SOPP512: My dream as a long-time pianist/harpsichordist and new organist is to be an excellent performer of early music and hymnody
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 512 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Alex, and he writes:
My dream as a long-time pianist/harpsichordist and new organist is to be an excellent performer of early music and hymnody.
The three biggest obstacles:
1) Pedal technique
2) Lack of practice time due to graduate school (in choral conducting)
3) Physical limitations in my neck, back, and arms which keep me from being able to practice more than about 90 minutes per day.
Thank you for receiving feedback. I absolutely love all the content on your wonderful website. God’s blessings on your excellent musical endeavors!”
So, Ausra, Alex wants to be an excellent performer of early music and hymnody!
A: Well, that’s a nice dream.
V: But, so far, he lacks pedal technique,
A: Which is natural, because he played piano and harpsichord before now, so he’s a new organist, so that’s natural.
V: Two, lack of practice time, because he is in school,
A: Well, I think we all need more practice time, and we all lack time in general.
V: And then, he can’t practice for a longer period of time over 90 minutes.
A: Well, since his dream is to become an excellent performer of only early music, I would say that 90 minutes is plenty of time to practice on a regular basis, if you play only organ. But of course, if you have to divide this 90 minutes between all three of these instruments that he has, it’s not enough.
V: Piano, harpsichord, and organ.
V: Out of these three obstacles, I think pedal technique is the least important. Don’t you think?
A: Why do you think so?
V: Because, if you keep practicing, you will advance in your pedal technique with time.
A: True, if you will practice, which is the most important thing.
V: And, the physical limitation in his body prevents him from practicing for a longer period, but as you say, it’s quite enough for early music to practice that much, with breaks, probably, too.
A: Yes! And, you know, if you have some sort of physical limitations, it means that you need to find time some how to improve your body’s state.
A: And maybe to strengthen your muscles, which, in the long term, would allow you to practice for longer periods of time.
V: Why do you think people lack practice time while they are in school? Because being in school is one of the best times in life, I would think.
A: Well, I don’t know what his position is, what else he does, if he only studies, or he has a part time job somewhere, or he works on campus, so it’s hard to tell, but yes, I remember my study years, and I haven’t practiced so much now as I had during my studies.
V: Me, too, because when you graduate, all kinds of life things get in the way, and not only things, but problems, challenges… you have to think about feeding yourself and your family, perhaps, so you have to find a stream of revenue—preferably several—in order to feel secure, and this occupies a lot of brain space. A lot of thinking goes into this, and a lot of energy.
A: So, I guess while being a student is an excellent opportunity to build up good organ technique. You will appreciate it later.
V: Yes, whatever you build up right now will become the foundation for you later on. Can you advance after school?
A: Yes, you can, but you will need to double your efforts to achieve that.
V: Because school is designed to help people stay motivated and keep on track with deadlines and due dates and exams. Basically, all the thinking is done for you—all the curriculum—so you just have to follow the path. It’s not the most realistic path, of course, in life. When you graduate, you become sort of on your own. You no longer have the support of professors and other students. You might have support, but you have to seek it out actively in other ways.
A: And the worse thing is that so many people nowadays work in something else, not in the field of expertise.
V: Yes. So their profession becomes like a hobby to them.
A: I know! Like for example, how my parents hired one man who did some work at their house
V: With metal?
A: With metal, yes. And he actually graduated...his major is architecture. But he doesn’t do anything like that, because he wasn’t able to find a job according to his profession. I hear many cases like his.
V: Right. I think just yesterday, I was in my church in the morning, preparing to record a sample with experiments in organ sound, how two Timpani pipes sound, and how the organ sound is disappearing when you turn off the organ blower while still holding the chord. We were doing this together with one artist from the art academy—it’s part of our collaboration between the university and the art academy—and I asked her, she’s an instructor at the art academy, and I asked her, “What about other students at the academy? Are they building their portfolios while they are still in school, or are they waiting to get their diploma?” What I’m referring to is, of course, if they are putting their work online, where people can find them, therefore their reputation would grow over time if they kept posting and uploading. You know what I mean, right Ausra?
V: And it appears that this instructor, this artist, says that most of them are waiting! Just maybe 1% of them are doing something with their work, and putting them online, outside of what is required. You know?
A: They are waiting for a miracle after studies. I remember when we came back from the United States and wrote to our professors, Quentin Faulkner and George Ritchie, that we only received a position teaching at Čiurlionis National School of Arts in the Music Theory department, that Quentin Faulkner wrote us back that it would be a dream job for most Americans who graduated from the university in Fine and Performing Arts, and at that moment, I thought, “Wow, I have a Doctoral Degree in Organ Performance, and I have to satisfy myself with teaching basically in the arts school, which is not even at the university level, it’s more like at the high school level, a specialized school. But now, after teaching there for 14 years, I understand what he meant. And seeing life around myself and meeting other people who work doing, let’s say, not what they have studied, I feel that I’m really lucky.
V: Me, too. Even though I no longer teach at school. Maybe that’s why I’m lucky. 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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