Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Preparing for Guitar Juries

Like many schools of music Radford University students in applied study encounter juries at the end of their term. And as the term is just a few weeks away part of my teaching plan involves 'Mock Juries'. Mock juries are just what the name implies, running through the paces of a jury (a presentation of technique, memorized repertoire and sight-reading--and in some semesters improvisation).  Without grade or penalty this exercise in 'rehearsing' a jury but only in front of the private applied teacher gives the student a moment of reflection on where they stand; taking a moment to step back from the daily work and see the larger picture with respect to the entire semester.

A reality check is needed in some cases and I find the exercise of 'Mock Jury' to be just the tool needed.  Although taking place in the environment of the private studio sans adjudicating colleagues the process injects just enough seriousness to allow for a more objective and heightened awareness for the preparing student.

In most cases students find that if they've been diligent, consistent and engaged in their practice and in taking opportunities to perform their works on weekly masterclasses, guest artist masterclasses and in sight-reading/ improvising throughout the semester the exercise of the 'Mock Jury' brings greater confidence as they move forward towards the actual jury.  For those who discover that they are not on track for the jury, it gives them an opportunity to ramp up their work.

The best preparation, therefore, contains a minimum of the following ingredients:

  • A clear, consistent and diligent practice regimen
  • setting clear goals relative to:  semester, month, week, day
  • listening to and responding positively to criticism
  • performing in studio or performance classes (at least monthly)
  • keeping a journal on a daily basis where the above goals are written and assessed on a regular basis
  • seeking performance opportunities outside the classroom (coffee houses, clubs/organizations, house events, etc.)
  • if you are one who experiences performance anxiety seek more performance opportunities not less. Consider taking classes in meditation, yoga, tai chi, etc. Do some reading on the subject. Numerous books of excellent quality exist on the subject of performance anxiety
  • Last and not least, take care of yourself. You are an athlete and athletes need to stay stay health and get rest as well as staying in top physical and mental shape. Develop and Maintain good habits!
More anon...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

So, in this article I've found some corroboration of one of my techniques of teaching; that is, to NOTATE ON and IN the musical score.  This is what I teach my guitar students. Notate ON your music; not only fingerings but phrase markings, articulation, timbre, physical movements, etc! Prior to reading this article the benefits of notating longhand in the score are the following:

  • writing longhand reinforces several of our key components of memory (tactile and visual)
  • long hand writing slows us down, so that we can cogitate in real time on our decisions
  • the slower process inculcates the processes involved in our decision of what to write into long-term memory.
  • having various and multiple details surrounding a given moment in a score (be they position of the left hand arm/elbow/wrist, timbre, r.h. fingering, l.h. fingering, articulation, etc) all give us a sculptural view of a moment in time or even of a complete phrase. This all leads to a stronger, more complete view of the phrase as 'character', which is ultimately more memorable than any single form of memory alone (e.g. tactile). I often refer to this as the 'NASA technique' or running on all four cylinders of memory rather than one or two or three.
 Unfortunately, the students whose schools have removed this from the curriculum or whose parents never taught  long hand will never know what they have lost!  However, with the above knowledge now you the the student-performer have a choice!

Happy notating!

Robert Trent

PS Here's the article... please read all before commenting!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Welcome to my very new blog.  I've resisted doing this for so long. I've finally decided to take the plunge and put my years of teaching and performing down in writing, primarily for my students to refer to and for any others who may find the writings of interest. Here is my first post which prompted the entire idea...

For all young musicians, a few important precepts:  

1) Study each subject as if it is the most important and only one
2) Don't forget - ALL subjects relate to each each other, but it is YOUR responsibility to make those connections
3) Squeeze everything you can get out of your professors, colleagues and yourself, because you THINK and profess to be become such -and-such, but your preparation is for the unknown, therefore prepare and develop your full and complete self for any possible career path - then you'll be assured to move forward with confidence into whatever pathways open before you, and your direction will be by your choice not because you've limited yourself to your narrow college 'track' or thinking.
4) DON'T do the minimum - All of your experiences and learning is fodder for your personal and musical development
5) ...and I've copyrighted this one ;) ..."All the time you think you are making music, music is making you!". Music is transformative, That is why you are musician, isn't it?  Therefore open yourself to transformation and be brave!
6)  For those preparing a solo recital or Jury - you CANNOT throw this together - it requires regular dedication to study, emotional and physical work! CANNOT throw this together. Professional musicians prepare ALL YEAR for a program and perform that same program all year long! You as a less experienced musician, perhaps performing your program only once, cannot expect less of yourself. Performing musicians are athletes - and you know what happens to athletes who either don't maintain their regimen(!)  So, stay in shape, stay in top shape and don't suddenly ramp up your practicing in any dramatic way or you risk dramatic injury. Have a practice plan and if you are planning a solo recital or a concerto gig or that you forsee many more performances ahead; plan on building up to the task by steps rather than by leaps.  
7) Above all remain in love with what you do by loving the process, enjoying every individual sound, feeling and emotion you create and you can be in the moment (which is what you'll do in performance!) because you can lean on and trust with confidence the practice plan which you have made and stuck to such an excellent practice regimen!  

Go and be fruitful and musical for yourself and the world!

My Very Best Wishes!


Robert Trent