One of the realities of piano-teacherdom, is that one is left with shockingly little time to play the piano. Day after day, I instruct my students on how to practice. “Don’t just sit and play,” I tell them. Set goals, make a list, use the metronome, repeat small sections! I feel virtuous and teacherly. And then every once in a while, I find myself actually needing to take my own advice. Tomorrow night I will be accompanying at a Benefit Concert for Japan. This has led to a few taste-of-my-own medicine sort of days! One of the pieces I’ll be playing is the Act 2 “Flower duet” from Madama Butterfly. Lets just say that for something innocently marked “Andantino” (and later, an understated “Allegro Moderato”), it is quite a ride. As Cio-Cio-San’s excitement builds, Puccini modulates—every few measures. Then, faithful Suzuki tries to bring Butterfly back to earth and the tempo completely changes—every few measures. Not to mention the joys of playing an orchestral reduction. (Oh why, why do they always assume I have three hands?)
Silliness aside, this really was a great way to practice the way that I tell my students to do it. I made myself write a specific plan in my practice notebook before doing any playing. Get crazy LH 16th note section to MM=72. Check. Figure out how to navigate that one ridiculous page-turn. Done. (I hope!) Keep inching the crazy LH 16th note section toward MM=104. Uh-huh. Remind myself not to clench every muscle in my body. Yes. (Well, that one is a work in progress)
Ultimately, it is nice to know that I can practice what I preach. (Practice! Literally!) Puccini and I spent some good quality time together these last few days, and I am looking forward to playing the Butterfly Duet tomorrow. The singers are truly wonderful and I just hope to get out of their way and let the music happen (while playing crazy 16th notes at MM=104 in a manner that feels “Andantino”).
And while I spend the day teaching tomorrow, I will give my students the practicing speech with added gusto and authority!