Well, it’s jury time at universities and conservatories across the United States. For those unfamiliar with this rite of passage, allow me to explain.
Juries are a performance exam. Students prepare an allotted amount of music to the peak of their ability and perform it for a panel of esteemed professors. Professors are assessing many things, among them:
- Preparation: Have you managed your time wisely in preparing for this performance?
- Professionalism: Are you presenting yourself in a professional manner? Do you have necessary paperwork? Are you dressed appropriately? Are you playing from purchased music, and proper editions? Do you tune properly? Do you recognize your pianist?
- Musical Style: Are you aware of the context of your music? When was it written? Who is the composer? Who are his/her contemporaries? How does this information affect your interpretation? WE as the jury think these things automatically. If you play Bach, we listen for a different articulation and vibrato than if you play Stravinsky. Similarly, if you play the Mozart Concerto, your dynamic structure will vary from the Weber Concerto.
- Cleanliness and Clarity: Of course, it is a goal to play your music with the utmost cleanliness of technique and clarity of attacks. Likewise, a clear center of pitch and focused tone quality is the gold standard.
- Consistency: Many of you have already achieved each of these points! Good!! BUT … can you do each of these EACH time you play your music?! Our goal as performers is not to practice until we get it right, but to practice until we can’t get it wrong!
I was inspired to write this month’s blog by a Facebook posting. I mentioned the Penny Game. The Penny Game is a “Consistency Builder” I use in my own practicing and with my students.
Begin with 5 pennies on the left side of your stand. Choose a brief technical phrase, or a longer section of music. Turn the metronome to a “doable” tempo. Attempt to play the excerpt 5 times in a row with NO mistakes: technically or musically. For each successful run, one penny is moved over to the right of the stand. If a mistake is made, all pennies are moved back to the left and you must start all over again.