Workshop: “Bottega della musica”

Why is this workshop entitled Bottega della musica?

Being a native Italian and having had the fortune to spend several years in Florence, Italy, during my early studies, I could not help but select this peculiar title for the rather simple concept I am about to describe. Florence was one of the most exciting centers during the Renaissance attracting such artists as Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, as well as several musicians. The Bottega, an Italian word for workshop or studio, is also the name given to the working system of the Renaissance artists. The artist or teacher is working on his or her projects while the apprentices work alongside so as to absorb and, in time, become Maestri themselves. Bottega and Maestro go hand in hand because the terminology dates back to a time when artists believed in craftsmanship. For instance, Bach considered himself a craftsman and the meaning that the word artist has today was unknown in his time.

It will admittedly feel strange to practice in front of others because the preparatory work we do at the piano is rather personal. Yet I decided to make an exception because of the potential benefits for my students. So, a number of times per semester, I will share my work freely. During the practicing breaks, I will also be happy to address any questions the students might have.

Where did the idea come from?

One day as I was practicing in my studio at Eastman, I suddenly felt as though someone might be listening to me. I stopped and opened the door just in time to find out that, indeed, a few students had been sitting nearby and had checked my practicing habits… from the corridor. We all laughed because when I was a student I remember having done the same. I just wanted to understand what my teacher was doing to achieve a particular result and why. I gathered a simple but important lesson on that day (teaching is learning!) and subsequently challenged myself make use of it. The concept, while certainly not new, is rare in practice, and I am curious and excited to see what may come of it.

How does it work?

My students are invited to attend the sessions for as long as they wish. Some may stay just half an hour; some may wish to stay longer, especially if the pieces I am currently learning are part of their wish list, or correspond to works they are also studying. Students are encouraged to bring the scores as well as a notebook and staff paper. Understanding how a pianist with years performing and teaching practices and the process of learning is the primary purpose. The repertoire for each session will be posted in advance.

Students will be able to see and reflect upon the following:

  • how I work towards my own musical goals
  • which way I segment my work and how do I regain a sense of the whole when I break down a long stretch of music into its components
  • the kind of strategies I select in order to accomplish those goals
  • the way I organize my own practice time in order to accomplish what needs to be done
  • how I minimize distractions
  • how I regain concentration if I feel I am getting tired
  • my stretching exercises during short breaks