Another message went straight to our Love Letters folder. It was sent by our former professor Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra, an exceptional expert on early music, generous teacher and brilliant improviser and creator, in response to #AskVidasAndAusra 55:
Dear Vidas and Ausra,
The two of you are beautiful, generous, and brilliant! Thanks for making the world a better place.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 61 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Adeniyi, who says that he has no organ mentor--that’s his challenge. And today we we’re going to try to help him out, right, Ausra?
Vidas: Can you practice organ and get better as an organist over time, if you have no teacher?
Ausra: I think actually that you can. Maybe the progress will not be as fast as if you will have an organ mentor, but still it’s possible to achieve progress.
Vidas: We have to make some difference between mentor and teacher, right?
Vidas: A mentor is a person who helps you without any financial reward/payment, and a teacher is, of course, a person who can do this for money. So as I understand, he might live in a country where there are neither teachers nor mentors at all--basically he’s on his own, right?
Ausra: Well but today the world is so global, and it’s so easy to get access to the best mentors, actually, and best teachers; you just have to get online. YouTube is full of excellent recordings; you can get all kinds of resource books. So that’s a big help. It’s not like twenty years ago.
Vidas: Even our little blog, www.organduo.lt, has thousands resources, right? And trainings, and coaching programs; and this blog is very extensive. I just looked--we started, when--at the end of 2011? So...And, we write every day.
Vidas: And that means that for more than 5 years in a row, we’ve published some kind of thing every day, written or audio or video. So that’s really thousands of great materials and useful exercises and advice and tips.. You just have to apply those tips in practice--that’s more important, right?
Ausra: I think nowadays it’s not hard to find information as it is hard to select which of that information is useful and is the best. To limit your resources. Because otherwise you can just spend all your time just researching things and not doing actual work.
Vidas: Do you think, Ausra, it’s better to randomly pick one training or resource and start applying it in your practice, or do you have to look deep at your needs first?
Ausra: I think first of all you need to find out what you really need, what is your biggest problem or your largest concern, and then choose.
Vidas: True. So Ausra, what’s the first step in order to discover your needs?
Ausra: Well, it depends on what your goal actually is.
Vidas: For example, if you want to play in church liturgical organ music. Obviously the first place to start would be the hymns.
Ausra: The hymns,the hymn playing, yes definitely; if you’re a church organist that’s the most important thing, for a beginner. Later on you can get more into the repertoire, and to increase your knowledge in stylistic details; but the hymn playing is sort of the cornerstone of church organist.
Vidas: And I’ve seen people progress through the ranks of organists just by playing hymns, because they can master the coordination between hands and feet at the basic level first with hymns, and then they can advance to the repertoire easily this way, too.
Vidas: And hymns are very fun to practice.
Ausra: They are! And they are very good for sight-reading; it’s a very excellent source.
Vidas: Exactly. If you, for example, choose 100 hymns and sight-read one hymn a day, in 100 days you will be a better sightreader.
Ausra: Definitely, yes.
Vidas: Great. So I guess, people should not despair if they have no teachers or mentors in their country available to them. They just have to look online: for example, start with our resources. And more important than a teacher is regular practice.
Ausra: Yes, definitely, because even the best mentor or teacher will not play instead of you--you will still have to do all these steps yourself, to take them and to practice everyday. Nobody else can do it.
Vidas: Have you had that experience in your teaching career, Ausra, where you had a student, and you give everything to that student, but they don’t do anything with that information?
Ausra: Yes, I’ve had such disappointments, that’s true. But I had one excellent example when I was teaching for two semesters, one person. And actually she had a pretty good foundation--she was not majoring in organ, she was minoring in organ. And the first semester she would never listen what I was telling her to do, she would never do it. And you could not reach any result, or any result that I was expecting, from her. But later on, she somehow started, to follow what I’m saying, and started to do those steps, taking those steps, and practicing in that way as I suggested her to do; and the result was just fantastic.
Vidas: So even though at first, she sort of, declined to apply your tips in her practice, later she started to trust you, more. So it’s important to trust your teacher if you have one. Because otherwise you’re wasting your time and your teacher’s time, too.
Ausra: Yes, definitely.
Vidas: Remember Ausra, sometimes people write to us messages that their current teacher tells them to do something differently than we advise, right? They have their own opinions, and the teacher is recommending to do one thing, and they are sort of hesitant to apply our tips in their practice because they trust their teacher first.
Ausra: Well that’s okay, everybody has to decide for themselves what to do. Just always listen to what you’re doing because you ear is the best advisor.
Vidas: And if you choose your teacher, please trust him or her and do what they tell you to do because otherwise, you’re not progressing into the right direction--and basically wasting your resources and your energy.
Vidas: Okay Ausra! I hope people will apply our tips in their practice--I hope people will trust our advice! And if, guys, you want more help, please subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt (if you haven’t done so already) and send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow as an organist. Okay, 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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