Local pianist gives lesson to school kids at the Centre

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After performing before a community audience on September 18 at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts, pianist Ben Bertin returned to the Centre stage September 21 to help teach a much younger audience the finer points of attending a musical performance.

A native of Canada, Bertin moved to Newnan a few months ago after marrying East Coweta High School alumni Christi Thompson. After performing “A Salon Recital” for Coweta audiences on a recent Sunday, he returned to the Centre to perform a special “Soiree for the Young Artist” for elementary students, said Coweta County School System spokesperson Dean Jackson.

Jackson said approximately 70 Brooks Elementary School second-graders and music students from Northside Elementary School visited the Centre on Sept. 21 to meet and listen to Bertin. The students toured the backstage of the centre’s performance hall, talked with Bertin and watched him warm up. Bertin played parts of the pieces he was preparing to perform, breaking down musical pieces for them and teaching them the themes they would hear in the complete works.

Centre director Don Nixon taught students the parts of a performance hall like the curtain system, lighting, fly systems, and stage preparation. He then brought students into the main hall and gave them a crash lecture on how to behave during a concert – how to go quiet when the lights dim, what to watch for and listen for as a musician prepares to play, how to be courteous to the performer and to fellow audience members and when to applaud, said Jackson.

Then students heard a special concert given by the Newnan pianist. Bertin played two pieces for the students – Mozart’s 12 variations on “’Ah Vous dirai-je, Maman’ K. 265” (12 variations on the familiar theme of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) and Beethoven’s “Sonata OP.2 No. 2 in A major.”

Students held up colored cards chosen for a listening exercise, to indicate when they heard the music go fast or slow, loud or soft, sad or happy, Jackson said.
“The focus of the class was to teach students concert etiquette,” said Nixon. “We want them to learn how to attend a concert, and how to appreciate it… how to listen and discover musical themes within a composition, and have a personal encounter with a concert artist.”

Nixon said that he and Coweta teachers started the program because, “We wanted to have more educational opportunities for breaking down the barrier between artists and audiences, and bringing familiarity to more students so they can come here and want to take advantage of what we offer.”

“The experience our students received as a part of Soiree for the Young Artist was invaluable,” said Brooks music teacher Vicky Williams. “The intent was to provide an experience for students to attend a real classical concert with listening musical ears. Not only was it successful, but I truly believe the students received invaluable life tools for listening not only in concerts but in all things.”

“I believe we, as a community, will reap many rewards from experiences that elevate our students by becoming critical thinkers and thoughtful listeners,” said Williams.

The mini-concert “created an experimental extension of our music classroom at the Centre,” said Northside  music teacher Joan Nelms. “It gave our students the opportunity to experience a concert in a setting that was geared specifically to their age level. The experience reinforced concepts and listening skills taught in the classroom, helping the students become active, thoughtful listeners in future concert experiences; and it gave them an opportunity to practice concert etiquette in a real concert situation.”