understand the judge’s comments; you might learn new things about your playing from a different person’s perspective.

Information for All Festivals

If you want general information for how other area music festivals work, please go to my Piano Lessons – Festivals page. I discuss the pros and cons of each festival there as well.