Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Benefit of Preparation

Thorough preparation is essential for polished performances. Too often, young musicians assume that preparation ends when they have learned to play the notes and rhythms accurately and the piece has been memorized. While these are crucial steps in the preparation process, they are no more important than the shaping of the music that occurs through ensemble rehearsals.

Adequate ensemble preparation also prepares the team to face unexpected challenges that might arise during the performance. By working through the piece as a team, each member has a clearer expectation of what might occur if one member is having an "off" day. I was reminded of the importance of this aspect of preparation last week.

As we are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, lots of performances are happening. The rehearsals and performances have led to some fatigue on my part; late last week, the fatigue turned into a nasty cold, complete with fever. Under normal situations, I would have put myself to bed to recover. This was not an option because I had performances on both Thursday and Friday. It was now time to see how my preparation would carry me through when I was feeling less than my best.

In both performances, all musicians were comfortable with their individual notes. Both ensembles had participated in coaching sessions to help shape the music. The difference came in the additional rehearsals; while one ensemble had rehearsed thoroughly outside of the coachings, the other was relying almost exclusively on the rehearsals that occurred in lessons.

What was the final result? To put it simply, I played both performances with less than my normal vigor. However, the ensemble that had rehearsed without a coach present had a much more fulfilling performance. We had experienced errors together without anyone else involved and had learned how to respond. The performance was not flawless, but it held together much more easily because of our mutual understanding of the music. The other ensemble's performance left much to be desired. As my performance suffered from illness, my partners had not been prepared to respond sufficiently and I didn't have enough private rehearsal experience with them to rely on my musical "auto-pilot."

Next time you find yourself wondering if you really need to schedule another ensemble rehearsal, hear this voice of experience. You might not realize how important the rehearsal is until you find yourself needing to rely upon the experience of collaborating together that is gained there.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rehearsal Scheduling Website

I love accompanying other musicians in their performances. That love guided my decision to focus on collaborative arts in graduate school and it has led to my current position as staff pianist. The most frustrating aspect of the job has always been scheduling rehearsals. Soloists would call or text me to ask for a rehearsal, but they had no idea what my availability was really like. Comparing calendars was always difficult.

As I started splitting my time between Memphis and Jackson, Tennessee, I posted sign-up sheets for students to arrange rehearsals. Problems quickly appeared. It wasn't convenient for students to get to my sign-in sheet, so they didn't. Worse still, singers would sign up for a rehearsal after I had already left and I would miss the scheduled meeting because I didn't know about it. It was frustrating for everyone involved. I knew there had to be a solution that would help me maintain my professionalism while making the process easy for everyone involved.

That's when I discovered web-appointments.com. This online appointment center allows me to set aside rehearsal times based on my availability. Students are able to reserve rehearsals at their convenience as long as they have internet access. Once an appointment is made, it is not finalized until I confirm the rehearsal with the simple click of a button. To make things even more convenient, clients provide their phone number and email address at the time of registration; these come in really handy when I'm running late or need to reschedule.

While it is not necessary to obtain a domain name for the site, it has proven to be a worthwhile investment for me. The web address is now easy to remember (compared to the default address provided by web-appointments) and clients don't have to keep up with an awkward address on a random piece of paper.

When I first began using web-appointments.com, many clients were apprehensive and didn't want to use it. With a little encouragement (and using the site myself to schedule appointments for them), they quickly grew to appreciate the ease of scheduling. The best news of all? Reminder emails have resulted in a significant reduction in no-shows since using the scheduler.

I can keep singing the praises of web-appointments.com, but the best way to understand it is to check it out for yourself.  Depending upon how you pay for the service (either quarterly or yearly), the cost breaks down to less than $10 per month. Once you get used to the system and get things arranged correctly, you'll wonder how you managed to schedule rehearsals (and lessons) before.

FYI - I have received no compensation from web-appointments.com or their providers for this review. KF