Haddon Hall, the operetta, has gone to orchestra rehearsals. There’s no piano part in the orchestra. My job is over, but the operetta goes on.
When that happens, a large gap appears in my rehearsal and practice schedule. Something is missing. I know that piece! I want to play!
Does that ever happen to you?
After a few days, it finally dawns on me that there has been a big change. So that’s why I feel unsettled. But wait a minute. Were the past several weeks really so different?
Here’s the scene:
- Practice as long as possible before leaving for the day.
- Travel 8-10 miles. Play a rehearsal. Run a sectional for part of that time.
- Travel again, about the same distance.
- Play another rehearsal, this time a piano reduction.
- Travel same distance, more or less.
- Coach singers.
- Travel some more. Which town are we in now?
- Teach piano lessons. Every student is on a different level.
- One more time! Travel again.
- Play for a rehearsal of combined choruses. Rehearsal is disorganized, people don’t know where to be, some of the musicians don’t know the music, conductor is very nervous.
- Find dinner!
(Okay, that’s the completely unvarnished version.)
Variety during the week comes from practicing various pieces, playing piano reductions, playing parts, and practicing the organ. Don’t get me wrong; I love variety. However, even when I’m busy, sometimes I feel unsettled. Like a butterfly. Discombobulated. So I’ve been thinking about why.
Other musicians I know have had similar experiences.
- Amy Kaiser, the well-known choral conductor, surprised everyone when she decided to leave New York for St. Louis. She gained a consistent schedule and benefits. In this New York Times article, Carey Goldberg says, “… 17 years is a long time to go without a real job. You can get a real hankering for health insurance. “
- Martin Katz left New York for the University of Michigan. I remember driving from Trenton back to New York in his rental car, arriving at the Lincoln Tunnel at 1:00 a.m., and encountering a long line of cars at the toll booth. He went into a monologue that went something like this: “Why did I rent a car so I can get to the Lincoln Tunnel at 1:00 a.m. just to wait in this line? I’ll get back too late to return the car and won’t be able to find a good parking place near my apartment. When I return the car tomorrow morning, I’ll have to pay for an extra day.” In fact, there was even more to it than that. He had to catch a plane the next morning before the car rental place opened, so I traveled 25 blocks downtown to return the car for him. He paid me for the time. One year later, he left the city.
- Several string players I know moved from New York to Connecticut, where they have houses and driveways. They still arrive home late following night rehearsals and concerts, but now they don’t have to look for parking spaces. They can go to sleep at least an hour earlier.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
An evolving view
Immediately after graduate school, I loved going from one end of Manhattan to the other and beyond, playing auditions, rehearsals, lessons, and concerts wherever they took me. So much variety, so much to do and see. Late opera rehearsals in Brooklyn? Fine. The singers were good! I enjoyed the conductor! Dinner was Chinese noodles at 1:00 in the morning. No problem.
A few years later, I toured with the Norman Luboff Choir. Aha! The stakes were much higher! I loved the excitement, seeing the country, performing a lot of music, and meeting people in the audience. Some concerts were in high schools, others in large halls.
But tours don’t last forever. I found myself back in Manhattan, playing auditions once again, running around just like I had earlier.
What happened? Why was I not enjoying that?
The Luboff tours were the turning point.
- Now I need to have dinner on time like a normal person. Starting this week, I can do that again. (Eating in the car, or on a park bench outside a locked building in the cold, or not at all, really doesn’t make it.)
- I need to focus on long-term performances that demand focus, good technique, emotional involvement, and all the musicianship available to me. Beginning today, I’ll get a solo program together and schedule some concert dates.
What happens when you look for your core?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
- How to practice for opera rehearsals (a post about Haddon Hall, mentioned above) (gretchenspianos.wordpress.com)