Submitted by Mary Tickner

Spring is here and the race is on to prepare students for performance–whether it is a recital, examination, festival, competitions or a family reunion. Each of these may be different in their requirements but the similarities outweigh the differences ranging from choice of repertoire or specific rules to follow. During the 2011 Musicquest Festival in Pune, India, Professor Peter Mack from the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, gave a wonderful workshop for the students and teachers participating in the Festival on the above topic. With Professor Mack’s permission, many of his suggestions and ideas are included in this article. All teachers have their own methods of performance preparation, but one always benefits from outside sources.

REPERTOIRE: should be contrasting in keys, character, style and arranged to emphasize not just strengths but also variety; a balance of the known and unknown repertoire is more interesting to the audience and particularly adjudicators.

PREPARATION IN ADVANCE OF THE BIG DAY: if you have a routine that works, don’t change a thing! Perform for friends, family, senior’s homes, church services (if appropriate), malls, etc…. Four or more weeks in advance, play through program frequently. Week of the performance, daily run through except for THE DAY.

PRINCIPLES OF ADDED STRESS: The following activities can strengthen your focus and concentration: radio and TV/ play and converse / play and count aloud/ play on keyboard lid or table top/ play blindfolded or in the dark / play with gloves on/ one bar on and one bar off: omit evens, or odds / ghost or not? / in your head, hear the gap / tape or record / metronome (not always as your friend!) / memory points/ piano safari at your local music store / recovery from a memory slip by enlisting the family members to distract you, etc … .

CLOTHING: Practice in the shoes you will perform in; no white socks past the adorable age; top should conceal well, even when sitting down or moving forward: no purple/leopard skin thong showing; practice in your performance ensemble well in advance; not too glamorous, but ….hair back; growing children: check to see if suit still fits.

RHYTHMS: Use rhythms to improve difficult passages. The following examples assume the basic grouping of faster notes is binary (two’s or fours):

Crispness Rhythms: LsLsLs / sLsLsL
Speed Rhythms: 1 2341 2341
12 3412 3412

Make up your own groupings for different meters or problems.

USEFUL STUFF: Check out the performance space; know where the bathrooms are; have hand warmers; use hot water to warm muscles of fingers; mimic “fight or flight” symptoms: cold room/ run in place/ hands freezing

THE BIG DAY: Sleep early the night before; touch up trouble spots but don’t play through the program; don’t eat a big meal – try banana, power bar, water; practice the bow; adjudicator’s copy – clear of markings; measures numbered in LARGE PRINT for older eyes; start louder on a strange piano – risky to start with ppp; fff is easy!


Final words from Peter Mack: ” It’s easier the 72nd time!”