Thursday, June 6, 2013

Getting Back to Basics

Summer is finally here and life is a little more relaxed. Most of my performance responsibilities are on hold until the fall. My teaching load is significantly lighter and I'm feeling rested after the busyness that comes with the spring. With some extra time on my hands, I'm finding that this is the perfect time to get back to the basics.

Regardless of our current duties as musicians, everything we do is based in our mastery of certain basic skills. Even though we use these skills on a regular basis, it's a good idea to revisit them from time to time and give them some direct attention. If your situation is like mine, you might find that there are several sets of "basics" that you need to revisit. Summer may be the perfect time for you to take care of this.

First and foremost, I am a pianist. As the school year gets moving faster and faster, I find that I have less time to devote to sight-reading and adding new literature to my repertoire list. Since I don't have repertoire that needs to be mastered at this time, I'm using the summer as a chance to read through Schumann's lieder (low key) as well as The Messiah. Even though I'm familiar with a lot of this material, I've not performed much of it and can't claim to have it under hand. Sight-reading -- even at a slow tempo -- will prove valuable when I encounter the music in the future.

I'm not just looking at vocal music though. I know that solo repertoire is the best prescription for improving technique. I'm working my way through volume one of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. I'm in no hurry; I simply want to master the music and enjoy the sounds. I started by sight-reading the preludes before settling in to begin working. At the moment, I'm exploring the preludes in C# major and C# minor.

Teaching is the other main part of my career. My music appreciation class is adopting a new edition of our textbook this fall. I'm using the summer to revise my lectures, looking for portions that need to be expanded, clarified, added, or removed. I'm truly enjoying looking at my lectures from a critical point of view. In my private piano studio, I've realized that I am not familiar with music written for children by major composers. Right now, I'm looking at Dello Joio's Lyric Pieces for the Young, Schubert's Album for the Young and Chick Corea's Children's Songs. I may not be able to use much of it in my current situation, but it's important to know what's available.

What are you doing this summer to make sure you're ready for the challenges that will come when school starts again? I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below.