what if there were no performances?
In the world of professional orchestras, rehearsals exist in order to prepare for performances. In the world of educational orchestras, that relationship is not quite the same. Since the purpose of educational orchestras is not only to put on stellar performances, but also to inform and tech both the members and the audience, rehearsals do not serve such a single-minded purpose. I had a discussion with one of my colleagues a few days ago about the relationship between rehearsals and performance. She mentioned that in a band she once worked with, rehearsals were somewhat casual until just before the concert, when everyone would (finally!) focus and make considerable progress. I know how frustrating this is. When you're planning for an event in 10 days, it's tempting to be a bit lax at first, then build up to the final day. But what if your goal isn't the final day?
I told my colleague that I like to think of every event -- a group rehearsal, a performance, a solo practice session, a warmup -- as a rehearsal. If I approach every moment with the attitude that this is a time to study and make progress, then every moment will be like that. Because equally common as finally getting serious just in time for the concert is finally relaxing at the concert: We've finally made it to the end; this is a celebration of our hard work! That relaxation is the moment that we stop thinking, stop learning.
Relaxation is good sometimes. It's good to relax when you've accomplished all you wanted to accomplish. Reward yourself! The professional orchestra musicians all head to the local bars after the performance. But they know that they'll be playing (or teaching) the same pieces again in a handful or months or years, and that even though this is an endpoint now, it's also an early rehearsal for next time. And while this might sound like a lot of obsessive planning ahead for a performance that may or may not happen, it's really about focusing on the present. What can I learn right now? How can I make this a meaningful experience? How can I continue to challenge and teach myself?
That's why I love the mistakes in rehearsals; all the stopping and restarting. It teaches you how to improve the music, as well as how to improve your attitude, your practice methods, your endurance, your patience, a number of things.
What if there were no performances? I suspect there would be a lot fewer people in the "performing" arts. There's an energy that comes with performances, but there's a different energy that comes with rehearsals. I think performance energy is sort of exothermic -- it sends energy outward to others and creates a feedback between people. And while rehearsals do the same, I think the energy is a little more endothermic there. It's about improving yourself, and doing it with the help of other people. I've always found that the more thrilling of the two, if a bit more stressful.
So I'm trying to live without performances these days. Everything is a learning experience. Everything can serve me again; I just need to store the meaningful lessons now and remember to use them later. Thinking like this forces me not only to notice everything, to respect it and reflect meaningfully on it. It may seem like a lot of unnecessary thinking, but it's served me well thus far.