Doing events is an art.
I’ve done more events in the past 8 months than ever before. One of them is a TEDx event. And a design event. And I’m planning an online event for Artiden.
Doing a series of anything is good, because you find hidden trends. Like, you’d be surprised at what I’ve learned from writing posts that go viral.
You can see how things turn out, then tweak it for next time. If you keep doing it, you’ll become an expert.
The best of all shall survive, you know?
Let’s talk about music events.
Classical musicians turn their noses up at mainstream pop music.
Then pop artists think classical music isn’t rad enough.
Which is fine.
As a pianist, I’ve spent more time with Classical music than anything else.
But, there comes a certain point in every pianist’s life…
When pop music gets easier to play than the classical repertoire—say, 2 minutes to sight read Rihanna versus 5 weeks to sight read Liszt.
That’s one of the perks for being a classical musician: you earn the skills to play other types of music easily.
It’s like ballet. Proper and kind of nerdy, but no one denies that it’s helpful if you want to be good at other styles.
Most pop artists have some type of classical training, like Mika. I’m a big fan of his.
But, can pop music be allowed at a formal piano event?
If you let one person play pop music, will everyone copy? Will you end up with a pop concert?
The most pressing question: how can you organize an amazing event?
How to decide what works for your event
I’ve never played a pop song solo onstage. But I know what makes a good event; I’ve been to the lamest ones.
Musicians have to learn to put on events, or get someone who knows how to do them properly. This applies especially to piano teachers: parents need to know that they’re getting their money’s worth. Performances are the best evaluation time.
1. What’s the overall goal?
Every event should have one major goal.
This is what you want people to remember about the entire event, when they talk about it afterwards.
“Everyone played polished pieces.”
Most people think this should always be the goal. But there are other great goals, too.
“I learned a lot.”
Sometimes, they change the way you do things, for a long time.
“Everyone wore shiny white shoes.”
My friend Harriet says this is a theme, not a goal. It’s true: if people forget about the music in a music event, they’ll remember the theme instead.
If the theme is ‘shiny white shoes’, then people will remember that.
If nothing else, have a good theme.
Having a goal is the easiest way to put on an amazing event. Just keep this goal in mind, and everything you do will be geared towards this.
Everyone will remember one good thing about it, instead of a million vague, mediocre things.
2. What do the performers want?
Every pianist should have their own goal for the event.
That’s how they’ll grow for every performance. Ideally, the pianist’s personal goal matches the event’s goal.
If it’s a piano competition, an arrangement of Beyonce’s song won’t win against Rachmaninoff. In fact, people who play Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, or Tchaikovsky probably win gold most often. The pianist who plays Beyonce is probably trying to get comfortable onstage, by playing a familiar piece.
Nail the goal, and you’re halfway there.
3. The proud test.
Here’s why someone would want to play pop music for a formal performance:
A. The arrangement is amazing and everyone is dazzled by how creative it is.
If a pop song arrangement is dazzling and the pianist plays it well, then who cares if the original singer can’t sing? It’s a piano performance and the pianist is good.
In fact, the worse the original song, the better– it shows how great the pianist is. Not everyone can save a bad song, and not every song can be saved. But it can create great buzz for the reception.
B. It’s one of the pianist’s best pieces. Although it’s not the most amazing arrangement.
If someone has been practicing a pop song that proud of, then it’s probably one of the best things they can play.
You should always share something you’re proud of, right? So, a pop song that the pianist loves will sound better than some piece that was forced on them. They’ll have more reason to practice, and be passionate.
Pianists who are capable of acrobatics on the keyboard will sweat for other pieces. They won’t even think about doing a plain arrangement that took two minutes to master for a formal solo.
C. The pianist wrote the arrangement of the song.
Who isn’t proud of their own, originally composed music? The pianist will practice extra hard because their name is attached to the piece.
All of these are okay.
So that’s how you know: people should perform what they are proud of.
But what is never right for a performance?
Let’s look at Beyonce’s music.
She has an amazing voice. The voice is always the main part in her songs.
Unless there’s a decent piano arrangement of her music, the instrument accompaniment isn’t going to fit every event.
People can’t play the instrumental accompaniment as a solo. It’s boring. There are maybe 4 repeating chords and 30 seconds of silence.
If someone wants to play a pop solo onstage, it should be written or arranged specifically for solo piano.
Pianists should perform pieces that they are proud of… and pieces that suit their goals.
Have you ever done an event? Or played a pop song onstage? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.