Observations from Masterclass in Rome Conservatory of Santa Cecilia

Jaak Sikk

Jaak Sikk at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia

Greetings from the magnificent and culturally extremely rich city of Rome. I have been giving a masterclass for pianists here in the famous conservatory Santa Cecilia. The subject is improvisation and creativity. While working all together as a happy and friendly group many interesting ideas came up and several universal obstacles people encounter were revealed.

The Reason Why We Play Piano

There were several moments when after playing a bit of music the student looked at me with a shy attitude to get my evaluation about whether she/he had been good enough.

At first glimpse there seems nothing wrong with the situation. But for me there is a conceptual error in this kind of behavior. Why? Actually one of the first things I told to the group of students was “I am actually not a teacher and you students, I am here just to help you to teach yourself”. So when a teacher gives a task, before executing the task the student should:

    a) understand the idea why a task was given;
    b) see a personal reason, why the task has a benefit;
    c) be able to create an image of how to execute the task (mental modeling);
    d) be able to evaluate herself/himself whether the execution went well or not.

With a good teacher all of the four points are present automatically. The student is encouraged to look inside and see the task as her/his own logical next step how to go on. A reason to please someone else is never a reason that would activate students brain in a healthy and balanced way.

Piano Students

Students of the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia

Having a Clear Mental Vision

The next very important topic, which seems to need an endless talk and emphasize is having a clear mental vision, plan, idea (or however you want to call it) before playing. This artistic image in our mind and its clarity is a contact place between your creativity and the actual piano playing. When the imagery is very vague, the playing process can only be just as vague. Content and the execution cannot be separated from eachother in the terms of playing an instrument well.

Everything I have written before is combined with an expressive artistic courage. What is courage in this case? It is a complex of the following components:

    a) having a clear mental vision of something inner going on;
    b) being focused on the inner vision as much as possible;
    c) executing the inner vision with all needed resources and energy you have;
    (And for adding more quality, I would also say) d) being with very open ears towards ones own playing.

Despite the fact that these observations are based on work with university students, I still teach same principles and ideas in my piano course for adult beginners.

Thank you Rome, thank you Conservatorio Santa Cecilia, and thank all the wonderful students I had the luck to meet!

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