A Nutcracker (Duet) Christmas

Last Christmas, the biannual studio recital/dinner theater took me by surprise. I was still pretty new to the studio, pregnant, and just not on my game. My students rose to the challenge of learning their music in just a few weeks, but I didn't want to do that to either of us again. 

So this year we are starting in October! That sounds early until you consider that the event is the first week of December and we will loose a week in November for Thanksgiving.

My students play as part of the studio dinner theater, but the main event is the vocal group's performance. So far I hadn't really made the effort to have my students do much of a theme or anything along those lines. This year I am rested (well, kind of), know what to expect, know what my students can do, know their parents better to discuss new music, and all around am much more prepared, and on fire to do something fun.

I wanted a theme to tie everything together and I really wanted to incorporate duets.   Young pianists spend so much time playing by themselves, but once they become older pianists, the chance of them always playing solo works as some sort of concert pianist are very slim. Instead they may find themselves accompanying choirs, accompanying vocalists, playing for some sort of church service, funeral service, wedding, etc. What do these all have in common? Collaborative piano or accompanying. Playing with people. This is actually the kind of work that I love best, so I'd like to  give my students a taste of it as young as possible!

Then I happened on the Nutcracker. It occurred to me that it would be a fun Christmas theme, and even the easiest Nutcracker music would sound pretty cool with two people on the bench. I'm still in the process of assigning pieces, but I am really excited, and I can tell it is rubbing off on my students. So far they each have one duet and eventually they will each have one solo piece as well. Between all of them we will tell the (abbreviated) Nutcracker story! 

Here's the duet book that I am using: 

I have Elementary level students, Early Intermediate students, and Intermediate students, so this book is a little hard for some and little easy for others. It seems like it will work for all of them. For solo pieces, I am working from other Nutcracker books published by Alfred in various difficulty levels. Hopefully this will give a more cohesive sound. I can't wait to get started in those as well!