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And now let's go to the podcast for today:
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 116 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Here's the audio version. Today’s question was sent by Neil, and he writes that his challenge is with confidence:
“I do suffer with nerves and when I have a service to play I try to make sure all hymns and service music feel OK.”
So, confidence comes from experience, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, but also some people are more confident from the beginning than others.
Vidas: What do you mean?
Ausra: Well, it depends how your parents raised you. Because for some kids, their parents tell them that they can do anything, they are the best, and so on and so forth; and for some, they just tell them, “You cannot do anything right,” “You are bad,” etc. so I think this is also very important.
Vidas: Do you think that--I agree with you, by the way--but do you think that when a person gets to an older age--is an adult, and can make his or her own decisions about life--do you think that these previous childhood experiences might be changed a little bit?
Ausra: Well, I think a little bit, yes; but not much.
Vidas: I mean, can you change who you are?
Ausra: That’s a very hard thing to do.
Vidas: Not inside-out, but maybe you have some strengths that you want to develop, right? And some weaknesses that you want to make less pronounced in your character. So, could you go both directions a little bit, or even more?
Ausra: Yes, you could go a little bit, I think so, yes.
Vidas: Even though your childhood experiences were bad, right?
Vidas: Actually, research shows that children who had very abusive parents tend to be very independent later in life, and quite creative, by the way. Because in childhood experiences, they had to come up with some creative solution how to cope with those abusive parents and situations like that. Sometimes it’s a good thing to have stressful childhoods. From some perspectives.
Ausra: Well, yes...I...well, yes, but still…
Vidas: Of course, everyone would like to be a princess or a prince, right? Or cosmonaut, astronaut; they want to have this golden opportunity in life, and they have those dreams, right? But sometimes parents don’t let them dream, right? They steal their dreams. But what can you do about those parents? Basically nothing.
Ausra: Yes, and I think Neil, in his question, in the second part of it, he actually answers his own question.
Vidas: Which is: he writes that, “When I have a service to play, I try to make sure all hymns and service music feel okay.”
Ausra: Yes. I think that’s the key to be more confident while you’re playing, while you perform during your service.
Vidas: Be very well prepared?
Ausra: Yes, you need to be very well prepared. This will add to your confidence.
Vidas: This is something like you yourself, Ausra, feel like doing, right? When you have a project coming up, you tend to prepare for it very well.
Ausra: I know, I have to do this. Because otherwise I would not survive. I would just have a nervous breakdown or something.
Vidas: You don’t want to wing it on the spot?
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: Even though the result might be the same!
Ausra: I know, the result might be the same, but my psychological comfort will be much different!
Vidas: Right. So then, people like yourself and Neil have to spend quite a bit of time in preparation of church services or hymn playing. But by the way, when you for example, when you were working at Grace Lutheran Church in Nebraska, did you have to practice those hymns a lot?
Ausra: Well, not a lot, but I practiced them, yes.
Vidas: But not a lot, right?
Ausra: Not a lot.
Vidas: Even though you are a very prepared person and love to spend some time in advance with projects like hymn playing; even though you are such a person, you didn’t spend hours, right? Why?
Ausra: Well, because I already had a good technical base.
Vidas: And sight-reading abilities?
Vidas: So there is a way out, even for you and for Neil, I think. Because whenever your experience with sightreading gets better and better and better, I think you will feel the need to prepare diminish; because you will become, as Neil writes, much more confident.
Ausra: Yes, that’s true...actually, that’s true!
Vidas: So guys, I think I”ve never come across a better medicine and solution to this problem, to the confidence problem, than persistent, regular, and passionate sight-reading every single day. You don’t have to do it for hours; you don’t have to do it for half an hour, even; but spend a few minutes at least with a new, unfamiliar organ piece.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: And perhaps, spend some time with harmony, too, and music theory, proofing your theory skills.
Ausra: Yes, scales too.
Vidas: Playing sequences, cadences, modulations.
Ausra: Sometimes, when my eyes lose the text of the music, I’ll just play from my ear, knowing harmony and knowing what should come.
Vidas: There is, of course, this dangerous moment: whenever you lose your text, and before you start to improvise on those chords in the style, when you are okay--but in between, this moment where you can slip and panic, right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: But if you have experience, right--real-life experience with getting out of these situations, and improvising and playing harmony--then you can feel much more confident
Ausra: That’s right. And you know, another thing about confidence, being confident--you have to choose your repertoire very wisely. Because sometimes, lack of confidence might be because you are choosing pieces that are too hard for you yet. Of course, you cannot pick out your own hymns, because usually, the pastor decides what hymns will be during the service. But the chorale prelude, and offering, and postlude--you can play what you want.
Vidas: And remember, you don’t have to play all 4 parts in your hymns. You can play the 2 outer parts--soprano and bass--with 2 separate hands with loud registration, and it would sound beautiful.
Ausra: Because while you are preparing for the service, if you are making mistakes in your hymns or your prelude/postlude, it means that during the actual service, it will be even worse, because you will get anxiety, too. So you have to choose very wisely.
Vidas: Mhm. Preferably too easy than too hard.
Vidas: That would be your final advice, right Ausra?
Vidas: Excellent. And my advice would be: today, before you hit the sack, make sure you pick up some new organ music and sight-read it. Even on the table, if you don’t have access to a keyboard. It really helps in the long run. Make it a lifelong habit. If you do this for 67 days, then it will become your second nature, and you won’t have to think about it anymore; you just miss it if you don’t do it, right? And become grumpy, like myself if I miss a day or two without practice.
Vidas: Wonderful. Thank you, guys, for listening and applying our tips in your practice. It really makes a difference, right Ausra?
Vidas: And keep sending us your questions; we love helping you grow. Okay guys, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: 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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