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.