Quantity of Rehearsals vs. Performance
Our stake had a Fourth of July program last week. One of the numbers was a difficult a capella arrangement of “Homeward Bound.” (The arrangement we did was based on this one by BYU’s Vocal Point.) The director started rehearsals for this early in May, several weeks before the actual performance. If you do the math, allowing for how many people were in the chorus, the director’s time in making compiling the arrangement, the rehearsal accompanist, etc, there were easily several hundred hours that went into what is essentially a three-and-a-half minute performance.
There appears to be something not quite balanced in the ratio of rehearsal hours compared to mere minutes of a performance. I believe there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.
“Mark” the Steps
Every performance art has some form of noting when a rehearsal is being done with maximum effort or minimal. In dance, it’s called “marking,” which means to just half-heartedly go through the moves without any serious effort. Any serious dancer will tell you that’s acceptable if you’re learning a new stage or floor, but any other time, a good dancer will put in the maximum effort each time.
As I learn new pieces on the cello or piano, when I first encounter a difficult passage, instead of skippity-skipping right through it, I make a concerted effort to slow down to learn each note and how it falls into sequence with the other notes. It can get pretty boring and repetitive, but when it’s time to perform the number, I can be more confident that because I practiced it correctly, the muscle memory will kick in even in moments of high stress, and I will be able to play it more accurately than if I had just gone through the motions.
Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect
In The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill tells the boys of the town that the best way to learn a number is to simply think about it. He then has them hum a Beethoven melody over and over again to become familiar with the melody. He tells them practicing is unnecessary, as long as you know what you’re going to perform.
It makes for a nice humorous moment in the play, but is completely inaccurate.
The way you practice something – anything – is the way you learn it, the way it becomes engrained in your muscle and emotional memory. Does that mean it becomes perfect? No, not unless you practice it with the intent to make it perfect. Practice always does make permanent, though. How you practice is how you’ll “perform.” Just being familiar with something is not sufficient to perform it with any degree of accuracy.
So you go to rehearsal after rehearsal. You review the notes, or the steps, time after repetitive time, and you put in the work so you can sound (or look) good when it’s time to perform.
Practice Makes Permanent
This principle applies not only to “performance arts,” but in every aspect we choose to live our lives, or live the gospel. You can go to Sunday school classes and hear lesson after lesson about being kind, or living a life patterned after Jesus’, but until you begin to practice those principles yourself, you are no more like Christ than the boys in River City can play Beethoven’s Minuet in G.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do—not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” And Heber J. Grant said, “It is by exercise and by practice that we become proficient in any of the vocations or avocations of life, whether it be of a religious or of a secular character.” (Gospel Standards, 184.)
Every choice we make, every action we do, or word we speak, are all a million tiny decisions that comprise the larger part of who we are and choosing to become. What we do determines who we are. Practice makes permanent.