Painting of a lady juggling balls in the air.

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Keeping several balls in the air at once is something working musicians need to be able to do.

During college, I had a great deal of trouble putting one piece aside to work on another.  In order to handle lots of playing, I practiced longer hours instead.

Fortunately, I can trust myself to learn music by a certain date now.  A  practice log is indispensible for tracking a lot of repertoire, how much time you’ve been putting in, etc.

At the moment, I am practicing for:

  1. operetta rehearsals;
  2. chorus rehearsals;
  3. church services (organ music, planning choir rehearsals);
  4. timing service music to use later;
  5. looking at anthems for the future;
  6. thinking about a new solo piano program;
  7. thinking about a summer concert series at the church; and
  8. anticipating learning a cantata for a March 10th concert (don’t have the music yet).

Am I doing each of these every day?  No.

The rehearsal/service schedule looks like this:

My teaching schedule does not appear here, since that is a time commitment but doesn’t require me to play.

I have 2 or 3 hrs./day to practice.  To get everything done, it helps to keep the rehearsal schedule in mind.  It is also important to estimate how much total practice time is needed for each piece of music.  That way, you can split up the time available without panic, because you know you can learn the music by the date needed.

Practice segments

I arrive at church at least an hour before the choir rehearsal.  This gives me time to “run” the entire service, get all my ducks in a row, and start thinking about the choir music for a few minutes.

Operetta first, to make sure I get through everything to be done in the evening rehearsal.  There is always a rehearsal plan, so I know which numbers to do.  (This is not always the case, but this conductor plans ahead.  Very helpful.)  This usually takes about an hour.

Then I start choosing music for the following Sunday.  My goal is to get about a month ahead (and I have quite a ways to go!).  Then there is no panic.  (“Will I find an appropriate piece in time?”)  Things remain a lot calmer when practicing is the only requirement.

Church, operetta, and Hampshire Chorus music.

After dinner, I look at anthems and organ music (on the couch!).

Church, Hampshire Chorus.

Evening:  music on the couch.

Thursday and Friday
Now I have 2 days with no rehearsals.  Practicing can be more relaxed.  First I work on church music for Sunday, then  spend some time playing through anthems and organ music I’ve looked at earlier in the week.  I usually skip the operetta for a day, picking it up again on Friday.

Practice at church, deciding registration (stops), marking the bulletin, setting up music in service order.

How do you apportion your practice time?  Do you help your students do the same?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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August 2011 review by pianist Robert W. Oliver

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