SOME REFLECTIONS ON PREPARING FOR A RECITAL
Published in Piano Guild Notes, Jan-Feb 1994 (Vol. 43, No. 4)
Dr. Virginia Houser, Kansas State University
The day is steadily drawing closer. Soon you will publicly share your interpretation of the music you have been studying. You want your ideas to sparkle and sound fresh and spontaneous. You want to feel relaxed, focused, and positive about yourself and your playing. Above all, you want to be free of mental and physical snags while sharing musical insights with the audience.
Sound like a tall order? It is! The seeds of a successful performance, while rooted in the period of learning and memorizing the notes, grow and mature in the time before walking on stage to begin the program. It is during this period that the player lives and experiments with the music, investigates its special details, and comes to know it intimately. It is a formative time for developing sound concepts about the repertoire and the experience of public performance. What can be done during this time span to insure positive, effective preparation for a performance?
There are two ingredients that play a crucial role in this incubation period: concentration and imagination. Concentration is a type of mental stamina. Playing through the entire recital program daily at least a month in advance develops mental and physical endurance. Concentration must strap itself to the music in a way that does not come undone. If concentration loosens during practice, allowing the ear and mind to stray, the player must draw it back while continuing to play.
Imagination in practice drives away boredom and insures that musical ideas and the means of conveying them are fresh and interesting. Practice time should be as creative as the player can make it, continually rejuvenated by what the mind brings to the process. Creative practicing, however, is not immune from the sluggish, debilitating state known as creative block. All who are involved in creative endeavors confront it sooner or later. The point is how one gets around it.
"I am so tired of my music" is a comment that is often heard from practice-worn musicians who are preparing for a recital. This might be reworded more accurately, "I am so tired of thinking of new ways to approach my music." Imagination and creativity take effort and energy that can be physically and psychologically depleting if not replenished periodically. Every player, whether professional or amateur, must gear one's lifestyle to accomodate performance preparation. As the performance date draws closer, it is not enough just to practice a specific number of hours. The performer must determine and do those things that will enhance a sense of well-being and eliminate those activities that prove detrimental to the performance.
In an ideal world, the performer would be free of the daily hassles and distrctions that comprise normal living. Such a world does not exist, but one can make decisions and plan activities that gear the attitude positively toward performing. The suggestions that follow aid in successful preparation for the recital:
Above all, enjoy the whole process of preparing for performance. There is really nothing quite like it. The recital is an occasion for giving to the listeners, and the preparation is an unequalled opportunity for getting to know yourself better. Always strive to keep your music in the status of a dear, growing friendship--one whose association becomes ever richer and more meaningful with the passage of time.
This page was last updated November 4, 1996.