I'm a firm believer that one doesn't really come into their own on an instrument unless they find the right repertoire that will propel them there. Speaking from my own experience, I got seriously bogged down in my teenage years learning music that I didn't enjoy playing very much. Then I discovered contemporary music. Much to the consternation of my parents, teachers, and friends, I developed a serious liking for listening to and playing the music of our time that has continued up to the present. If I had never discovered this, there is almost no chance I would have developed my skills to the level where I can play and teach for a living.
Most of the professionals that I know have similar stories about falling in love with a certain corner of the repertoire and developing their skills to the level where they can actually play it. Here are some possible repertoire and style niches:
- Learning historical performance practices, especially as they relate to playing the precursors of the modern piano such as harsichord, clavichord, and fortepiano.
- Learning music from countries not in the mainstream of musical creation, but whose composers nevertheless produce music of the hightest caliber: Canada, The Netherlands, Portugal, Brazil, Scotland, or Japan have all produced composers who have written some fine piano music.
- Learning jazz and popular styles alongside classical playing. Includes ragtime, novelty, swing, bebop, free jazz, Cuban jazz, Brazilian Bossa, popular, R&B, anime, and video game music are just some of the styles currently popular among pianists.
- Learning contemporary music, working with living composers, and even commissioning new work for the piano.
- Learning historical vocal practice in order to effectively perform music written prior to the mid-eighteenth century.
- Learn vocal music in a language that genuinely inspires you: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Russian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Ukranian, and English are all languages that have sizable art song and operatic traditions.
- Learn a vocal style that is at the periphery of Western art music. Fado, Ladino, Persian, and Yiddish styles are a few of many distinct possibilities for exploration.
- Work with composers and librettists to create the operatic repertoire of today. Companies such as Tapestry New Opera Works and Queen of Puddings Music Theatre in Toronto specialize in this niche and are always on the lookout for singers who have the skills to workshop and perform new works for the opera stage.
Next: Take Your Performance for a Test Drive...Every Day