My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Celebrating one year of my sightreading show!

A year ago, in the spring of 2020, as we were all adjusting to being confined to our homes more, I kept trying to figure out how I was going to personally deal with this new scenario, especially since the majority of my income from musical jobs was cut off and I had a lot more free time on my hands. I was also struggling with not getting the regular bursts of adrenalin that come with being a performer and having the interactions with my audience that I so love and feed off of. 

One of the crazy ideas I came up with was to live-stream myself sightreading piano music for one hour. Why do that, one might ask? My answer?  I love sightreading, I'm pretty good at it and I figured I could use this time to explore solo piano repertoire. The only down-side I could think of was that I would be also be setting myself up for falling on my face publicly on a regular basis. But since I have a bit of a reputation for being stubborn and for wanting to be transparent as a musician, I decided the down-side could possibly be turned into an up-side. I wanted other musicians, pianists especially, to discover the joys that can come from being a good sight-reader:
  • moments of struggle can actually be pretty amusing
  • we can sightread musically if we approach it with skill and the right mindset
  • there's a lot we can learn about ourselves as musicians from doing it on a regular basis
  • that there are things we can do as musicians to help ourselves be set up for more success prior to jumping in
  • oftentimes what we think was a disaster in the moment really wasn't so bad

A year after live-streaming the first episode it's safe to say that Sightreading Maverick is now one of the things I look forward to most in my week. I don't have a lot of regular viewers, at least not that I know of, but I have a faithful crew that regularly watches live and chats via messaging during the show. There's also one viewer who routinely watches at night, after the show is done, messaging me his reactions the whole time. That is always hilarious. I also have several who regularly send in requests. I'm very grateful for their suggestions. 

Every now and then I'll get feedback from people who have watched that they've added pieces to their repertoire that they discovered through the show - that brings me such joy to hear that. At times I  sightread works by composers who are friends or acquaintances of mine on Twitter - that's also been wonderfully rewarding. For me that gives me a completely different glimpse into who they are as people, artists, and friends. I should add here that I'm grateful that they've all been willing to let me subject their music to the risks that a part of sight-reading. They too are brave! 

So almost a year later, with 47 episodes in the books, 2 guest appearances (thanks to Tracy Cowden and the Ivory Duo Piano Ensemble), almost 300 different piano pieces sightread, I'm going to keep at it until I run out of music. If you've never watched before, please do check it out and pass on the word about the show. The easiest way to be reminded about it is to subscribe to my YouTube channel

You can also watch episodes whenever you wish. Here's the playlist of everything that's on YouTube.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Standing on my soapbox on another blog

A few weeks ago on Twitter I shared a story about an interesting conversation I had with a colleague where I teach. The conversation that ensued after I posted that story was a brief but important one that led to the wonderful composer, piano pedagogue, and writer Melanie Spanswick asking if I'd write up a post based on the topic. How could I say no?
The thoughts I wrote about in this blog post, "Flipping Musical Misperceptions on their Heads," are near and dear to my heart in many ways so please do take a read and contribute your own experiences and thoughts if you wish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Being productive and creative while severely stressed

Last week I had one of those days where I felt there were tornado sirens and tornadoes going off in my head. 

It was ceaseless.

Even practicing the piano, which usually works to refocus me, did nothing for me. In fact, trying to practice brought my frustration to an even more unbearable level since that's usually my safe haven. 

By the end of the day I was frustrated and exhausted from trying to accomplish something...anything.

The next morning I work up with my head and heart still in a state. I couldn't endure another day like the previous one so I knew I had to do something different. As I was getting breakfast around I was struck with inspiration in the form of a bag of chocolate chips. Yep, chocolate chips. Not fancy ones. Semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Thank goodness I have a family that feels they are a must-have pantry item!)

I pulled the bag of chocolate chips out, found a small, clear, glass bowl and ceremoniously poured about 25 of them into it. 

Then I grabbed a large post-it note and was struck yet again with a bit of inspiration. I am by nature a list person. I have to-do apps on every device, armfuls of notebooks, and an office supply store-worthy stock of sticky notes so I have to-do lists everywhere but this time a different little voice than I'm used to inside my head clearly said
 "Erica, no to-do list today. What you need is a possibility list."


Yes, a possibility list. That different little voice went on to explain. 
"Maybe the problem with being a busy body and having tons of ideas is that your to-do list will never, ever end. And if you judge the success of your day by whether or not you got through your to-do list you'll only feel like you failed. So write a possibilities list instead and see each one you accomplish as something to celebrate."

My to-do list habit may be fine a lot of the time but perhaps it's not always the ideal motivator. Which is why I decided to listen to that different little voice to try something a bit different and to get myself back on track. There was one more thing the voice kept telling me.
"Put blinders on."

Usually I'm pretty good about focusing on the task at hand. I also tend to be a multi-tasker even though I realize that's not the ideal way to be. But in my previous day's state, the danger of having too many things on my to-do list and of relying on multi-tasking became painfully obvious. So I decided that during this experiment I was going to go through my day one "possibility" at a time. I would pick one and then put blinders on and focus on that one thing until it was done or until I had done a good amount of work on it and felt comfortable setting it aside. When I had successfully worked on a possibility I celebrated with a chocolate chip. One...chocolate...chip. I was quite amazed at how well this worked! By the end of the day I felt that I was back on track and that maybe I could even go back to my to-doist self. Or maybe I should just stick with the possibilities method/chocolate chip/blinders method?

It is rather tasty.