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Repeat sign (music).

At some point in life, you will find yourself repeating a performance or two.

Every performer I know, as well as some I’ve read about, has a unique way of dealing with repetition:

  1. A costume designer who works on Broadway splits the difference between depending on the reliability of a long-term job and thriving on variety. She has a steady gig with one show and subs the rest of the time.

  2. A former New York neighbor who plays 5 instruments had been playing classical music gigs after graduating from Juilliard. When he found that he needed to make more money, he switched to Broadway. He has yet to find a steady job with one show. He loves the variety that subbing brings, and practices all 5 instruments every day.

  3. The actress Catherine Russell tells her story to The New York Times. She finds variety every night in a role she has performed for 25 years!*  (She has also been listed in Guinness World Records!)

  4. A character actor I know has been on Broadway for 40 years, mostly acting in various roles in the Fantasticks. He does other shows out of town for variety.

  5. A singing actor I’ve worked with loves variety. His “money gig” is being Santa Claus in a Radio City show out of town. He will likely be the next actor in the role at Radio City when it becomes available.

  1. A musician I dated had just returned from 6 months in Korea with a show when we met. He played 2 shows almost every day. With 4 hours between shows, he made a project of learning about Korean food, going to as many restaurants as he could.

  2. In the old days, travel was by train, meaning that there was much more time between gigs in distant cities (and no jet lag). The members of the Budapest String Quartet would race each other during long trips to see who could memorize a quartet the fastest. The faster you were, the more time you had to read your book! They would arrive in the new city, go to the venue, and perform the just-memorized quartet from memory.

  1. The Norman Luboff Choir toured with enough music for at least 3 programs. But the programs were never printed as such ~ the tour repertoire was. Norman would choose each concert’s program backstage a few minutes before the downbeat. The music was familiar, yes, but there was no complacency.

  2. When the Juilliard String Quartet breaks in a new member, everything they play is rehearsed from scratch. That approach gives full participation to the new member, and keeps everyone else alert as well.  In addition, they are always playing contemporary music along with the standard repertoire.

  1. My job at the moment is to prepare for the 3rd concert of 3 with similar programs. In this group of concerts, I know the venues and the types of audiences who are likely to attend each one. I change the order while practicing and in the concerts themselves. During this week, I am practicing with the venue’s piano in mind.

The concert is in 3 days. Today I practiced the program in order, repeating spots that needed attention before going to the next piece.

Tomorrow, 2 days before, I’m planning to “perform” the program. If I need to go back to practice something, that will be after running the whole show.

On the day before, I have learned to expect mistakes. And during the warmup on the day of, forget it. That is totally unreliable. So on Saturday and Sunday, my focus will be on warming up very well and on being focused. I like to start and end each piece in program order, but not spend much time on the rest.

*Many thanks to C.I. for alerting me to this article!

Related article

Where is your comfort zone with regard to security and variety? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Goal-oriented Practice

August 2011 review by pianist Robert W. Oliver

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