Skip to main content

What I'm Trying

I am still, yes, still working on how to approach my audition mind.  I wrote about this before HERE and HERE.

As I practice for this month’s audition, I am trying to get away from working solely on the music.  Of course the music is important, but I know these concertos and excerpts.  I’ve worked them out a million times, played them in auditions, and even performed most of them in the orchestra, and my basic plans are in place.  I am trying now to get myself into a good, focused, clear mindset before each one.    I want to use my breathing to launch myself into a place of focus.  If I can get to where I need to be with a few mindful breaths, perhaps I can control the time and my mastery of the stage while I’m in that crucial ten minutes. 

So, I play an excerpt.  I make sure I know how I want it.  Then I stop, breathe, and try to find my way to the timeless place, the place where I totally know what I’m doing and I can turn the scorekeeper off and just enjoy playing beautifully.  This is so hard to do.  My plan, once I work through all of the individual pieces like this, is to start stringing them together, as I would play them in the audition itself.  Practice taking the breaths quickly between excerpts to clear my head, reset, and be the me I want to be. 

I know this technique is fairly obvious, but it’s genuinely something new for me.  Of course I have practiced stringing excerpts together before, and practiced finding my mental cues and my tempo, and practiced getting from one mood to another.  What I have not worked on in that process is my own brain.  I was always thinking about the music.

 That last statement troubles me, and I think it’s the reason I have taken so long to get to my current project.  Of course it should be about the music.  What on earth is the point of what I do if it’s not about the music?  I should be the conduit for the music, and the interpretations I’ve prepared should just flow through me, and I shouldn’t have to think about myself.  That is what feels awkward about this.  I’ve resisted making the issue be me, because I always assumed that if my interpretations matured just a little more, or if I chose my reed more carefully, or if I pushed through that crescendo more meaningfully, things would just work out.  If I took care of the music it would take care of me. 

But the problem, and the reason that I am not making the beautiful music in a much bigger arena, seems to be that I am getting in the way.  My self-talk and distractibility over the course of a multi-day audition process HAS prevented the smooth, perfect flow of the music, and in order to correct that I have to focus on myself.  So as to take the focus back off myself.  Paradoxical, yes, and difficult, but clearly the answer. 

My success so far has been mixed - sometimes I feel right but then I make mistakes (so am I not as focused as I think?  Or is the focus not the only answer?) and sometimes I just can’t get there at all.  Meanwhile, though, in context - in rehearsals and concerts  - I find that I can fairly easily get to where I want to be by broadening my visual field and looking at more than one note or line of music at a time.  If I can turn on the right feeling and attitude in the orchestra but not alone at my music stand, what is the answer? 

I’m open to suggestions.  Meanwhile, I keep working.  Working harder is probably the answer.

Comments

  1. And yet, Jennet, whenever I hear you and SEE you play, it seems to me almost as if you ARE the music--you embody it in a very real way. You clearly love to play, and love to play for an audience. Is the audience what you are missing at auditions? Who is there for you to love? Maybe that's a missing piece that could help. It has sometimes worked for me..

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Discouraging Words

I can remember at least two old cranky violinists coming to talk to young me about NOT going into music.  There was a session, for example, during a Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra retreat in which a real RPO professional (who was probably 47 but whom I remember as ancient) told us that, statistically, no one who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week. 

Quit NOW. 

I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage.

Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs.

And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it is leg…

Shaq and the Oboe

Here’s my FAVORITE thing about that Shaquille O'Neal video everyone's sharing this week - it’s how HAPPY he is playing this silly game and how little he CARES what the oboe actually SOUNDS LIKE or how to play it. 
Almost as if the oboe is not a giant obstacle to overcome.

Instead of focusing on the CRAFT of the instrument, the precise fingerings, the quality of the sound, the finesse of the vibrato - his focus is on DELIVERING the SONG.   It’s on COMMUNICATION, not perfection.


What a LIBERATING concept!


When I am playing my best, I find that I can surpass the STRUGGLE and come to a place where my focus is on communication.   I can sing through the instrument, and I can use that voice to reach out and find someone else.  This is really what being In the Zone means for me - it's when I don’t have to engage with the OBOE and instead can be generous with my VOICE for the audience.


I seek and strive for this Zone all the time - it’s the whole point of practicing! I practice long…

Warming Up - Long Tones

I must not talk enough about warmups. I say this because recently, in my last lesson ever with a student leaving for college, I was mentioning something about my warmup regimen and his jaw dropped. Apparently long tones and intervals and scales with varied articulations are not part of his daily routine, nor had it ever occurred to him to use his band's warmup period to improve his playing. And I'm not telling this story on him, but on myself. Obviously I need to address the warm up period because it is fully half of the playing I do, and sometimes more.

Much of practicing is focused on learning a specific piece - either something you are performing at a specific time in the future, or an etude for your lesson, or the piece you're playing in band or orchestra. You are working on the specific problems or techniques that that piece requires. Of course you are working in as efficient a way as possible, and at the end of your practice period you can play the passage or pi…