AVA217: I start my day with an hour to an hour and a half practice, and end my day with another hour (with several shorter sessions, as time permits, throughout the day)
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 217 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by Francher.
My Dear Vidas…
Thank you so much for your response and inquiry!
Although it is unlikely that I’ll ever perform, I do practice “very well”…and, for at least 2 hours every day.
I start my day with an hour to an hour and a half practice, and end my day with another hour (with several shorter sessions, as time permits, throughout the day).
I knew I wanted to be an Organist when I was about 10 years old…I also knew I wanted to be an Architect then too.
As a profession, Architecture “won”. So, I spent my “productive” years doing the Architecture thing.
Although I “piddled” with the organ for many years, I didn’t start serious music study until I retired at age 72.
I found a wonderful teacher, who convinced me that I would learn more quickly if I knew some theory.
So, I went back to college (at 74) and studied Music Theory for a year.
Then, after studying with her for four years, she abruptly gave up all her students and quit teaching.
That’s when I discovered “Total Organist” and, I’ve been studying with you ever since.
I am so grateful for your teaching efforts.
Based upon your reorganized material, I would place myself in the “Early-Intermediate” stage of development.
At 80, I learn much more slowly than in my youth…
Now, I say, I’m 8 years into, what will be for me, a 20 year program.
So, as long as I am able, we’ll be working together far into the future.
Thanks, again, for all that you and Ausra do for Organists and the Organ.
V: So it’s really wonderful to read this type of feedback, right Ausra?
A: Yes, it’s amazing.
V: It’s never too late to play the organ and to improve, even at eighty or even later in life, right?
A: And it’s so nice that you know some people are able to do that.
V: Yeah. Because when we are younger we so many other things that we have to do and there is not enough time, right? So then when we retire sometimes we get to do what we really want.
A: Yes, that’s absolutely amazing.
V: And Francher also rightly mentioned that her previous teacher encouraged her to study music theory. Why music theory is so important, Ausra?
A: I think it’s important. It’s you know in order to be a good musician you need to have performance skills, technical abilities you know to play music well, but it’s also important to understand it, you know too. And that’s where theory comes in. And you know we keep fighting with you know with my students and other colleagues at school all the time. It’s like endless war you know between theory teachers and performance teachers because performers often say “Oh we can teach them to play without any theory.”
V: Which is partly true.
A: Well yes, but theory teachers just laugh about their attitude because I think it leave you, it takes you to a dead end.
V: And in today's environment where everybody can do what you do you have to be unique. And if you have two people doing what they can at the same level like all things being equal, right? And one person knows music theory well and another doesn’t its I think a no-brainer to understand who will be picked in promotion and other things because theory background gives you as we say understanding how the music put together which in turn lets you to interpret music better.
V: And people who don’t know this they will never be able to teach.
A: That’s right.
V: Right? Because they have only been taught themselves how to do it without understanding why. The reason behind the solutions. And then if you never teach, right, if you never share your experiences to other people you will never grow to the best of your ability. You will grow somewhat but not as much as you could. And you don’t have to teach at a formal institution, right? Like we both teach you right now, right Ausra? It’s teaching. Blogging is teaching. Podcasting is teaching. Everything that you share freely with the world is in a way teaching.
A: Yes, so I think you know it was smart whoever you know suggested for Francher to go to learn some music theory. It doesn’t mean that you would need to write a dissertation and all about any theoretical subject. But you know still it broadens your horizons.
V: You know with our rigid system I think we have trouble communicating this correctly with young generation and sometimes really we miss the mark like two passing ships in the middle of the ocean. We don’t communicate well. They want to play and we want them to understand the music and they don’t want to understand why they need this. The best way for Francher and others who are listening to this to think about music theory would be to learn it and right away apply it in your organ practice. Analyze the pieces you are playing. Be aware of how it’s put together. Not so much theoretical concepts for the concepts sake which is fine but you will forget it if you are not apply it, right Ausra?
A: Yes and no. My colleagues at school they simply stop arguing with me when they find out that I am also performer, not only theory teacher.
V: Yes, and in our school the best theory teachers are always performers.
A: That’s true.
V: Not necessarily performing right now but they were performing majors because they know real music not just dry rules. So Francher discovered Total Organist over the years and yes, she is a long term student of ours. And of course just recently we decided to reorganize the materials so that they could look at the levels of difficulty. For example, music for beginners, music for basic level, then intermediate, and then advanced level organist. And this way people really simply pick what they like from that level, right? So Francher is putting herself in early intermediate stage.
What does that mean in your opinion? Is it that she can play more things than the basic level students can or something else?
A: Of course, I think she should be able to play more advanced pieces.
V: More advanced pieces than the Orgelbuchlein probably.
A: Yes, yes.
V: Because Orgelbuchlein would be like the best example for basic level stuff, right? Orgelbuchlein and probably Eight Little Preludes and Fugues.
A: That’s right if we are thinking about Bach.
V: And if we're thinking about let’s say romantic music. What would that be for basic level? Like Boellmann maybe, Vierne.
A: Yes, Boellmann and probably like L’organiste by Cesar Franck.
V: Uh-huh. Slower basically movements of the large-scale works, not to fast, not to virtuosic, not too chromatic also.
V: So wonderful and then early intermediate level allows you to gradually progress to longer preludes and fugues, right? Maybe not two pages long or three pages long but maybe four or five or even six, right?
A: That’s right.
V: What about chorale based works, Ausra?
A: Well I think you could select some of Leipzig chorales. Slower, like Nun Komm probably.
V: Um-hmm. Like the one we recommended to study for John from Australia, BWV 569 or 659. Yes, 659.
V: It’s longer and ornate in melody but not too difficult.
A: That’s right.
V: Because Schmucke Dich from the same collection is much harder. OK, so what would you wish for Francher in the upcoming months?
A: Just you know to wish her to continue what she is doing. I think it’s great that she is still you know able to play.
V: And practicing at that age really I think slows down aging process, don’t you think?
A: I think so yes.
V: Would you Ausra, hope to practice at this age for example when you reach eighty years old?
A: It would be wonderful but I don’t know how I will succeed.
V: But if we live that long I think ideally would be to continue to push, to continue to practice, at least a little bit every day. Because when you practice every day you stay curious every day, and if you stay curious every day your mind is engaged every day, and if your mind is engaged every day you are using your mind and it’s like a muscle, your brain right? It gradually also becomes stronger even at that age when your body for example gets weaker.
V: Um-hmm. And it definitely prevents Alzheimer's for example.
A: Maybe we need to do you know a research about to find out how many organists at elderly age have Alzheimer's.
V: We could do a survey. Starting from like 65+, right? And from our subscribers they could vote, right, whether they have Alzheimer's or not. And we could see the percentage and I think that percentage might be quite small.
A: I hope so. Because playing organ trains your brain.
V: Exactly. And body and mind coordination too I think is connected here. So thank you so much Francher and others who are sending these wonderful questions. I think this discussion allows us to really help you grow. So please keep sending them and keep practicing. Because remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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