Monday, February 7, 2011

Painful but Prepared

I’m sorry to show this to you if you already saw it live, however, as a piano teacher, I must make comment on it.

Oh, to forget the words of our national anthem. On live tv. At the Super Bowl. And now on YouTube for the world to see over and over and over…Perhaps the only worse thing that could happen to a performer would to be forget them at at presidential inauguration!!

I will defend Miss Aguilera.

1) Have you ever sung the National Anthem by yourself in front of anyone, let alone a Super Bowl audience?

2) Did she show her mistake?

3) Did she sing off key?

4) Did her mistake show that she was lip-syncing or in any other way enhanced?

5) Could you sing, right now all the lyrics to the National Anthem ALOUD, and I don’t care if you do it by yourself, locked in your room (or in the bathroom where you will sound better) and get all the words right? Huh? Could’ya?!

6) Did her mistake prove in any other way that she was unprepared for her performance?

7) Are you or she perfect?


My piano studio is about ready to enter the recital season. They will play two pieces from memory in front of mom, dad, a couple of dragged along siblings, other random relatives and perhaps a few friends who may have just come for the cake. Despite the friendly audience, it is no less nerve-wracking. I, myself, sit there with shakes and jitters for them and pretty much break down after the last student is finished.

I am going to show them this video at their next group lesson. Christina Aguilera does a fantastic job of showing grace under pressure. Yep, she messed up, it happens to the best. In no way should one think that just because you are a famous whatever, you don’t get nervous and that your body won’t do something it never does. In fact, her entire performance, memory slip aside, shows her to be completely prepared. It was one of the better Super Bowl National Anthems I’ve seen in quite a while- well-intoned, entertaining but not overly done, with plenty of character to make it her own, not someone else’s. She sold it to the end. If she realized what she had done, she never let on! How many of us could do that?

I tell my students when they worry about making mistakes and others hearing it, that there are really a lot of things going for them.

1) Could the audience do what they are doing? No, they are the audience.

2) Who in the audience know their pieces? Who has lived it, breathed it, seen it in their dreams? Maybe Mom and Dad, but they’re not actually playing it.

3) Does the audience actually know the piece? Are they going to know when you made a mistake? Sometimes the answer is yes because the mistake is evident, but so many times the answer is actually no.

4) Who’s doing the playing, you or them? You! If they want to be overly critical, then they can get up there and do it!!

We talk about being prepared. There is nothing to replace the time you live and work through your music, or whatever you endeavor. You must work to be prepared. But just in case a mistake happens…

1) Don’t let it show. No contorted facial expression, no slumping body posture.

2) Find the next on ramp. Know where you can jump to in the music to go forward. Repeating the section usually will result in the same mistake being made.

3) Enhance other features- bring out the louds and softs or wonderful melody line to draw the audience to the shiny things.

4) Know the end of the piece. Seriously, you can mess up big portions, skipping over sections, but they will always remember the ending.

5) Always take a bow. You did it, for better or for worse. You did it! Receive your applause.

Did the Super Bowl performance match my advice? Yes. She’s going to have to live with the onslaught of criticism and, you bet, she’s going to wrestle with herself to the point of madness. The stakes are bigger the higher up the ladder you go. But if she’s the performer I think she is, she’s also going to learn from it. She’s going to take steps to ensure her preparedness even more. I hope Christina Aguilera comes out on top- she’s come too far to back away now.

As for the other Super Bowl performance- well, I’d just like to focus on the lessons learned from the aforementioned highly talented performer. Though, I thought Slash did great- he knows how to play his guitar. He must practice a lot with a girl draped over him. Smile

1 comment:

  1. Well, as you said, who's perfect? There is only One I know that is.

    I've sung the National Anthem in a group before....that's even scary!

    It is a great lesson that you gathered from the performance. I've heard many worse! (One of which got smacked by a log during a commercial.) :)


Thanks for reading. Kind comments are always welcomed!