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On Being Prepared

I recently returned from a visit to Naples, Florida.  (Go ahead. Hate me.)  While there, I had the privilege of observing a rehearsal of the Naples Philharmonic Chorus as they prepared to present a selection of Haydn’s “Coronation Anthems” in concert.  The chorus is an auditioned group of volunteers.  From the level of musicianship, I would guess most, if not all, of the members has some real music training.  They are quite good.

This particular rehearsal was the first with the guest conductor, Patrick Quigley.  Quigley is an energetic young man, Harvard-trained, with a burgeoning conducting career.  It was apparent right away he not only knew the score intimately, he also knew exactly what he wanted from the chorus and how to go about getting it.  Granted, by the time he stood before them the chorus was already well-prepped on the music.  But  in little more than an hour, Quigley shaped the sound of the chorus into something different.  He brought out subtle nuances.  He focused on the small details that make a big difference in performance. In short, Quigley was completely prepared for the moment.  And it showed.

What a difference that sort of preparation can make – in any undertaking.  Whether it is schoolteaching, plumbing repair, or songwriting, solid preparation makes a world of difference when it comes time to deliver.  And poor preparation almost always leads to disappointment, if not disaster.

When I am well-prepared, I am confident.  When I am confident, I am relaxed.  When I am relaxed, I am a better teacher, writer, producer, and so on.

When I am not prepared, I can only pray that things don’t fall apart – no matter the task at hand.

So – how well-prepared are you to tackle your next song, or arrangement, or orchestration?  Have you been reading?  Listening to new music? Learning new skills? Mastering old skills?

Preparation is the first stage in the creative process.  Conscious thought precedes sub-conscious thought.  You feed your brain and then allow it to move freely.

And if you are like me at this moment, at the end of a long and arduous creative project that has seemingly drained all your creativity, maybe it’s time to re-charge.  To read, listen, pray.  For the creative mind these things are preparation.

This afternoon, I am headed to Austin to teach.  For the sake of my students and my own reputation, i hope I am sufficiently prepared.


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