An important part of music performance is the memorization of key repertoire. The skill of memorizing and maintaining performance ready pieces in the memory requires systematic development. For this reason, all students are required to keep 2-5 pieces memorized and in performance ready shape at all times.
Memory Check List: The list of pieces that a student has memorized is called the memory check list and the student will be expected to be ready to perform any piece on this list at a moment’s notice, especially at the lesson. In the first few weeks, the goal for a memorized piece is to play the music without any mistakes. Memory Errors are mistakes the student has made in trying to memorize the piece (wrong notes, dynamics, articulations, etc). Technical Errors are mistakes the student makes where the student knows the correct notes, but fails to be prepared to play them correctly – and therefore hits wrong notes or some other mistake. Memory Lapses are spots in the music where the student sometimes forgets the notes or what comes next. Random Mistakes happen when the student loses focus and does not maintain control while playing. The piece is not considered Performance Ready until all these areas have been addressed and resolved.
Performance Ready List: Pieces that are memorized and have been perfected regarding all the issues described above are considered Performance Ready. Most pieces that are performance ready will not be played at an actual recital, because students will memorize many more pieces than there are recitals in which they can perform them. All performance ready pieces are considered to be on long term memory check list, which means the student is expected not to practice the piece at home, but will be able to perform it perfectly at the lesson. The goal is to be able to perform the piece perfectly after a week or more of not playing it.
This is a very important technique for developing a working repertoire, and for developing long-term memory in music students. This technique also improves the student’s performance ability, as the pieces on the memory check list become so polished and so “ready”, that the student should not have any performance anxiety that results from feeling unprepared.
Goals for Improvement: Every time the instructor listens to a memorized piece, he or she will give the student a specific list of areas for improvement. In the beginning, the goals will address memorization issues, and problems in technique or performance. As the piece becomes more polished, the goals will address musical interpretation, phrasing, and expression. This process also addresses issues of memory lapses, and helps combat the problem of performing music mechanically – without feeling. The student is taught specific ways to bring life to music which has become so familiar as to risk becoming boring or mundane. Students learn the valuable concept that performance means making the music “new” for the listener, even if the musician has played it 100 times!
Performance Opportunities: The KMI faculty will keep students and parents aware of upcoming performance opportunities, and students are expected to participate in as many as is feasibly possible. The KMI recitals, competitions and certain other public recitals are considered important and formal events, and all the KMI students will be assigned specific pieces to prepare for them. However, as mentioned above, each student will have several other performance ready pieces that are never scheduled for such recitals, and the student should try to find ways to perform them. This is especially true for pieces the student really likes, and has memorized for that reason.
The most common performance opportunity is playing for visiting family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles always want to hear how their grandchildren, nieces and nephews are progressing and will always be happy to hear you play your favorite songs. Never shy away from the chance to play for your loving family.
Friends and schoolmates often want to hear you play. Some of them may be studying or considering studying music themselves and are curious to see how much you have progressed. Your good friends may be very impressed by your abilities and want to hear you. Your teachers may want to know what kind of talent is in the classroom for upcoming school assemblies. The more you perform your memorized pieces in public, the more people are aware of what you can do – and the more likely you will be offered yet more opportunities to perform in public.
Don’t forget to tell your KMI teacher(s) whenever you perform something in public! We want to know and would love to talk to you about your experiences. Likewise, if you know about an upcoming performance event, the KMI faculty will always be interested in helping you prepare for it.