Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 521, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This questions was sent by Diana. And she writes:
When I play an organ I look too much at my hands. So sometimes I lose where I play. And it makes trouble when I need to play in Mass or concert (not only this week).
V: Hmm. Interesting question. It’s probably very common among beginners to look at their hands.
A: Well, true because if you are beginner, keyboard player as Diana is, then yes, you look at the hands a lot. But then if you are experienced keyboard player but you start to learn to play organ then you look at the pedal a lot. So these two problems are kind of similar. But I guess when she will reach certain level on playing the keyboard she will naturally stop looking at her hands. Because, do you look at your hands a lot while playing keyboards?
V: When I improvise, yes. Because where I supposed to look? There is no music.
A: Well, yes but we are talking if you have a musical score in front of you.
V: Ah. I see. Not so much of course. No. I have to look at the score…
A: I know.
V: because I don’t know what to play then.
V: Do you think she needs some extra attention of looking at the score and not looking down at the fingers or it will just come naturally to her?
A: I think is should come naturally. For example, I look at the keyboard early when we are playing duets. And you know why? Because when I’m playing solo I sit in the middle of the keyboard but when we are playing duets, I most often play the upper part but sometimes I play the lower part, and then you sort of have to change your body position and you sit either far right or far left of the keyboard.
A: And then the keyboards shifts because of the position of your body and it’s sometimes a little bit hard to coordinate the distances, yes.
V: You don’t know which key you will hit.
V: Which octave you will hit.
A: Yes. Because you are sort of decentralized. So that way, yes, I have sometimes to look at the keyboards because we have such a laughs, that for example, I start to play everything what is written but let’s say a third above or a third below, and it’s so funny, sometimes.
V: And we can transpose them.
V: Very nice. I like transposition.
A: Yes. So I guess it all comes with experience. Because its often a problem for young organists when they just start playing organ, that they watch at the pedalboard a lot. And then they lose the text. And since Diana is playing violin I guess she is new at the keyboard so that gives her a problem but I think she will overcome it with time.
V: Do you think giving herself this idea of really focusing on the score and not on the hands would help her concentrate more and not to look down, like actively looking at the score and not at the hands?
A: Yes, I think it would help.
V: And remembering not to look down, sort of.
V: Or reminding herself not to look down.
A: That’s right. But another problem that some of the new musicians experience; I remember teaching many years back, I had fifteen first graders to teach to play piano.
V: Mmm-hmm. Fifteen?
A: Yes. Fifteen.
A: I had like one lesson with each of them every week.
V: How many minutes?
A: Maybe two lessons but like a half an hour with each time.
V: Wait a second. Half an hour, right?
V: Each time.
A: Maybe twenty minutes.
V: Twenty minutes.
A: I’m not so sure right now. I think we had like one academic lesson switched into two hands, divided into two hands.
V: Do you miss these days?
A: No! No, no, no, no… But that’s a good experience. You have to experience life. And I started to teach them on the First of September, and before Christmas that year, I had to make a contest with them and everybody of them had to perform.
V: In front of their parents.
A: Yes. So it was really tough. And not only parents but also director of the school.
V: You mean principal.
A: Principal, yes.
A: So, it was really tough. But what I wanted to tell, that some of those kids really didn’t want to read music...
A: from the score. I was really, probably for half of them the hardest thing to read the score. And what they wanted, these kids, they wanted that I would show on the keyboard how it goes, and they memorize from my hands what is happening.
V: They would mimic your hands.
A: Yes. Just like apes, you know.
A: Monkeys, yes.
A: And they wouldn’t watch to the score. It would be there for them just to follow their finger…
A: on the keyboard. And one suddenly realized, ‘it’s just like computer’.
A: You also have to press a key and then he liked it, actually a lot.
V: Because he likes computer.
V: Uh-huh. So what was your solution with them?
V: How did you manage fifteen first graders to play in a Christmas concert in front of their kids, after maybe sixteen, fifteen, weeks of training only?
A: Well, we did actually pretty good because what I found out while working with them, that these little kids, they are very observing, observing all the new information and they learn very fast actually. And one of them actually I suggest for his mother to take to a musical school and she did. And he was accepted to study to learn to play cello. And I just recently found out through the social media that he became a professional musician.
A: And he lives now, I think in Cyprus.
A: Yes. And he performs sometimes with one colleague from our school, Eugenius.
V: Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean.
A: Yes. So I guess my understanding about his talents was real and I’m glad that he chose that way.
V: Uh-huh. But you don’t have good memories about your principal, right?
A: Well, yeah.
V: She. Um…
A: Well, she didn’t do anything bad personally to me…
A: I think she gave me a job when I really needed and I really appreciated that.
A: But being musician herself and knowing what the horrible station for musicians was in Lithuania at that time, she used us all, I think.
V: Mmm-hmm. Employed you without, um…
A: Without Social Security?
A: Yes. So now I don’t have any benefits from those. I was teaching for her for three years.
V: Three years?
A: Three years, yes. So I guess when I will reach my senior age I will be very sorry that I worked for her for those three years.
V: Uh-huh. You could get retirement three years earlier.
A: That’s true. But now I will have to work…
V: Three more years.
V: You see guys, sometimes, musicians, when they become in a position to organize some kind of school and employ other musicians, they abuse those musicians…
V: which are below them.
A: Because I remember one teacher that our colleague in Lincoln, back in the USA had. And the sign on that T-shirt said, ‘Unemployed musician. Will work for food’.
A: And that’s so true, actually.
V: Maybe not necessarily abuse but exploit musicians, exploit her…
V: Right. Wow. So we started talking about Diana’s hands. Nice. Alright, guys, please send us more of your questions. And we will talk about your questions and troubles in our podcast. And maybe we’ll share some of our experiences in a way to create a story out of that. Alright. 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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