As a piano instructor for over 28 years, I firmly believe a well-rounded piano education includes the opportunity to perform in eclectic venues in addition to the traditional concert hall.
Since the 1990s, my school, Pastimes for a Lifetime, has been hosting a minimum of two student concerts per year in traditional concert halls, complete with Certificates of Merit, photos, delicious refreshments and in later years, videos and audio recordings of performances for portfolios and resumes. Performances may be enjoyed on the school’s YouTube channel.
I also enjoy partnering with local businesses to provide a public venue experience for my students in addition to traditional concert halls to develop poise and focus while performing with the distractions one might find in a restaurant or party. The goal is for my students to build the confidence needed to perform on their own at local restaurants, events, and maybe even music festivals. One such venue is the lovely M Street Coffee Bar & Gallery, in Sherman Oaks, California.
Back in 2009, while on a bike ride, I discovered the M Street Coffee Bar & Gallery. The warm, artsy ambiance drew me in to try a delicious iced tea. I was smitten and had to learn more about the place. Their website showed photos of poetry readings and musical performances. I reached out to the owner, Mrs. Andrea Vavra (nee Andrea McLain) who enthusiastically agreed to host a student piano concert.
September 23, 2018, marks the sixth Pastimes for a Lifetime Student Piano Gig hosted by the M Street Coffee Bar & Gallery. Grateful.
This year’s show was fully booked.
The line up included a guest poet, Miss Charlotte R., who opened the program with a beautiful original poem entitled “Coffee Shop Blues“. What better place to recite poetry than in a coffee house! Click her name to hear her poetry reading. Here is her beautiful poem if you’d like to read it.
After the student portion of each show, I like to give back to the students and families by performing a solo piece and feature a guest musician.
This time, I had fun performing Dave Brubeck’s challenging jazz piano solo, “Struttin”. Thanks to Dr. John Salmon for the chord substitute recommendations. Sadly, the video has gone missing.
Our guest musician was the talented singer and singing coach, Radina Veliova.
Radina and I performed Carole King’s beautiful “Stand Behind Me” and closed the program with Dana Owen’s (aka Queen Latifah) arrangement of Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. That one got the audience jumpin’. Here’s the YouTube link of our jam session. A quick heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Gayle LeVant for her arrangement consultation on “Stand Behind Me”.
Thanks to my wonderful hubby, Barry Michael Wehrli for providing his professional keyboard and speaker, gracious time setting up and tearing down the music gear and for videotaping the performances.
Much obliged to my office manager, Jessica Lee Sanders for her expert administrative work, photography and social media posting during the show.
A great time was had by all. Looking forward to the next coffee house student piano gig!
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Pastimes for a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.
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