back in the saddle (sort of)

This month, I've agreed to do a teeny tiny bit of piano playing. Scholarship auditions for the school of music are coming up in a few weeks, and I've taken on a couple easier string pieces. (I turned down the "opportunity" to learn the Creston saxophone sonata. Yowza that's a hard one...) And then yesterday afternoon I took Daniel and Anya to my friend Dr. Julia's house to do some sight reading. She's one of my absolute favorite singers to work with, and whenever she's in town, we try and get together to play/sing for fun. She's got an audition coming up in Austria this month, so I agreed to play through the pieces with her. I haven't practiced anything seriously since my DMA exit recital last November, which feels like a million years ago, so I was a little nervous. Julia, of course, didn't expect me to have prepared anything - it was just a read-through - but I wondered what I've lost and what I've retained. On the one hand, I've been playing piano for almost a quarter of a century, so in that context a six month hiatus really isn't so long. On the other hand, I haven't really played anything for six months! What if I kept all my bad habits and lost all the good ones?

As it turned out, my sight reading abilities are definitely rusty, and my fingers were a little stiff, but it didn't go as badly as I expected. We read through Schubert's Ganymed (not difficult), a song by Franz Liszt (mostly not too difficult), Mozart's Als Luise (easy peasy as long as you can subdivide), and a Bach aria (not hard for Bach, though there were a few chromatic passages I flubbed every time). What surprised me was how aware I felt of how I was sitting and how I was moving. One of my [many] bad habits is moving too much while I play. This is not unusual among pianists, and it's often misconstrued as being really expressive. As for many pianists, in my case moving around is actually a big energy suck, pulling strength and effort away from the keys instead of going to them. Does this make sense to anyone out there? In any case, I was often told throughout my student years to keep still so I could listen better and play more directly and with more strength. Most of the time, I barely noticed when I moved so much. But yesterday, I was totally aware of it. I guess it's been so long since I've played anything but "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" (for Daniel, of course) that my body was getting re-acquainted with that feeling of sitting at the piano and playing challenging music. I felt myself moving way too much to keep time externally when I could easily do it inside my head.

So maybe this hiatus, however long it turns out to be, isn't such a bad thing after all. I certainly wish I could play more, but perhaps I can use this time to reflect on my pianist habits and perhaps improve upon them before I jump back into the crazy life of professional playing. After all, I'm on my own now.


Mrs. Allroro said…
I'm glad you sucked it up and faced the music.

Couldn't resist. Seriously, though, I'm happy for you that you're playing again and that you're trying to be self aware and improve. I guess the doctorate didn't blow up your head. (not that anybody thought it would)
Julia said…
You're not allowed be nervous to play with ME! Remember when I was getting ready for my senior recital, and you had a big, hard concert that night, but instead of going home and resting you helped me work on the Holst because my memory just would not stick??? (until Martha found you in the TA office practicing... and was none-too-pleased that you were playing... haha) You're an awesome pianist, and so good at following and giving off great musical ideas even while sight reading. It was great getting to go through the pieces with you and get a better feel for the accompaniment and get another perspective on the music. So, thanks for all your help :) Anyway, we'll have to do it again this week sometime! And your "bad habits" are interesting to think about, but I bet they will subside as you let yourself settle into the music and enjoy it - at least that often works for me.
-Julia :)

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