You prepare. Hours of practice, shift-to-shift management, phrasing focus, and so VERY memorized, you take your piece to contest – – and do well. Then perform at school, and everyone is raving! Then it happens. During a performance you forget everything.
What cruel twist of fate has occurred to punish you in such a way? We all know that if we don’t focus and prepare our pieces well enough unthinkable things can happen. But what we tend to forget is how we perform it after the first performance goes well. Here is the hard truth:
If you don’t keep you piece up, it fades away.
Scary and terrifying, but if you think about it you can’t honestly say that you work up a new and sparklingly amazing piece to just play it for one day, right? You learned for the love of it (and because your teacher thinks you should) and have the obligation to let it live in your life for the year on your season program of Pieces I Can Rock In My Sleep. Just because you played a piece in performance well once or twice, doesn’t mean you stop practicing it or you rely on muscle memory alone as it will fail you eventually. A brain empty of notes will trump your muscle memory given the chance, so don’t let it.
Here are a few practice techniques I have students utilize when they are still trying to keep a program fresh:
- Practice jumping to the next section (never jump back – you will just encounter the same section that blanked out on you)
- Focus on the easy spots, as this tends to be the part we forget
- Make it harder – practice amongst distractions, or if that is too easy practice with someone saying nothing but watching your every move
- Have someone ask you questions (not yes or no answers) that you have to answer while playing
Here is the best part of the whole story: even if you bomb, you will survive. Your cello value doesn’t go down, friends and family will still love you, and you will not be struck down by lightening (unless you are hanging out somewhere stupid, so don’t do that.)
Life goes on. Prepare more, perform more, and it gets better. (And more coffee helps.)