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  • Writer's pictureLita Zagala

Journey Through Wonderful Transformation

It takes a long time and a lot of effort to become an expert in anything. In the performing arts, this is particularly true. No one becomes a polished pianist overnight. Everyone starts as a beginner. In teaching my students, I recognize that their music education will be a long journey. I try to make that journey as rewarding and pleasant as possible. I try to show them the value of taking small but resolute steps. Even as my students advance from early stages to more advanced levels, I teach them in a similar way – in small consistent and logical steps, analyzing and clarifying each task, proceeding with the same disciplined routine they learn at every stage. They happily discover that by breaking down big tasks into smaller more understandable parts, more challenging pieces become easier to play. Every small step adds to learning and development. When a student finds that tasks can be rewarding, the entire learning process becomes a happy experience. Practice and repetition no longer have to be boring or difficult. In fact, they become pleasant exercises. The student then looks forward to the next step and drives himself to learn more and do better. Throughout the school year, there are events such play-ins, rehearsals, group lessons, master classes, festivals, ORMTA assessments and piano exams that a student may participate in. Each of these events has their own purpose and objective. For example, in master classes, a special teacher coaches the student in the finer details of certain music pieces. A competition awards students who distinguish themselves by playing to the best of their abilities. I have come to look at these events from another perspective, and that is, as opportunities for learning. When students prepare for and participate in these events, they experience something that strengthens good character formation, that develops traits that are useful in adult lives – like discipline, focus, tenacity, patience, hard work, and respect for others. All the small steps and all the learning opportunities combine to transform a child beginner to a polished player who at the same time is a person with good traits. Before we know it, time has passed, child is now mature They perform more challenging pieces and play them more artistically, more expressively with much musical excitement. Confidence gets to a higher level. In recitals for example, students perform what they learned during the year in a more structured, more formal setting. I look at recitals not only as venue for showing wonderful skills and beautiful playing, but also as an added incentive for learning and character building. Preparing a student for performance involves a lot of things – understanding and putting the music into heart, setting the right mental framework and ensuring that technical skills are well honed, among other things. Not every step will be rosy, however. Students will encounter frustrations and they have to deal with it squarely. Provided they get full support and understanding from parents and teachers, provided their learning process is reinforced by plenty of happy experiences, they will overcome. In my career as a piano teacher, I’ve known the joy of witnessing these transformations in students, of influencing a small part of their development, and of forming close relationships which I hope will last for a long time. Adrienne Wong is a noteworthy example of that transformation. Even before she took her first Suzuki lesson at the age of 4, Adrienne had already been exposed to piano music, tagging along with Mom for her sister’s lessons. As she plays her last recital as a high school student, Adrienne will share with us the fruits of her marvelous transformation. No doubt she will inspire younger students and her musical experience will guide her as she embarks on a new phase in her life. Lita Zagala

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