on balance

February 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Balance in Repertoire, Part 1

From my high school orchestra teacher who I admired so much growing up to my conducting colleague who plays in an a major opera orchestra, this bit of universal wisdom seems to pervade:
“Pick one piece that’s really hard, one that’s challenging within reason, and one that’s easy!”
Hearing this from a litany of music educators over the past fifteen years, I see the beauty in that advice, as I’ve heard its results countless times.
In that truly difficult piece that is almost out of reach, a new level of commitment is fostered. There is a brush with greatness, even if it’s not the most solid performance on the program. Humility, confidence, and diligence take on fresh life in the players and conductor alike; the students must double their practice efforts in order to get a “return on their investment”, while the educator must look in the eye the musical skyscrapers that beset the ensemble and break them down into bits that are manageable. The trust built during this process —that we as teachers have their needs and best interests at hand— is invaluable to experiencing the “difficult” piece. It’s one way to live out the words of Walter Pater— “Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end.”

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