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Emily Grossman


August 20, 2012 at 9:30 PM

The difficulty lies in the ability to take what you know from the practice room and apply it in a myriad of situations. In the studio, where it's quiet and calm, and you have a cup of your favorite coffee and the stand is just so, of course you can nail the tricky passages. Of course you can count four measures of rests and enter with a perfectly tuned A-flat way up there. I could, and did, play my part a hundred times over, just to make sure it was all there.

Some people say I'm easily distracted; I like to say I'm super-sensitive. In rehearsal, I notice when my chair isn't just so and the stand is over there, and my partner's music has different markings. Then go the voices in my head: what was that off sound? Was that you or me? Did the conductor just cue my section? I only counted to three, I swear. What the heck is that note on the page? Is it a D or an F? Wait--neither. What instrument is this, anyway?

With all that static, how can you connect your voice with this string that serves as your medium of expression? Under my fingers, I could feel that light, supple thread, a tenuous lifeline through which I could sing, if only I could clear everything else away. But how? To simply shout "Focus!" only makes matters worse.

I could (and often do) subject myself to hours of self-flagellation following these haphazard episodes. But I shouldn't: this is the norm, and it's not only okay, but good. My theory is that during the rehearsals leading up to performance, the subconscious plays the role of devil's advocate to force the conscious mind to build up the defense mechanisms that will secure success when it counts. It's as though the screw-ups provide an inoculation of sorts for the upcoming show. So I forget the coda. I skip a line. I spontaneously change fingerings and bowings. After all, it's common knowledge that if the dress-rehearsal blooms to perfection, the performance is doomed.

Break a leg. Break an arm, too. Do whatever it takes, so to speak, and get it out of your system; just make sure it doesn't happen come concert black.

From Man Wong
Posted on August 22, 2012 at 1:15 PM
Hmmmm.... Is that why my kids sometimes (maybe even often) perform better at their solo recitals than their (at times train-wreck) rehearsal/practice times leading up to it? :-)

Always wondered about that...


From Emily Grossman
Posted on August 22, 2012 at 5:23 PM
That's my theory, at least. It's not 100% the case, but mostly when we have a bad dress rehearsal, the performance is much better, and if the dress rehearsal is good, the performance falls apart.

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