SOPP538: I am 65 years old and have only returned to organ playing in 2014 after 35 years
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 538 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ray, and he writes:
“Hello Vidas Pinkevicius,
Thank you for asking for my answers to your questions.
1. I am 65 years old and have only returned to organ playing in 2014 after spending 35 years working as an architect and part-time singer “to earn money for our vacations.”
My dream is to learn some of the major organ pieces on my list and be able to play them with my heart, with confidence and in recital. Having some substitute church assignments that require me to learn shorter pieces and play hymns is also fun for me.
2. The 3 most important things holding me back are: practice discipline, practice discipline and sight reading. My hope is that when I am fully retired at the end of 2020 I will have more time to practice and be more efficient with my practice time and learning ability.
In the meantime, focusing on real learning during my practice time is my goal. I find it difficult to not read ahead or have patience to only learn a little bit each day, which I know is more efficient.
Thank you. I enjoy reading your emails. I just need to focus on doing what you recommend.
V: Did you notice, Ausra, that he mentioned practice discipline twice here?
A: It means that he really lacks it. That’s my guess. Don’t you think so?
V: Yes, but why not three times, then? Maybe he meant something else and then forgot. But, it could be that he wants to emphasize it.
A: Well, because yes, but he writes like three most important things.
V: Mhm, it’s strange. And also, sight reading. Practice discipline and sight-reading. Well, Ausra, how do you fight with your lack of willpower?
A: Well, I don’t lack willpower. I lack time in general, so I don’t think this applies to me so much. And I’m a good sight-reader, too.
V: Were you always like that, born with this skill? No! Probably you developed it.
A: Which one, discipline or….?
A: Of course I developed it. Everybody does.
V: How? What helped you to do this?
V: Be specific and more helpful.
A: Well, when you have a coming recital ahead of you, and the time is pushing you, then what else can you do? Practice! And you don’t have much time left in the day, so...
V: But sometimes, I am amazed at how people still have a deadline coming up of a performance or a recital, maybe not an entire hour length, maybe not even a 30 minute recital, but maybe one or two pieces, like in our organ studio, for example, but they don’t push themselves enough, they don’t plan ahead, and when the time comes, they are not prepared. Why is that?
A: Well, I don’t know, but what I can say about myself is that when I was young, I could do that—to go to a recital half unprepared and somehow still manage through it and survive through it. Now, I’m older, and I don’t want to take a risk. My heart is not as strong anymore, so I really need to be well prepared. Plus, I am professional. I wouldn’t be professional if I would show up to a recital unprepared. So I guess that is a difference between an amateur and a professional.
V: And if an amateur switched this attitude, he would become, or she would become professional.
A: After some time, yes.
V: You just have to be strict with yourself and do your best, and pretend a master is watching over you.
V: And like Robert Schumann wrote, “A master is always watching.”
A: That’s right, but I guess the hardest judge is inside of yourself.
V: Are you your worst critic, Ausra?
A: Yes, I am, I think, because very few people can say straight to your face, for example, what they did not like about your performance, let’s say. So, everybody is just so polite, or they just simply ignore you. So what else can you do? You just become a critic yourself to yourself.
V: Will you be honest with myself and tell me what you didn’t like about my playing, too?
A: You know that I do that sometimes. So…
V: Do it more often. I like it.
A: Okay, I will!
V: And, for Ray, he is very straight forward at the end. He says, “I enjoy reading your emails. I just need to focus on doing what you recommend.”
A: It seems that he knows his way, you know? So… why not just do it.
V: Yes, Ausra, we all know the right way to do things, or the efficient way or the fun way to do things, but we don’t always focus on doing that. Why is that?
A: Because we have other things going on, too, and I think it’s procrastination, as well.
V: But for example, if a person sits down on the organ bench to practice and fools around a bit and wastes time instead of focusing and playing efficiently, why is that?
A: I guess that’s just how human nature works, that if you, for example, have a piece that you like and you play it well, so maybe why not just play it, because it doesn’t take much effort to do it. But if you have another piece that requires more work and has more difficult, complicated spots, then you just sort of push it away for a later time. That’s not only with performance, not only with practicing. I think that applies to any situation. Any work situation.
V: Right. So guys, please switch this act to being, at least in your mind, professional. Being strict with yourself, and doing your best. And if you have a deadline coming up, like a public performance, I think it would be good if you had a run-through of this performance two months in advance.
V: And then you will discover many mistakes, which is fine, but you will still have ample time to fix those mistakes. Not one month, but two months ahead of time.
A: Don’t do what we did with our Christmas recital.
V: What did we do with our Christmas recital?
A: We only selected our pieces a month before the recital.
V: Oh yes. You can do that, if you have 25+ years of experience.
V: Like we have. I’m sorry to be so boasting about our experience, but it’s true!
A: You can say that after our recital, if you will survive it.
V: I survived the first rehearsal, which is nice.
A: Yeah, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Actually, it was quite good.
V: Alright guys, please send us more of your questions; 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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