SOPP591: My dream is to get into the Royal Academy of Music and after that become a professional organist
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Let’s start episode 591 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Justina. And she writes,
Hello, my name is Justina Pupeikytė and my dream is to get into the Royal Academy of Music and after that become a professional organist. But there are few things that are keeping me down. I have very poor sight reading skills and weak transposition. I also learn musical pieces slowly. I am not talking about slow tempo while playing that concerns me, but the time that it takes for me to learn the piece and it's long. Can you help me?
V: So Ausra, I think Justina’s question is kind of similar to the previous podcast conversation that we have recorded just a moment ago that Hervey has submitted, right?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: Except Justina also is interested in transposition skills.
A: Yes. So basically, I think all these three things are connected in between: the poor sight reading skills, and weak transposition, and also that the learning process is very long for her. I think these are all connected in between them. Well, the Royal Academy of Music is some of my students are studying there. Not organ, but other instruments, and well, we were really good, at least at the music theory. So I don’t know what Justina’s musical background is, but of course to be accepted to the Royal Academy of Music is quite an ambitious goal.
V: Mm hm. Your students who are studying at the Royal Academy of Music…
A: Actually, some of them have graduated.
V: Graduated. They of course have graduated from the National Čiurlionis School of Art in Lithuania. So basically, they have professional level 12 year training beforehand.
V: Twelve year. It’s like our gymnasium - twelve years of curriculum, very intense, starting from 6 or 7 years of old. So, imagine how much work has Justina to do in order to catch up.
A: I don’t know where she is.
A: Where she is studying right now. And what is her musical background.
V: But comparing for example, your students who were admitted to Royal Academy of Music, can you have one example in your mind. Not out loud, but just in your mind. How were sight reading skills of these people? Better?
A: I think yes.
V: They didn’t complain.
A: Well, that’s right. But of course, most of them were not majoring in piano performance or organ performance. They were string players…
A: Harp, yes. Violin.
V: Mm hm. Yeah. So basically, you have to be good at sight reading at your instrument first of all.
V: In order to get admitted. Hm. What can we suggest? Oh of course. If Hervey’s (in the previous podcast conversation) goal is to have above average results, I think Justina’s goal must be very professional level.
V: Not above average, but the best she can, basically. The better, the more advanced level, the better.
A: Because the thing is, if she thinks that after graduating from Royal Academy of Music she will be a professional organist she will become, I would say that if you really want to be really good at your instrument, you need to be already professional before entering there.
V: Mm hm.
A: A school like this. Because look, well, all of these abilities to play instrument really well, we need to be start forming at a very young age.
V: Mm hm.
A: And I don’t, I’m not telling that you need to start to play organ in the elementary school - this is physically most often impossible, but maybe you need to have a very good piano background.
V: Mm hm. You’re right, Ausra. I think what, the other thing that could be said is that Justina needs to take it very very seriously, and practice it like, not one hour a day, not two hours a day probably. Because your students, obviously they spend hours, several hours per day at least with their instruments, right? They win competitions, international competitions, before…
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: ...they even apply.
A: And since Justina is talking about weak transposition skills, it means that she might not be ready, you know, not have enough qualification of music theory, too. Because this is all connected at the end.
V: Yes. You have to understand. Schools like Royal Academy of Music or any type of conservatory or very high level college or university, they, all they do actually is expand your repertoire, right? But you don’t start from scratch there. You are already at a very high level before entering that school. So you learn to play even virtuoso pieces at the earlier level, in the high school level, right? And then you apply and get admitted, and then you broaden your musical horizons: music theory, and probably harmony, even advanced harmony and music history as well, organology, all those things, and obviously you learn tons of new repertoire in your field. You become kind of very prolific performer, I would say. You can have maybe several hours of recital program at your fingertips and your feet, right? On moment’s notice. That’s what these schools do. That’s the end result. But before you get admitted, you have to have very high level also before that. You have to be able to play virtuoso repertoire basically.
A: And does she that you actually need to practice every day a lot, very diligently, and for many hours.
V: Yes, and for many years, too. I don’t know, maybe this could be sped up, not 12 years study, maybe could be 6 years study, could be, for people who are highly motivated.
A: But still, you cannot achieve in half a year what you might have achieved in 10 years.
V: No, it’s too difficult. Life is short.
A: Well, maybe if we are talking about music theory for example, then maybe yes, something might be done really fast if you have big motivation and you spend a bit of time and you have the mind of a grown up...
V: Mm hm.
A: Human. Then you might do the progress faster. But if we are talking about all this technical matters, meaning playing technique, you cannot push it forward too much.
V: It takes time.
A: It takes time. Because if you will force yourself, you might injure your hands.
V: Yes, yes, people do that sometimes.
A: Yes, people do that, and we do that quite often actually, in the musician field.
V: They overextend themselves, they practice for let’s say 6 or 8 hours per day without resting. Their body is tense. They forget to breathe, stretch, take a walk, rest, and they break down.
A: So I would say, if for example I would be in Justina’s shoes, first of all what I would have to have is to know admission requirements of Royal Academy of Music.
V: Yeah, what kind of repertoire do you need…
A: Yes, what kind of repertoire you need to play.
V: How much repertoire also.
A: What kind of examinations you have to take in, and then to, some of the schools, they might send you all that information and even some tests to see how far are you from those requirements.
V: Mm hm.
A: And then you have to set up a goal and a plan, how fast you might achieve.
V: Very good, Ausra! Do you think that recording your results, your incremental results and publishing them, let’s say on YouTube channel, would be helpful for her to track her progress?
A: Well, yes, but it might take too much time, and in this case she might not have it. What I would do, another thing I would do, I would try to make some connections to the people, to the faculty members of Royal Academy of Music, if she is going, she wants to study organ performance, she might contact the faculty members.
V: Mm. You mean she could go there once she has connections and play informally to professors and see what they can say about what level…
A: Yes, or you know, to send her recording of her performance. I think that’s the easiest way to do it.
V: Oh yeah, now you cannot travel.
A: I think that’s the easiest way to do it.
A: If somebody would be willing to hear her.
V: Yes. And critique her video or audio.
V: Better video, of course.
A: Yes, I think for these things the video is better.
V: So yeah. Track her progress, and find out your requirements.
A: Yes, because if you are interested in certain school, it’s always good that you will have a faculty member that would be interested in having you coming to study into that school.
V: Remember, it’s a prestigious school, right? Top 20, top 10 school in the world probably, for organs. And they have applicants from all over the globe coming every year. So they don’t have too much interest in a relatively unknown person, right? We have to have personal connection.
V: Or be extremely good.
A: Or have a lot of money.
V: Oh. (laughs) I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, that would work, too. All right, guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: We hope this has been helpful to you. I think Justina’s goal, just for ending this conversation, I might add that it’s a little too ambitious for her right now. She needs to divide it, subdivide it into manageable units, right? What is the first step, second step, and then third step. If she takes those steps, she will progress in a timely manner. Not too overwhelming. What do you say, Ausra?
A: Yes, I think that’s a good suggestion.
V: Yeah. Step by step. 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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