For piano players, like everyone else, 2020 has been a huge struggle.
We have needed to re-evaluate our goals and quickly change many of our plans. But in the midst of the turmoil, many of us have found a renewed enthusiasm for piano playing, while many more have returned to the piano or taken up playing for the first time.
We enter 2021 with growing numbers of pianists and teachers embracing a fresh direction and revitalised piano goals.
Whether disenchanted with a dull exam-driven formula or eager to disentangle from over-prescriptive methodology, many are now hungry for a more inspired musical approach.
We want to embrace a more motivated, positive version of ourselves at the piano!
Thankfully, there is an answer…
The Active Repertoire Project
The Active Repertoire project is modelled on the goals and practices of successful performers worldwide, and built on the fundamental pedagogic values espoused by educators from Suzuki to the present day.
Over the last few years it has been such a joy to see growing numbers of aspiring players truly win in their aims by developing an Active Repertoire of pieces they can play with confidence and musicality:
- Without Notice
- Without Notation
- and Without Embarrassment
At the same time I have seen increasing numbers of students developing a bucket list of pieces they aspire to play, and witnessed their joy and enriching satisfaction as progress is made through their list.
For 2021 this element of aspiration becomes an important new feature of the Active Repertoire project. The annual challenge sheet now includes space for you to compile your own aspirational bucket list alongside charting your progress in developing an Active Repertoire.
A key point here is to make the challenge work for YOU, rather than trying to fit your piano playing around it. The Active Repertoire sheet allows for healthy flexibility, and it’s up to you whether you ultimately develop three Active Repertoire pieces or dozens!
You can download your free Active Repertoire 2021 sheet here, and below I will explain more about how to use it to maximise your fulfilment at the piano.
What Can You Play?
Here’s a question which too often leads to such answers as:
- I’m working on Allegro, but it’s not yet ready to play;
- I finished learning Andante last month, but I’ve forgotten it now;
- I don’t have my music books with me, so …
What a pity!
Following the positive response to my article What Can You Play? I have received feedback from players all over the world identifying with this phenomenon, and recognising that they (or their pupils) couldn’t just sit down and play for others without prior warning.
One of the main reasons for the prevalence of this problem is shallow learning, which can result from:
- poor foundations, leading to weakness in one or more of the key areas of musical learning.
- an emphasis on quantity rather than quality (how many pieces can be learnt, rather than how well they can be played).
- an approach driven by jumping from one exam grade to the next, without effective consolidation, and at the cost of a rich and varied curriculum.
Deeper learning involves fully engaging with, living with, interpreting, internalising and memorising music. It means so much more than simply reading and playing through lots of music, ticking off dozens of new pieces each year, or jumping through assessment hoops.
Professional players will have a large Active Repertoire of music ready to perform. And whether gigging jazzers or touring recitalists, they will understand the importance of balancing the new with the familiar. How odd that in music education we so rarely emulate the behaviours and practices of top musicians!
And so through the Active Repertoire project I have been challenging players to develop an Active Repertoire of initially just three pieces they have deeply learnt and can truly play.
The project is a free non-commercial resource available to pianists and teachers internationally.
It can be used alongside any other programme of study or as a positive alternative in its own right.
You can read more about Active Repertoire here, including loads of advice for players and teachers:
The Importance of Aspiration
Once we have established an Active Repertoire however, we soon realise that we need more! None of us wants to be stuck in a rut playing the same pieces forevermore, and we’ve all met that person who can remember a party piece from twenty years ago but play nothing else!
That is why the Active Repertoire project equally now embraces aspiration. Aspiration precedes all fruitful musical endeavour.
Our aspirations develop the more we listen to great music and piano playing. We assimilate music’s essence and language, and our desire to express ourselves using the medium of piano playing grows.
They bucket list of music we aspire to play will likely include pieces which are clearly for our future, and others which we can manage more immediately. Using the Active Repertoire sheet for 2021, be sure to include plenty of the latter, and if in doubt ask a mentor, teacher or more experienced player for advice about suitability!
A Fresh Challenge for 2021
At the start of this new year, I am therefore now issuing a fresh challenge, and a new Active Repertoire Sheet which you can freely download right here:
The Active Repertoire sheet for 2021 encourages all players to nurture their aspiration alongside developing their active repertoire.
If you are new to the idea of Active Repertoire – welcome aboard! This is an exciting concept which will hopefully help you to change your piano playing and teaching for the better.
When selecting repertoire, remember that here on the Pianodao website you can freely enjoy regular reviews of the latest new publications, using these as an impetus to dig deeper into the music which is available.
And as aspiration involves believing in the possible, rather than what is not, reviews are separated into these categories for easy access:
If you have any questions, or would like to share your experiences developing an Active Repertoire, please leave a comment below!
And GOOD LUCK with the 2021 Active Repertoire Challenge!