Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 287 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Laurie and also Dianne and they both are our Total Organist students and I’ve asked the question at the end of the week “What are they struggling with recently?” And Laurie answered by writing:
My biggest struggle has always been, just do it. If I can get myself to the organ bench - oh, and by the way I have a practice instrument in my home, I can have a good time practicing. But for some reason, it is very difficult to get myself to the bench.
And then Dianne added:
I often have the same issue. I have a practice organ at home as well, but I am not actively playing organ in any church right now... Our church only has a keyboard (and unfortunately they are happy with that). So I always feel like there are more pressing things for me to do than practice, but there are few things I enjoy more.
That’s a nice comment Ausra, right?
A: Yes, it is. And really common for I think many people.
V: Sitting down on the organ bench is half of the job, right?
A: Yes, it is because if you sit down you definitely will play something.
V: If you said to yourself “OK, I don’t have an hour, I don’t have half a day to practice, and I even don’t have 30 minutes, maybe 15 minutes I don’t have.” What about just sight-reading one page. What about 2 minutes. Can I sit down on the bench and play for 2 minutes without stopping. And guess what happens. You continue to play more, right?
A: True. But for me for example if I want to relax when I’m playing, I usually play music that I know well.
V: What would that be? Songs by ABBA?
A: (laughs) No, it would be like E flat Major Prelude and Fugue by J.S. Bach. Or, if I don’t have time it would be a chorale by J.S. Bach.
V: Performed by ABBA?
A: No, performed by me. And if I play piano it would probably be a piece by Johann Brahms or a couple of suites by J. S. Bach.
V: You have a few favorites, right?
A: Yes, I have a few favorites that make me happy.
V: And you would take those favorites to an uninhabited island.
A: Or the middle movement of Beethoven’s Pathetic Sonata. I love it. In E Flat Major.
V: Well, who wouldn’t. Beethoven is so sweet sometimes, especially his slow movements.
A: Well sometimes I play Mozart’s variations in A Major for piano. That’s fun too.
V: It seems like you are a fan of gentle and sweet music, right Ausra?
A: Well for relaxation, yes.
V: Would you recommend to Laurie and Dianne to pick some favorite pieces to play?
A: Sure, and maybe after playing that favorite piece you would continue playing something else. Something that you need or want to learn.
V: Oh, it’s like giving yourself a reward just for sitting down. Give yourself a musical candy. And then once you have your candy you can eat soup and vegetables and healthy stuff.
A: Maybe not such a good idea to eat candy before soup but…
V: But you do it.
A: Well for example what for me is the most motivating thing to play, to practice even when I’m tired and I don’t have time, and then I just want to lie down and don’t do anything. Like yesterday for example. I had a very stressful and long day…
V: Doing what?
A: Well I was teaching at school and then in the middle of that I had to go the hospital to get my medicine.
V: And what did I do during that time.
A: Well you drove me to that hospital. But then later on I had to come back at school with all my medicine and I still had to teach classes and Vidas was waiting for me in the car that time. And then I had to come back home to do all the homely stuff and then I felt so exhausted so I decided to take a walk. So Vidas and I walked in the woods for maybe an hour or an hour and a half and I still felt really exhausted and Vidas told me “Oh don’t practice today.” But I thought I have to practice today because it was Friday and upcoming Tuesday I have a recital.
V: How was your blood pressure yesterday?
A: It was good. It was low.
V: Low. So low is good, for you.
V: The reason I suggested you skip practice was that I was worried about your blood pressure jumping up to the sky.
A: Well you better worry about your blood pressure.
A: I don’t know.
V: OK. I guess walking in the woods really helped you to relax and get some energy from growing things.
A: Yes, but you know to make a long story short what I meant is that if you have an upcoming performance, any kind of performance, church service, recital, hymn festival, it will push you to practice regularly. So you always need to have a goal and to set a date by which you have to learn something and to do something.
V: I’m just thinking if people can always get this kind of public accountability like we do. We schedule public performances all the time and we have the motivation to practice this way.
A: Both Laurie and Dianne thought that we have home organ so we can make recitals, home recitals for family or friends.
V: Right, invite…
V: Pets. If they have pets their pets could sit around.
A: Well home music, home concerts. It’s a good idea. Maybe ask the neighbors. Maybe they have never heard organ playing and maybe they don’t know that you are playing organ.
V: What if their level is too low for performing in public. If they feel they are just beginners, what to do then?
A: Well anyway if you practice then you will improve.
V: And you could perform at your level. You don’t necessarily have to play Beethoven or Vierne but you could play 2-part inventions. You could play hymns. Even if you can’t play 4-part hymns you could play soprano and bass with the hands only and that would sound actually very nice.
A: And Dianne wrote that her church has only a keyboard and doesn’t care or getting organ maybe she could look for another church.
V: Right. Don’t feel like you have to work there or play there all your life. I you do your art and your art is not appreciated there why bother, right?
V: If the church maybe feels that they have other priorities. Of course they should have other priorities besides organ but organ is also very important integral part of the service. Besides Pastor or Priest, organist is sort of communicator and collaborator on the same level and probably most highly trained professional in the congregation.
V: So yes, go where you would be more appreciated. I’m not sure that she is feeling that way but if that would be the case I would probably slowly start looking elsewhere.
A: And when you have organ at home think how lucky you are because there are so many organists that would do anything to have an organ at home and they don’t so you are privileged so take advantage of it.
V: And when you don’t have an organ at home, when you have to go out and play someplace else you feel more motivated actually. Like if we go to the gym and we want to work out in the gym we feel more motivated than working out at home, right? Because what, we’re paying for the membership at the gym, right? It’s an investment and other people will be practicing in there in that group too so it is supporting each other. So going out to the church to practice is actually good, healthy. A lot of artists don’t like to work and create at home because of family situations, right? So they kind of set up their studio on the other side of the town maybe.
A: Well with many artists in Lithuania I think it’s another reason why we don’t want to work at home. Because at least some of the time artists drank a lot of alcohol and if you have a family you definitely don’t want to do that in front of your kids and your wife. So I think it was their way to escape and be a little bit bohemian. That’s my opinion.
V: You are definitely right about that. There’s another side of creating art. Escaping reality.
A: But I don’t think many organists have the same problem as artists used to have in those days.
V: Right. And because organists are always creating alone and performing alone we’re used to being alone. And artists they get together in groups sometimes, right? They discuss art and not only art. In groups it’s a different feeling. OK, so closing probably advice would be to get some public accountability. Definitely.
A: Yes I think this would be the best motivation.
V: And even consider modern tools. Technology. What about you can perform at home and you can record yourself at home and publish it online. That would be your motivation. You can even set up a social media channel where your followers would start waiting for your new videos or recordings to come up regularly. You would feel responsible for showing up and practicing, right?
A: And if your family and other relations live in another town you could perform for them on Skype.
V: Oh, nice, right.
A: That’s a possibility.
V: That’s a nice way to interact with family. Keep connected. Thank you guys for listening, for sending us your thoughtful questions and feedback. We love helping you grow and 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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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.