After 20 years of playing piano, I find myself enjoying performing more all the time. I get a burst of excitement when I find a new piece that I just have to learn, and another dose of satisfaction from playing it at a performance-ready level. (A live performance is icing on the cake!) But then there’s that long, hard road connecting the beginning to the end. You know, the part that takes the most work. Practicing!
To me, practicing a difficult piece is sort of like running a long race. This year I’ve been running pretty consistently, having done two 10k races in Victoria and now preparing for a half-marathon next month. I’ve found that as the distances of the runs increases, so does the mental battle. It’s easy to be motivated at the start when my legs are feeling fresh, and the approach to the finish line brings it own burst of adrenaline. So about 10% of the run is exciting. The only way to get from start to finish is to run the whole way through. That long, burning middle section has to be run courageously, with the finish in mind.
And so it is with making good music. It’s in the labour of consistent practice that a good performance is made. Music has taught me to stop waiting for inspiration to take hold of me, but to go out and wrestle it down myself. It’s that thing we call self-motivation. Practice will always be a chore, and will always be necessary. But the greater discipline, the more spectacular the result. And the sooner the finish line comes.