For the last 5 years or so, the kids have participated in our state’s Hymn Festival. The Festival is put on by the Southern Baptist Convention and is designed to encourage your pianist to continue in their learning and strive to become church accompanists. We LOVE the Hymn Festival!!
As the kids have gotten older they’ve moved up in divisions and the requirements for their pieces have gotten more difficult. Big was in a level this year that required she play a hymn from a hymnal, and play a 3-4 minute arrangement based on the hymn. She played Savior Like a Shepard Lead Us.
As a part of her initial hymn, she had to play an introduction, and then have the audience sing with her. Apparently (I am no musician!) accompaniment is very difficult and she totally rocked it.
Little this year played Rock of Ages Cleft for Me. He did a fabulous job, especially since he nailed the timing … practicing that afternoon! Nothing like the last minute. Next year I am buying audio downloads of less common hymns earlier!!
As part of the festival each piece is critiqued by a panel of volunteer judges. Each part of the piece – from note reading to rhythm and more is graded. The kids LOVE to read their grade sheets after the event.
The last, and perhaps most coveted part of the event, is THE STICKER. Our teacher encourages the kids to practice hard and be prepared – and try to earn the “superior” sticker. This year the kids pulled it off again! Three superiors (Big got 2 for her 2 pieces).
I love the Hymn Festival and the emphasis on kids learning both the hymns and learning to play for others in the church. I love that kids are encouraged to use their skills to honor God and to serve through music. I also love the that kids earn honest feedback – some pretty pointed! – and have a great time in process. And lastly, maybe my favorite part, is getting to listen to hours of hymns played in our home as the kids practice for the event in the month preceeding. I’m already looking forward to the 2016 event!!