Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 493 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Sally. And she writes:
Choir rehearsals for the fall start Thursday, September 5, so time to get serious and spend time going through the music. I have a meeting with our music director this week to review the music for the fall and go over expectations. I also need to continue working on pieces for preludes and postludes this year, as well as meditative music to use at the end of communion. My goal is to spend time at the organ /piano everyday. It is challenging because I work full time and often am mentally drained by the time I get home. But once I make it to the piano or organ, I can easily spend an hour. So that's my goal.
V: So Sally is a church musician, Ausra.
A: Yes, it seems like that, but she also has a full-time job so she’s not only a church musician.
V: Mmm-hmm. A church musician on the side, probably.
V: And the challenge is to find mental energy after work to practice on the piano or organ, and now she has to get serious about practicing choir music, accompaniments probably.
A: Yes, I guess because she needs to accompany choir.
V: Have you ever accompanied choir, Ausra?
A: Of course. When I worked Grace Church.
V: How was it?
A: Well, I liked it. I enjoyed it actually. It’s fun.
V: What kind of skills do you have to have?
A: Well, for me my sight-reading skills helped me the most. I would say then you don’t have to struggle and to put a lot of effort and time and learning new stuff.
V: What about collaboration with others, if you’ve been used to playing solo, solo, solo?
A: Well, that might be difficult for you. It wasn’t difficult for me because I sang in a choir since the age of seven, I guess, so it wasn’t hard for me to accompany choir. And actually I enjoy accompanying more when no singing myself.
V: Me too! Singing is actually more difficult for the voice and mentally probably more difficult to me. To accompany is to pay attention to the conductor and to follow the orders that comes from conductor, and that’s all you have to do.
A: Yes. And you even don’t have to worry about picking up your own tempo because if there is no conductor then it’s all settled.
V: Mmm-hmm. So Sally is probably in this situation too. She has to work with music director.
A: But as I understood the main concern of Sally is to have that mental energy, to be able to rehearse. Because if she gets to an instrument then she practices. The trouble probably is forcing herself to reach that instrument and sit down. And I can well imagine because I’m dealing with the same problem—all that time managing thing. Because also as teaching full-time, I know what that is to be able still to practice, yourself.
V: Um, is it time management or priority management?
A: Well, it’s not so much time and priority management, I think it’s about finding enough energy to do it.
V: Mind management.
V: They say you have to manage your mind also, in order for it to function properly when you need it.
A: I think what is very important, we don’t know what full-time Sally is doing besides being a church organist. But if it’s not a physical activity, and I guess that it’s probably not, if you are working in an office, so and working at the church, it means you really lack the physical activity. And this might also be a reason for not having enough energy to practice. So I think the crucial thing would be to find time to exercise, to do some physical activity. That might recharge you and you might be able to practice.
V: The easiest way is to walk, as we found out, ourselves.
A: Yes. But you know the trouble with that is for example, last night Vidas and I went for a nice long walk. It took about an hour for us. We used our tracker pulse.
V: You mean tracking pulse.
A: Tracking pulse, yes.
A: Tracking pulse, or tracking sticks. And I still cannot manage them very well, but after coming back from the forest, I couldn’t do anything.
V: You were exhausted?
A: Yes, I was exhausted but the good thing was that I slept very well after that.
V: Aha. So your mind was in a resting state.
A: True, so maybe…
A: maybe if I wouldn’t walk like for an hour but maybe for a half-hour, I would still be able to practice after that. I don’t know.
V: Plus you used those tracking sticks, which are difficult to manage at first. And also they take total body coordination and workout your upper body muscles. So you actually exercised much more than you usually did during walks.
A: Yes, and I realized how sloppy I am in my body if I may say so. Because doing the right foot and left stick…
A: was really hard for me. It was really a challenge. Vidas kept saying to me, ‘oh, you are doing it incorrect’. So because he is a champion…
A: on those things very well.
V: I watched a Youtube video for five minutes.
A: That’s right. And that made you an expert.
A: So actually, exercising might help to be more efficient with your practice, to get you on the organ bench. Another thing might help—when I was studying at the National Čiurlionis School of Art, I would often have classes from nine to six and it was really big, long time.
V: Like a full-time job.
A: Yes, like a full-time job. But I would still have to do all those homework[s], and to practice and…
V: It was even more than…
A: Yes, it was actually much more than a full-time job.
A: Because I would finish doing preparing for this school like at one or two o’clock in the morning. So can you imagine that?
V: I would think adults work 40 hour weeks and students work 60 hour weeks, probably.
A: Well at least in this school that’s true.
A: So, I would return back home and actually I would take a long nice bath.
V: You would take a long nice bath.
A: And after this long nice bath, I could do things again. I would sit and practice for a couple of hours and then do other things. So you might try that as well.
V: I have another suggestion which works similarly, but you don’t have to use water. Just sit, or lay down even, for fifteen or twenty minutes with your eyes closed, and sort of breathe naturally.
A: You will fall asleep if you are really tired.
V: Yes. But then wake up after twenty or fifteen minutes and that would be enough, just enough to get you recharged. It’s like a short meditation.
A: Actually what many people do in a case like this when we need to do still something and we don’t have energy—but I wouldn’t suggest you to do that—we eat sweets and we drink coffee. I wouldn’t do that.
V: No, it’s better…
A: Because, maybe you will feel better for a short while but in the long term it will make…
A: things even worse.
V: I agree! It’s better not to do artificial, not to take artificial boosters like this. Maybe just for twenty minutes of relaxation, and really closing your eyes and breathing, you will feel that energy boost in actually, anyway. And if you do this in the middle of the day, let’s say in, around two o’clock, when you feel the most tired, two, three o’clock, when you feel the most sleepy maybe, you will then discover that the day has split into two parts. Like you’ve been getting out of bed at two o’clock in the afternoon and starting a new day this way. And you can do this where ever you are—don’t necessarily at home, not necessarily in the bed, sitting in the chair is fine.
A: Sure! I think that’s a good advice.
V: Thanks guys. We hope this was useful to you. 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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