The Fall Season is a magical time of year in the Midwest. Trees and bushes that were flush with deep green leaves begin to change color ever so slightly as the nights lengthen. And then suddenly, after one deep frost, the magic bursts on the scene – golden yellows, blood reds, dark magentas, vibrant oranges. With a light jacket, one can traverse the neighborhood to breathe in the crisp fall air, lean toward the autumn sun, and delight in the visual magic.
This magic is a gift from the universe. It is nothing that can be managed, controlled, or manipulated. Yes, one can plant wisely (and even take a chance on that favorite plant that might not be perfect for our climate), prune carefully, and fertilize and water faithfully. But the magic is largely out of our control.
Likewise, for musicians, we give the gift of magic for the universe in our performances. We plant wisely in choosing our repertoire: Do I best highlight my gifts? What is the best opener? Where do I sneak in that piece I want to share despite the challenges? Is the show-stopper timed to grab the listener? We prune carefully: Is the program an appropriate length for my ability; for my audience’s attention span?
We fertilize and water faithfully in our practice habits. Have I decided the mood and emotion behind the piece before I take it to the piano? Do I know the structure? Where are the high points? Where is the surprise? Where will I need extra stamina? When I take practice to the piano do I employ careful note-reading from the outset at a slow enough tempo and in small enough segments to develop accurate and reliable muscle memory? Do I play, rich with expression - dynamics, articulation, and phrasing – all the colors?
Once all is said and done, the bigger, more over-riding question must be asked: Am I allowing the magic to unfold? I think for musicians that means, “am I releasing control over every note, dynamic marking, and articulation direction to simply let my heart and soul make connection with another?” This is the scariest leap of faith we can make. And the most rewarding. When it happens, the colors take on a rich hue, the sun shines deeply in our hearts, and we experience a magical link between ourselves, the audience, the composer, and the universe.