Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lessons Learned at Union

This fall, I had the privilege of beginning a new part time position at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee as staff pianist.  While my responsibilities only had me joining the music department 2 to 3 days per week, I have learned some valuable lessons by surviving this first semester in the position.


  • Organization is Key!  Because of my limited time on campus, I have to insure that I am completely organized in order to make the most of my time.  My calendar became permanently attached to my right arm....most of the time.  There was a period of approximately 2 weeks where I couldn't find my paper calendar and was relying exclusively on my iPhone.  Amazingly, I didn't miss any major appointments thanks to iCloud technology.   In addition to using an e-calendar, I also found email reminders imperative;  nothing is worse than having blocks of time wasted due to students not showing up without advance notice.  I am considering using a site like Music Teacher's Helper in the spring to provide additional assistance.
  • Commuting is not a dirty word!  Union is roughly 85 miles from my home, so I find myself doing a lot of driving.  Initially, I thought this was going to be a waste of time.  I found that this round-trip drive became some of my most productive time of the week.  The quiet time devoid of distractions allowed me to ponder issues,  review upcoming lectures, and brainstorm about research projects and upcoming events.  Additionally, it was a prime time to listen to repertoire that I was currently learning.  I'm actually finding myself missing that time on the road now that I am on break.  
  • Protect Practice Time!  A new position meant that I had to push myself to perform at my best in all situations.......from the weekly lesson to the concert hall.  Since I am not the only staff pianist at Union, I find that my colleagues push me to maintain a high level of excellence through their high standard of performance as well as their friendship.  With all the driving and playing, practice time became a hot commodity and one that I had to protect at all cost.  Though most of the music was not extremely difficult technically this semester, I wanted to make sure that I allowed ample time to shape pieces musically and continue to develop my personal skills as a soloist as well as collaborator.  Pianists who lose the drive to continue developing and excelling are the ones who fall into the background as "accompanists" rather than maintaining their position as an equal partner in performance.
Have I learned everything?  Certainly not.  That's part of the excitement and fun of my position at Union. This semester will include balancing several student degree recitals with other responsibilities;  these will bring a new set of challenges that I look forward to exploring and conquering.