Whenever possible, make sure the first time you play something in public isn’t the first time you’ve played that piece in public. By that I mean there is an official first time, but there is also a real first time.
Whenever possible, theater companies try to get in at least two dress rehearsals with some sort of audience present. Why? To get a sense of where it all stands with people in the seats. Where are the laughs? What moments work? What needs last minute adjustments? While each audience will be different, and one audience may respond differently than another audience, at least the actors will get a general sense of what to expect.
I’d say the same is true for a violin recital. How ready are you? Where will your focus be? It’s one thing to be in a practice room, or your bedroom, living room, garage, or wherever you rehearse, but it’s altogether another thing to play in front of an audience.
This is a problem I’m about to face this week. As you may know, I’m finishing my first year of violin lessons. Over the past year I’ve been given studies, scales, arpeggios, and 20+ tunes to learn. While I’ve been working on them all year, I hit a point about three months ago where I wondered where all of this was going to go, and most importantly, was anyone going to hear these songs other than my teacher at lessons, and my wife at home?
So, to make a long story short, I found a pub here in Portland, Oregon – the Muddy Rudder – and on May 20, the Sunday after Mother’s Day, I’ll do a 2 p.m. recital of roughly 18 – 20 of these songs. I’ve been practicing, and now it’s crunch time. I’ve got one week to go.
I have the songs memorized and except for a couple of bit and pieces, I’m ready to go. Now I need to play them in public before May 20. I can’t exactly walk into the pub, take out the violin and go to it. (Well, I COULD do that, but I don’t know how the patrons would feel.) I don’t have a stage. I don’t want to do it in my living room.
So I’m going to put my violin in its case, head over to a public park, find a nice place in the shade, and just do it.
Then I’ll do it the next day in another park, and one more time in another public park. At this point the whole performance takes about 20 - 25 minutes. I don’t care who hears it. People walking their dogs, joggers, kids in strollers, kids out of strollers, squirrels, birds, anyone. I’ve just got to get it out there.
Will I screw up? Probably. Will I be embarrassed? Perhaps. But what is most important is I’ll learn from the whole thing, and my goal will be to center my focus on what I’m playing within the parameters of obvious distractions. I’d rather learn this in a public park and work on centering the focus at that time, as opposed to doing it at the Muddy Rudder Public House. I want to go into that performance feeling confident and reduce the elements of surprise. So, stay tuned…….we’ll see how this goes.
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