Diary of a Return, week 8, day 1


Editor’s Note:  This diary entry is the thirty-third in a series of entries describing Teresa Dybvig’s strategies for preparing for an upcoming recital after a long break  from performing. Keep posted for further installments.  For more about The Well-Balanced Pianist, click on this link:  http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/


Monday, November 3: report on the weekend’s run-through, practicing goals for the final week

Six days to go!  Yes, the recital is coming up fast.  Therefore, over the weekend, I previewed all the pianistic activities I will engage in next weekend.


The 21-day countdown from Don Greene’s book, Performance Success, changed my last two days of recital preparation forever.  He suggests little or no physical practice those two days.  In contrast, I used to practice around 6 hours the day before a recital, and at least 3 hours the day of a recital.  Unsurprisingly, I always felt fatigued even before the recital began.  I like this system so much more.


Therefore, this past Saturday, I did a mental practice of the whole recital, just as I plan to do next Saturday.  On Sunday, I previewed my recital day.  In the morning, I calmly reviewed technically challenging sections.  I learned that this takes about an hour and a half, which is good to know.  Somehow I think Don Greene would suggest that I find a way to whittle down that time, though.  I’ll think about that.  Then I did some shopping, which I probably will not do next Sunday, but I will do some cooking and organizing for the reception, so that’s not too different.  Maybe I’ll even get out and take a short walk if the weather permits.  About an hour before the recital start time, I sat down and started every piece, starting from the last and ending with the first.  I learned that the starts take about forty-five minutes, so I will want to start that about an hour and 15 minutes before start time.  I’ll need to get dressed and vacate the studio about 30 minutes prior to the recital so my audience can move in!


Then, I ran my recital at the very same time I will play it next Sunday!  For a very important audience of one, my husband.  He also recorded it on both audio and video devices.  It’s not like having an audience of twenty-five, but I felt responsible to the audience, the recording devices, and the music.


It went okay!  If I play like that next Sunday, I will be satisfied.  I was able to sink into the music for a lot of the time.  During the second half, we did some media experiments that involved my computer, and the fan made an incredible racket.  I admit I was distracted.  I kept wondering how it was going to be for the audience members sitting close to it if we decided to use it.  Then I would convince myself to let go and come back to the music!  Not easy.  Therefore, there were more slips in the second half, but as I have pledged to accept slips, I accepted them and moved on.  You have to honor your pledges.


Today it’s back to intensive practicing.  Ideally, I would do four kinds of practicing every day this week:

  1. Running the recital from beginning to end
  2. Playing through the whole program slowly, with the music, looking/listening/planning ahead
  3. Starting every piece and every movement comfortably and in character, feeling the pulse and creating the unique sound of that piece from the very beginning
  4. Calmly reviewing technically challenging sections

I say that ideally I would like to do all these kinds of practicing every day.  Realistically, that’s a lot to expect, if only because of the time required.  For this recital, I’m going to continue running the recital every day through Thursday.  I am learning a lot from running the recital, and it’s helping me feel like it’s less of a big deal.  If I can then accomplish either the looking/listening/planning-had practice or the review of technically challenging sections and starts, I will be happy.


Today, my friend Anna may call me to listen to more of my recital over Skype.  Therefore, I start my day with the looking/listening/planning-ahead practice.  I even find a little time to go over some technically challenging sections.


Anna does manage to call me after her son goes down for a nap!  I am able to play the whole Beethoven, and almost all of the four Debussy preludes that will start the second half of my recital before he wakes up.  I am pretty jittery, but I concentrate and love the music, and it goes all right.  Not perfectly, so I still don’t need to worry about peaking too soon.  🙂 She really does say all the right things again.  I feel reassured that my slips are truly insignificant, and that the music is speaking.  She is a wonderful musician, so her comments are deeply validating.  Thank you, Anna!


Teresa Dybvig is founder and director of The Well-Balanced Pianist, an organization which presents programs across North America based on an integrated approach to teaching, learning, and performing. Previously on the faculty of the Taubman and Golandsky Institutes, Dr. Dybvig now teaches privately in Long Island, Manhattan, Chicago, and Denver. She specializes in helping pianists with playing-related injuries.


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