Sometimes I get asked for an advice on practicing by people who are not sure anymore if they can continue to practice organ playing. In their student years they had lots of time and motivation to play their instrument at the highest level, perform concerts and seek a professional organist career.
But later in life after they finished their training and studies situation changed. They might have dreamed about having a successful international recitalist career and make a living out of it, but in reality, only very few individuals ever achieve this level.
Most of the organists I know have to combine 3 things to survive: teach (both privately and/or at an institution), play paid concerts (in their own country and abroad), and play church services.
Of course, that's a generalization, and certainly there are people who can do only one of these activities to make a living but I have a feeling that they are not in the majority.
A person might have a life-long dream to play regular concerts and when that doesn't seem to work, a motivation to practice organ might diminish. So we have to search for an answer of why do we keep up our efforts at becoming a better organist.
I think the answer has to come from within the individual. Money, fame, and career, although they might seem like vital part of the organist's life, is only the result of many years of diligent practice. The real motivation is within us, not from external stimuli, such as paid concerts.
Imagine a situation where a person has to play church services every week (or even every day) but his/her duties don't include playing more difficult organ works. So it's easy to fall into the trap of playing just the hymns because there is no need for more advanced music (at present).
That might be fine for an organist who doesn't have extensive training, experience, and skills. However, I believe, if the person has the necessary skills to do a better job and to improve, it is already a responsibility for him/her to keep these skills sharp and to advance them even further.
We never know when the situation changes, when somebody will offer us a paid concert but if we continue to practice and improve, when the time comes, we will be ready.
Did you know that many young conductors began their international career by substituting on the spot a regular conductor who couldn't show up at the concert?
They couldn't do that if all they did was wait for that moment and did not practice because nobody paid them money for doing so.
So I guess, we have to earn that trust, earn attention from potential concert organizers, and become better and/or more remarkable than our competitors.
And how do we earn trust? By practicing, giving our best, staying sharp, and most importantly, by being remarkable.
Don't wait for somebody to find you, become proactive in building relationships and networking. Don't just send your resume and your proposed concert program to churches. This approach rarely works anymore because of the increased competition. Instead, think of how you can be different and more remarkable than other organists and position yourself that way.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my video Organ Practice Guide.
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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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