I heard a quote by Oprah Winfrey this week which struck me as extremely useful and hope-filled for aspiring young musicians. She said, “I define luck in this way: Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.”
Preparation is something we can control. One never knows when a special masterclass, audition, or performance opportunity will present itself. I usually plan for each advanced level student to thoroughly learn four pieces and keep them ready: a concerto, a sonata movement, a showpiece, and a movement of unaccompanied Bach. Once they have prepped a full program, new pieces can be assigned and subbed into the program as they are ready. Here’s an example:
- Mendelssohn Concerto, 3rd mvt.
- Mozart Sonata in e minor, 1st mvt.
- Bach Partita in E Major, Gavotte en Rondeau
- Kreisler Danse Espagnole from La Vida Breve
When the student is ready to learn a new piece, I might assign the Bruch Concerto, 3rd mvt. and then trade out the Mendelssohn for the Bruch once it’s ready. The beauty of this approach is the maturity which develops over time in these programs. Since the student maintains the repertoire over a long period of time, musical nuance, phrasing, and understanding of the work deepens with familiarity.
I can’t impress upon my students enough the importance of always being ready. You never know when the chance to play for a great teacher will occur, which could create a long-lasting connection, and then materialize into a scholarship or even acceptance into a prominent college at a later date.
Maintaining a state of preparedness also contributes to overall confidence. There’s security in knowing an opportunity will never be missed. Students can improve their luck by practicing the art of being prepared.