coping strategies on stage

Jump Ahead or Fake It

For the past couple of weeks, my students have heard me tell them to "jump ahead" or "fake it" (i.e., "make it up) when they do a run-through of their festival songs for me. Those are really a musician's two options on stage when we have a memory lapse. Asking for the book and running off the stage aren't acceptable options. And now, here we are. It's Music Festival Week. Basically, this is a warm-up for my students gearing up for piano exams in June - a chance to air out their repertoire, get valuable feedback and see where the kinks lie.

Things are at the stage where we have to stop psyching ourselves out at weak spots by making them stronger. As Irina Ginzburg, my former piano teacher, said to me many a time, "You have to get it right eleven times out of ten at home to get it right ten times out of ten on stage."

I should add that since perfection on stage is fleeting, delivering a convincing performance becomes more important. A friend of mine told me once that she "faked" the middle of one of her jury songs at university one semester. She knew the beginning and the end. Unfortunately, she caught the chicken pox shortly before her piano jury and was unable to properly learn the middle.She kept in the style of the song and lucked out by having an obscure piece that none of the jury members were familiar with. She delivered such a convincing performance that she garnered a "B".

Back to my students and I. We've been practicing (some harder than others) on our trouble spots and our memory by using the following techniques:

  • hands separately
  • analysing the chords and patterns
  • "eyes closed" practice
  • "eyes open but looking away from the piano" practice
  • playing with distractions
  • drilling beginnings and endings
  • drilling problem spots
  • coming to the piano in between other tasks and starting up partway through one of our songs
  • practicing at "nervous" tempo (for most, it's faster than normal)
  • practice performing
  • practice "faking it" at weak points

Hopefully our hard work will pay off over the next week-and-a-half.

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