Where/when can an amateur classical pianist perform?
December 19, 2006 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm an amateur classical pianist. I used to give solo recitals at college, and I would like to start performing again out here in the real world. But what sort of group/organisation/event do I need to get involved with to have this kind of opportunity? Could I organise a little independent recital for myself, or is that weird and too egotistical?

Back in college there was a lot of infrastructure that made these things happen easily and frequently -- active music societies, regular recital series, easily-available venues, a captive audience, and a general culture where it was normal for people to be getting up and performing and being involved with arty stuff in general. But I basically have no idea how the amateur classical music 'scene' works outside of this environment.

My initial thought was to hire a recital room and just organise my own informal recital, as a kind of friends and family thing as much as anything else. But the thought of just doing that out of the blue seems a bit too much "hey everybody, come and see how brilliant I am", and I feel a bit awkward about the whole idea. Is that reaction completely off-mark? Do people even do that kind of thing? Does it seem too self-centered? What if I made it a little fundraising event, and did a collection for a charity, or something like that?

I've looked into local music societies, but they seem more geared around getting a group of people together to form a choir or orchestra, rather than providing a general performance platform. I'm sure there must be small places/venues that run informal weekly/monthly recitals that I could get involved with, but I don't know where to start looking.

I'm in London/Essex, UK.
posted by chrismear to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Start volunteering to perform at senior care homes. They will love and adore and worship you.

Be the piano guy in a high-end department store. If you could jazz up the classical stuff a bit and add in some holiday tunes, you'd be a rock star.

It's holiday time, there's gotta be a million venues that would like the kind of thing you play...especially if you're doing it for free.
posted by frosty_hut at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2006

It would seem sort of weird to me if the recital was just you (although I have guitar playing friends who have invited us to "master classes" featuring only them and their instructors). How about finding some other friends or acquaintances who play piano and would also like to perform? That way you can divide the cost of hiring out the recital room and share the spotlight with a few other people.
posted by CRM114 at 12:48 PM on December 19, 2006

Best answer: Do you have decent recording equipment? I always thought it would be great if a musician could have a blog or some such where people could request songs (and tip via paypal or similar service). Kind of like a hotel lounge or bar, but with the ability to keep the song in perpetuity (a lot of classical music being public domain).

If you end up doing this (which would be awesome, I love me some Rachmaninoff), let me know. I'll queue right up.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 12:50 PM on December 19, 2006

Best answer: I know a woman who is a professionally-trained classical pianist here in the Boston area, but who chose not to pursue a professional career. She plays a regular series with a local music society, but she does virtually all the legwork herself of organizing the concerts and so on. I think it's legit for you to try to find a group to work with as long as you're prepared to do all the work yourself.

If that seems too much for you, given that you don't seem to say that you have aspirations of a serious professional career, then maybe the volunteer route frosty hut suggests is more apt.
posted by briank at 12:51 PM on December 19, 2006

Best answer: Perhaps the best start would be to invite a group of friends to a sort of "variety" party -- the idea being that each guest in turn should entertain the others. This might work best if you have a group of friends who perform classical music, a few opera singer wannabes, a violinist and so forth.

When your turn comes round you can play a short party piece, with an encore prepared if it is demanded.

Assuming this informal get-together goes well, you can then perhaps organize a musicale, i.e., a party with the main focus on performed musical selections. For this sort of affair you would likely need a separate room set up for the performance, ideally a space with a good classical music acoustic. There certainly should be spaces intended for rehearsal that should be suitable.

Another possibility if you simply want to play the piano would be to seek out music teachers (especially voice) and opera societies and to offer your services as accompanist. It's not the most creatively stimulating activity, but it will put you in contact with a lot of people interested in music. They, in turn, can connect you with performance opportunities and venues.

The key point here is to begin your concertizing on a very small and informal scale. Then, should you find the experience fulfilling, you can scale up to, say, hiring a small church sanctuary and offering a recital.
posted by La Cieca at 12:58 PM on December 19, 2006

It doesn't seem weird to me to just give a recital in your home -- it's just a different kind of party, but it totally depends on the friends you have. The people I used to know when I lived elsewhere were all involved in playing, tuning, dealing or repairing acoustic keyboard instruments, so it did happen. Then a classical guitar player came into our circle. Fine, it's music. It never got to be like Granny's awful singalongs and enforced merriment. It's what you make it. I don't think it's about showing off your wonderfulness in a bad way at all. It's more like sharing something you love. There are dozens of different ways of doing this, as other people are pointing out, all depending on which individuals and groups you connect with.
posted by Listener at 1:02 PM on December 19, 2006

I don't think it would be weird or egotistical to create this sort of venue for yourself. I used to do classical guitar concerts all the time, and we would rent out churches, play in coffee shops, the retirement homes DEFINTELY love you being there....though it is a little different playing the guitar vs piano.

My mother has guitar concerts in her living room whenever someone is prepared to perform, and there is a place here in Honolulu that has turned their attic into a jazz performance spot.

If you tell your friends and family that you are working towards the goal of playing a solo concert, no one would begrudge you setting it up yourself!!
posted by lil' ears at 1:13 PM on December 19, 2006

Not sure if these suggestions are actually any use, as I have no local knowledge, but anyway: Seconding the Senior Citizen suggestion above. Also many hospitals or hospices would have a piano in the building somewhere, eg if they have a chapel attached. You may even be able to combine the fundraising idea with a performance for the patients in such a venue. Would it help to start small and put on a soirée at home, maybe with the help of a few like-minded friends?
How do you feel about accompaniment or chamber music? This would certainly lift the worry of being thought egotistical, and can also be a lot of fun. You could try volunteering to accompany an amateur choir or theatre company, especially if you can sight read fairly well. (This might also give you contacts in the scene, if there is one.) The fund raising concert idea would also be a goer; just pick your favourite cause!
posted by Coaticass at 1:15 PM on December 19, 2006

I'm not sure if you have the same thing in the UK, but they have community colleges or junior colleges here that offer "continuing education" classes for adults. Take a musical class that involves performing a recital as part of the class. Then you would be part of an organized recital, and perhaps be able to forge some contacts get some tips on how you might participate in/organize recitals outside the college environs.
posted by Doohickie at 2:09 PM on December 19, 2006

Tripod + video camera + youtube. Seriously. You'll probably reach more people that way than anything live and local. Yes, it's more impersonal, but don't discount the part where you interact with your readers through comments / requests. If you have a blog you can make a series of it and embed the youtube clip in each post. Or you can just use youtube alone.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:47 PM on December 19, 2006

I'd just like to say that I'm not musically talented but I love this question. I certainly wish there were more small/informal classical music venues / groups / performers available in modern society. Now, don't get me wrong, I loves me some rock-n-roll/bluegrass/indie/techno and go to all sorts of live shows at bars. But there has GOT to be the equivalent of this for the classical string quartet / soloist / pianist / horn trio.... right? sigh.

In more genteel times, I think members of the comfortably well-off would merely hold a 'salon' in their home to invite local musicians to come perform and/or showcase the talents of their musically-inclined offspring & relatives. Perhaps there's a way to do this still? While I love classical music, I loathe getting dressed up and driving an hour and paying insane amounts of money in fees and parking just to go to the Denver Performing Arts Centre.

This also sounds like an excellent service to offer to some of the more spacious bookstore / coffeehouse settings (I'm thinking cavernous places like the 4-story Tattered Cover Bookstore / Cafe in Lower Downtown Denver... surely other cities have massive bookstores like this?).
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:59 PM on December 19, 2006

Hey, maybe Rhomboid's on to something here. Helps if you can play video game music...
posted by Doohickie at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2006

Best answer: My oldest brother is a very talented amateur pianist and has put on several recitals/concerts. I've talked to him about how he approaches it and apart from the selection of music, what he does is establishes a relationship with a local public or semi-public venue likely to have a piano, such as a public high school or a church. In exchange for the venue, he usually charged a very modest cover fee or did a "pass the hat" to pass on some money to the organization. He also paid to have a good professional piano tuner come in and fix/tune their piano.

Is it egotistical? To a certain extent yes, but at the same time one of the goals performance is to share music with your audience. You are, quite honestly, giving a gift to your audience. How you present that gift is what determines egotism.

I play in a brass quintet and we are routinely asked to play at church services, but we also play in public/semi-public places unbidden.l We've played in the local park, a downtown shopping center, a mall, and a town gazebo. We had audiences as small as 0 and as large as a hundred and I think we all enjoyed playing them all (I know I did).
posted by plinth at 5:25 PM on December 19, 2006

Whereabouts in Essex?

I'm in Thurrock, near Lakeside, and might have a few ideas if you're localish.

E-mail if you want, username @gmail.com or msn, username @ hotmail.com
posted by chrispy108 at 6:26 PM on December 19, 2006

Don't know what it's like in UK, but the public libraries in several towns near Boston all have their weekly free concert series. Some of the performers are professionals, but some are not. These events attract a lot of seniors and families with young children.
posted by of strange foe at 8:32 PM on December 19, 2006

No worries, pros are constantly organizing recitals for themselves. Notice for example, at Weill Hall (the 300-seat recital hall of Carnegie Hall), all the concerts that say "presented by the artist." Virtually every recital hall has a rental price, just ask them (Weill is $3000+ for a weeknight rental, iirc).
posted by lorimer at 10:38 PM on December 19, 2006

I can't make any specific suggestions, but I heartily encourage you to do something. I teach at a (relatively) high-level arts-based high school and am often disappointed by the number of our graduates who, upon not being able to make it professionally, simply stop performing altogether. Please. The arts don't belong solely to the professionals.
posted by mhespenheide at 9:10 AM on December 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. There's some great stuff in all of these answers. (I've highlighted a few to provide an overview of the main ideas for people who skim this thread in future.)

I'm gonna try and find some local venues where I can play for fun and for free, and in the meantime I've put some recordings up on my website.
posted by chrismear at 5:59 PM on January 11, 2007

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