Sight-reading is part of my everyday life. It plays a part in my teaching, performing, my role as a piano accompanist, and most recently, at charitable events.
Due to the huge variety of pieces my students learn, I have to be able to sight-read the repertoire – whether it preparatory, beginner, intermediate or advanced. While performing solo, or as an accompanist, sight-reading helps me to cut my practice time down in half. Once I have learnt the notes I am able to focus on what I believe to be the most important aspect of performance – conveying the character of the music.
Good sight-reading skills also help when playing with musicians for the first time. I recently performed with Nell Ladipo from the girl group Celeste, at a Beacon of Hope for Children and Families in Crisis event, organised by Catherine Sekwalor. Nell sang Gershwin’s Summertime by from Porgy and Bess as I accompanied her on the piano before I performed Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in E from his Midsummer Night’s Dream Fantasia.
I felt delighted to be using my skills to help Beacon of Hope’s fantastic fundraising work. For those of you who haven’t heard about BOHCFIC, the charity works with street children in South America to support children and families in challenging situations including: poverty, gender based violence, drug & alcohol misuse, child trafficking and sexual exploitation, early child marriage, and teenage pregnancy. The event also saw the launch of Catherine Sekwalor’s new book called Poems from the heart of life. The event took place at the Hammersmith Rowing Club.
I began feeling confident about sight-reading roughly after my ABRSM Grade 3 piano exam, which I took when I was still quite young. My piano teacher at the time was called Mr. Dart. He taught piano privately within the Hertfordshire area and was well respected by pianists, parents and schools. I feel lucky that my parents heard of him through word of mouth.
Mr. Dart noticed that I received high marks for the sight-reading part of the exam, and it was his belief in me that gave me confidence in my playing. He took my natural ability to compute the details on the page (otherwise known as the score), which included, the notes, the dynamics, the key signature, staccato and legato, expression, rather than just considering the notes.
He helped me enhance this skill by encouraging correct fingering patterns, which came from learning scales, arpeggios and chords. Everything worked together seamlessly. I noticed patterns, chords, and scale like passages in the music I was playing and this helped me piece everything together.
I have to admit that sight-reading has now become a bit of a crutch that I lean on when I haven’t had time to practice. It’s not a good excuse, but it happens. Sometimes I get away with it, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I learn from the experience.
During my time at Bishops Hatfield Girls’ School, Mrs. Carmichael and Mrs. Forbes (both teachers) really helped me to further develop my skills as an accompanist. They put me in the privileged position to accompany whole classes during performance tasks as part of the school music curriculum. I was the class accompanist.
The belief these teachers had in me also made me feel good, and gave me a sense of achievement. It’s part of why I am now so confident and developed in my performances. It’s also the reason why Catherine selected me to perform at her fundraiser event.
Nell and I have planned to play together more in the future, and I look forward to jamming with her in the months to come!