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How to Play One’s Worst at an OMEA Honors Recital

Res Publica

July 2001

by Laura Hanna

In order to play one’s absolute worst at an Ohio Music Educators Association honors recital, first one must wait until the last possible minute to begin preparation of the piece he or she has selected, or in my case, has been selected for her. Once the piece has been selected, learn to play the easy sections first and practice them all the time. Disregard the difficult sections until it is possible to play the easy ones as fast as possible over and over again. Upon arrival at a spot in the music you cannot play or do not like, skip it and go on to the next easy part. Use this method every day for at least ten minutes, fifteen at the most.

Be prepared to hear this line at your next piano lesson, "Well, the easy sections sound very good, (your name here), but I think we need to work on this section, this section, and this section because they seem to be giving you the most trouble." If you continue using the practice method I have provided, you can expect to hear this line several times at your lessons. Do not be discouraged! In time, you will learn to ignore it.

Now that you have learned to ignore your piano instructor’s instructions, you will begin to hear your mother complaining about being forced to listen to the same fast, easy sections of the Hadyn piece and that the difficult sections are not improving. This will begin to annoy you. In order for her to stop telling you what you already know, and in order for your piano teacher to tell you something other than how awful your practicing techniques are, you must begin to learn the sections of the piece that "seem to be giving you the most trouble." This will not be the least bit enjoyable for you to do or for your mother to hear . . . trust me! Be sure not to begin the tedious task of preparing the "hard parts" until precisely three weeks before your are scheduled to perform the piece at the OMEA honors recital. This is imperative!

To begin learning the difficult sections, take your time. I suggest approximately five to ten minutes of practice every other day. This may seem unreasonable, but be patient. Five to ten minutes does not seem like such a long time after you have finished. If you become frustrated with your inability to play a difficult passage after the first three minutes, throw a fit and give up with the intent to try again the next day knowing you will not. If you should happen to decide to try again, remember, practice does not necessarily make perfect, and if the phone rings, do not hesitate to answer it and forget that you were in the middle of practice.

Following short or skipped practices, do not allow your conscience to get the best of you! Simply explain to your mother and teacher that you have been busy. There is nothing wrong with occasionally watching television instead of practicing for your recital. This is a perfectly acceptable excuse. If someone disagrees with you, ask him if he has anything better to do. If he says yes, ask him what he does all day. He will most likely answer, "I practice piano and go to school," to which you should respond by asking him why he is arguing with you because you need to practice your Hadyn piece for your recital. Once you see the puzzled look on his face, laugh, walk away, and forget to practice once more.

At the end of the four weeks of occasional limited concentration on your recital piece, you should, by this time, be totally unprepared. When you practice the Hadyn Sonata, your mother will tell you how wonderful it sounds. However, you know better. She only says this because throughout this lesson on "How to Play One’s Absolute Worst When Performing at an OMEA Honors Recital," you have unknowingly mastered the skills of manipulation and intimidation. You are able to play at a mediocre level and still manage to appear as if you know exactly what you are doing. You must never reveal the fact that you have mastered these skills or they will become obsolete. Remain confident and act like you are the queen, or king, of the universe while playing your piece. No will ever know… that is until the recital.

The key to playing one’s absolute worst at an OMEA honors recital is the "quicky" practice immediately before leaving for the recital. Make sure your mother is in the room listening to you practice so she will hear how terrible you sound. You must do your best to resist acceptance of her compliments when you finish the piece. She will tell you it was great, but you must remember it was not. Next come the tears. You will not have to force them out; they will come naturally due to the utter embarrassment you feel from your lack of preparation. If your piano teacher suggests you use the music for your performance but you feel you are capable of performing the piece from memory, no matter what your instructor or your mother says, leave the music at home! You will initially feel confident with your decision, but it is guaranteed that somewhere in the midst of performing the piece you will forget where you are and your mind will go blank. You will not know where to start again and will be forced to suffer from knowing that you have failed.

When you first arrive at the church in which you will perform for the recital, try your best to be calm, and remember to keep a smile on your face. This will give everyone the notion that you are completely prepared to perform the piece that you love so much, and have been working so hard on for the past three to four months. When your name is called to play, ignore your mother’s kind words of encouragement because you know that you will definitely not play as well as everyone is anticipating. Nevertheless, begin your piece, for which you did not bring the sheet music for reassurance, and do your best to remember the hundreds of details you noticed during your "quicky" practice just thirty minutes ago. Do not forget to play all the quiet notes softly enough so no one will be able to hear them. This will help enhance the audience’s knowledge of the obvious lack of preparation on your part. Also, when you come to the part that you have no hope in the world of remembering, without your sheet music, your hands will begin to sweat, although they have been freezing since you sat down with your parents, your face will turn completely red, and you will finally come to the realization that you have failed. In order to overcome this most horrifying feeling, choose a place in the music that you are able to remember, and start again. Do not worry: the horrifying feeling will remain in your gut for approximately forty-five minutes, so there is nothing you can do about it.

After you complete the Hadyn Sonata you have worked on so little for the past four weeks, stand up and take a bow. Politely accept the applause even though you know they heard every mistake you made and they know you were terrible. Sit down with your parents and say nothing. Take comfort in the fact that at least you were one of the last students to play. This always means you are considered one of the best. That will be your only consolation. Prepare to hear your teacher say, "Now, (your name here), you played well, but I know you could have done better. With a little more practice you will be able to play that piece perfectly for the next recital." Be sure to let him know that you are fully aware of how awful you played at the recital and that you are in no need of his comments as you are also aware of your capabilities. Tell him that next time, he should let you know ahead of time that you will be invited to perform at the OMEA honors recital so you will have more time to avoid practicing your piece. Tell him that next time you want to pick out your own piece, one that you actually enjoy playing. And, stick with my method of practice. It is the perfect guide for "How to Play One’s Absolute Worst at an OMEA Honors Recital."

Laura Hanna is a sophomore from Dover, Ohio, majoring in history and political science.

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