I remember hearing in a teacher training class, workshop, or seminar once upon a time that a student’s recital piece should be 5 pieces behind their current working piece. I think that as a rule that’s a little hard to enforce, but as a principle there’s something worth gleaning there. And that is that students can rarely, if ever, play their newest piece – with brand new musical concepts, technical challenges, and passages to learn and memorize – to the highest level that they’re capable of playing. Pieces that they’ve known long enough to really master are much more reflective of their playing ability, and generally make for more pleasurable performances for both the student and the audience.
With that in mind, one of the most exciting and encouraging things about the first half of the Summer ’20 Semester has been seeing so many of you grow deeper and stronger in your knowledge of all of the repertoire you’ve ever learned, from the very beginning to the present, as we’ve worked diligently through our weekly review from your review charts. You guys have really been rising to the challenge of brushing up on your review, and it’s made for some excellent opportunities for us to work on some pin-point aspects of technique, and musical expression. That latter point is what I’d really like to focus on.
As you go through your review, I want to challenge you all not just to be comfortable playing each piece from beginning to end. Nor even just to regain your confidence with your memorization of each piece. Having all the notes of a piece in tune, the rhythms correct, and each phrase played with the marked articulations and dynamics is a good goal, but it should not be our end goal but rather a beginning. The beginning of the ability to really express oneself in the music. To create and shape each phase as one intends. To really pour one’s soul into each and every bow stroke and feel an intimate connection with the music being produced. To express oneself uniquely and individually in their music, and to play expressively.
Review is the perfect place to do this – where the notes are (relatively) easy to tune; the rhythms (relatively) easy to play correctly; and the marked articulations and dynamics (relatively) easy to play. So when you’re able to do these things on any given piece, don’t cross it off your list and move to the next one, thinking that you’re “done” with that piece for the day. Rather, view that very moment as an opportunity to achieve something greater – to play masterfully, artistically, and expressively. Your overall ability and maturity as a musician will thank you as you do!