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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 20, No. 4

Five Tips for Music Students to Start the Year on a Good Note

by Michèle-Andrée Lanoue / January 1, 2015

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The old year has given way to the crescendo of 2015, and you know what they say – new year, new beginnings. It’s time to make our resolutions, and it’s time for musicians to trade in the champagne flute for their instruments! We’ve picked five suggestions for music teachers, seasoned musicians, and students alike for a successful year of practise.

1. Establish good working habits.

Regardless of the instrument or the institution, music teachers are unanimous on this point: students need to give themselves specific practises in order to achieve their goals.
“You need to have an iron will,” says Pierre Beaudry, who plays bass trombone with the OSM and teaches at McGill, the Conservatoire de Montréal, and the Université de Montréal. Concentration and intelligent, well-planned work are important aspects to Claude Richard, a violin professor and head of the string section at the Université de Montréal. Trumpet player Frédéric Demers agrees entirely. He instils in his students at the Conservatoire de Val-d’Or the absolute necessity of getting into good habits, especially finding a personal optimal method of working. “It’s better to practise well for 15 minutes than to practise ineffectively for 30 minutes.”

Andrée Azar, a violin professor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, suggests working on a balanced program every day including scales, studies, and pieces. “I suggest that my students work slowly and in a concrete manner in order to first analyse the complexities and technical processes, identify the elements that need work, and then use repetition to integrate good information.”

2. Listen.

Another consensus reigns among the professionals: musicians must regularly listen to music, “in order to take inspiration from the best musicians, be they performers, conductors, or composers,” explains Beaudry. Conductor Jean-François Rivest and trombonist Patrice Richer both stress the importance of regularly attending concerts. “Music needs to be done in a real, concrete way. Musicians live emotions; they communicate. Sharing this experience is fulfilling. It transforms our lives,” says the maestro, who is a teacher of orchestral direction as well as being the conductor and artistic director of the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal. The OM’s solo trombone and teacher at the Conservatoire de Montréal adds that it’s essential to listen to instruments other than one’s own.

3. Share your music.

“To make music is to constantly create a universe that one offers to others while thriving on one’s own art,” believes Beaudry. Music reinforces cohesion: it is played to unite us. “We need to express the passion of our art for the sake of conveying beauty,” he continues. Music effectively explores that which is most sensitive about our humanity, in both its unity and its diversity. “Playing for others is the best way to give back to society while in return getting the experience of people’s feedback.” For Beaudry, music implies willingness to live together, to talk to and listen to one another, and to accept one another’s music. Richard stresses that “you can’t wait until a concert to be musical and expressive. You should be that way during practise, even during scales and arpeggios, by practising them with inflection and expression.” Hélène Jodoin, who has taught piano at the Conservatoire de Rimouski and at École Secondaire Pierre-Laporte, emphasizes the importance of playing for someone or with someone once a week. “Sharing this pleasure is educational, motivating, and encouraging.”

4. Develop and maintain better physical form.

Musicians are athletes as far as Rivest is concerned, and they all too often suffer injuries. That’s why he advises stretching and warming up before playing. “Musicians also need to take a break while practising,” he says. It’s also important to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Jeff Poussier-Leduc, who studies bassoon at the Master’s level at the Université de Montréal, suggests meditation in order to have full consciousness of one’s body and mind and to control stress before performing in front of an audience.

5. Take pleasure in playing.

For Richer, it’s essential to make music “for the pure and simple pleasure of it.” Once the practise routine is established, the pleasure follows, believes Jodoin. “Never underestimate the magic, the power of music,” concludes Beaudry.

Musicians, to your instruments! And have a successful, musical 2015.

Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark

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