|© pixelrobot - Fotolia.com|
Does this post-dress rehearsal comment sound familiar?
- "My dress rehearsal was horrible! What am I going to do?"
Speaking as someone who plays for a lot of recitals I can tell you that I hear this panic-imbued statement at the end of dress rehearsals all too often. And each time I do it kills me because these words have the power to completely sabotage months of hard work. It holds as much truth as the fortune in a fortune cookie or those little messages in those magic balls that you shake to get answers to your most pressing questions yet I've seen musicians, experienced professionals and students alike, allow the dress rehearsal to make or break the final product.
I am hear to say right here, right now, that in my personal opinion how a dress rehearsal goes is not an indication of how the final performance is going to go. Instead it's usually a reflection of...
- how the day has gone leading up to the dress rehearsal. Usually we don't protect our schedule on the day of a dress rehearsal as we do the day of a performance.
- of what the performer ate beforehand. Generally we aren't as thoughtful about what we put in our body pre-dress rehearsal. Bean burrito topped with queso sauce? Sure!
- the time of day the dress rehearsal is being held. I recently had a rehearsal for a huge, very challenging program at 9 in the morning. Trust me - I was barely hanging on!
- how much we have crammed the days leading up to the dress rehearsal. I've seen brass and wind players especially come in with their faces practically numb from over-practicing. We usually have the sense not to do this the day before a performance but not so with dress rehearsal days.
Get the picture?
Dress rehearsals are not TESTS. They are OPPORTUNITIES.
They are opportunities to practice performing. They are opportunities to experience a different (and usually much more ideal) acoustic space. They are opportunities to let go and make some music without people staring you down. They are opportunities to try out recital attire so you can figure out if they will fall down, make you trip, or cause you pain. They are not opportunities to prove whether or not you're ready to perform.
I recently had two dress rehearsals that didn't go so well, at least in the minds of the performers I was accompanying. Both contacted me in the hours afterwards in a panic, telling me that they were madly practicing everything that had gone wrong in the dress rehearsal which was causing them to panic even more. It was heartbreaking to me because I knew in both situations that the musicians were ready, at least from a musical and technical point of view. It was their minds that were causing all the trouble. I urged them both to...
- put down their instruments
- acknowledge the preparation they had put in up to this point
- sit with their music, away from their instrument, and hear the the music in their head
- play around with different musical ideas in their head
- conduct while they were audiating the music
- dream about the music
- go back to their instrument and play slowly, easily, and comfortable, preferably music not on the recital
- play difficult passages from their recital repertoire under tempo, never up to tempo, if they really felt a need to do that
- play completely unrelated music that they love to play
My motivation behind this list was to help them avoid falling back into practice-room mode, where the left part of the brain is boss. I strongly believe in befriending the right brain at this point in the game because it's in the right brain where creativity and musicality can weave magic spells over our psychotic, mind-game playing other half. It's a list that I faithfully follow myself which has turned me into a musician that loves to perform. Trust me - it hasn't always been that way!
There's two more post-dress rehearsal comments I sometimes I hear and they deserve some attention as well.
- "I'm so glad I had a bad dress rehearsal. Now I know my recital will go well."
- "My dress rehearsal was just the way I want it to be for my recital. It's going to be perfect!"
I suppose these two are more optimistic but my problem with them is the same one I mentioned at the beginning of the post. I truly don't believe that a dress rehearsal is any indication of how a final performance is going to go. They are not linked. We can easily have a bad dress rehearsal yet have a fantastic performance yet we can have a great dress rehearsal and a disastrous performance. What does matter is the preparation that goes on beforehand, taking care of oneself physically and mentally in the days leading up to a performance and a healthy attitude and frame of mind walking onto the stage. If we walk onto the stage to perform after an ego boosting dress rehearsal and then make that inevitable mistake what happens then? Speaking from experience, that fall into reality after being deliriously confident can knock us off our feet and destroy what we thought was going to be our dream performance.
So the next time we're at a dress rehearsal, let's ditch the fortune cookies and magic balls...if we do I foresee a much rosier outlook!