Recital Thoughts by Martin England

I suppose that the main thing that I wanted to do was just knock the pants off of the audience on April 21, 1998. My program was a good one to do this with. I started with Sonata Prima Per Trombetta So/a by Giovanni Viviani, then was Concerto by Alexandra Pakhmutova, next was Canzona by Henk Badings, followed by Concert Dialogue by John Cheetham, and finished with Eiffel Tower Polka by Francis Poulenc. There are many different ways to achieve this, here is the approach I took.

When choosing the program, I wanted something really balanced. I think what that does is not lock the crowd into hearing the same stuff out of the bell. Monotony causes boredom. Avoid this. Another factor in choosing the program is this. Can I do this? Is this music beyond my potential? How hard am I willing to work to pull this off? All of these are questions that you need to ask when choosing your program. I feel that I had a really strong program and had just a fun time preparing it. The preparation is a whole other story.

As far as practice goes, you just have to absolutely work your guts out. Start early. I started working on my recital about October of the previous year. This gave me plenty of time to practice for the April 21 gig. It doesn’t pay off to wait until the last minute. Too many times I see people just a nervous wreck the day of their recital. I think they are hoping for a few extra hours to practice. The extra hours won’t be there. I went in with the attitude that I wanted to be very comfortable the day of the recital. I wanted to know that I could go out there at any time of the day and play my best. I think I did. Having a family is something that I had to juggle while preparing for this, so I actually did not practice as much as I should have. Don’t get me wrong, I practiced about 6 to 7 hours a week on my recital music alone. Not just playing the music, practicing. There is a HUGE difference. A normal practice would go something like this. Get to the school about 7:45 A.M. and start a good warm-up. Long tones, slurs, and finger flexibility exercises to get everything working. Then came the most important decision, WHAT TO PRACTICE? Find the passage that is giving you the most difficult problems. When you make this decision, here is the way that helped me the best. GO AS SLOW AS IT TAKES TO GET EVERYTHING CORRECT. I can’t stress the importance of the statement enough. It is so much easier to learn speed than it is to go back and re-learn something the right way. After time, you will get more comfortable with that passage, then you can GRADUALLY begin to up the tempo. Speed comes after right notes, articulation, and dynamics. Very important. Even if it seems boring, ask yourself this. Do I want to get on stage and flub notes because I didn’t know exactly how the passage sounded, or do I want to take my time and get it right? I hope you answer correctly.

Attitude toward practice is also very important. I know Buckner would shoot me for this but I’ll say it anyway. If you don’t feel like practicing, DON’T. You will not get anything accomplished. This sounds crazy but there were days that I was just sitting there in the practice room thinking to myself, “Martin, you do not feel like practicing today.” So I didn’t. I knew that I would not get anything done, so Ididn’t waste my time. What I did do was I at least got in my daily warm-up. This way, it wasn’t 11 o’clock before I touched my horn. There does come a point in time to where you just can’t do this anymore. When the recital gets close enough, you just have buckle down and practice anyway. Unless you want to sound bad. Anyway, I used to think an early morning warm-up was not that important but I know now that it is vital. Fortunately I didn’t have too many of these no practice days. Fortunately, I had a lot of good days. There were days that I just could not wait to go wrestle the metal beast. I went in knowing that I was going to fix a problem that I was having and would be a better player because of it. There is no more satisfaction than accomplishing a goal. When you fix the problem in the passage, you feel absolutely fantastic super-duper. You need a lot of those fantastic super-duper days. They are a real boost. And they make you want to get in the practice room the next day to tackle the next problem.

Attitude to the performance is important, too. You have something to share with others and here is how it is. They will either like it, or they won’t like it. Big deal. As long as you like what you are doing, that is the most important thing. The way I see it is this. If you like what I am doing…GREAT. If you don’t, shut-up and go to sleep. If you don’t like it, it is your loss. That’s the bottom line.

Nervousness is a result of insecurity. If you are very sure that you can play that music, you really shouldn’t get nervous. Now I know that there is a little stage flight, but this will subside throughout the performance. I know that I was a little jumpy through the first movement of the pic piece and that about halfway through the second movement, I started to have some fun. By the time that I was to my second piece, the Concerto, I was having a blast. It was the best feeling to go on and off that stage with confidence. It directly relates to how you feel about the performance. I know that I had some bad spots here and there, but overall I was so happy about the way that I played I could just hug myself

After everything is over there is a sense of relief. I think the more fun you have, the less of this feeling. I didn’t really have a huge sense of relief As a matter of fact, in the few days after, I wanted to do another recital. Kinda weird, huh? Oh well. After a couple of days, you kinda feel down just because that is human nature. After a big important something like your Senior Recital, the rush goes away and you feel down a little bit. I think what a good thing to do is get another something pretty challenging to do right afterwards. This gives you a little something to look forward to.

I guess my overview of the whole thing goes something like this. I think that these recitals are wonderful. I grew so much as a musician in the past few months preparing for the recital. I hope that many of you to follow me will do the same. And as far as non-required recitals go, they are good too. Many disagree with me but here is my reasoning behind my thoughts. If I grew as much as I did musically for one recital, how far would I grow with two? or three? WOW!! Neat thought, huh. Isn’t good musicianship what college is about? So what if we are a small college. Size is not important. Quality is. Bottom line. If we can produce better musicians by doing more recitals, do it. It will be a hell of a time.