On Saturday I accompanied a ton of intermediate school musicians at a local competition event. At their level, the piano parts were not terribly difficult and the judges were mostly there to encourage the students to stick with their musical training. It was fun to work with them, and I made a little money. Over lunch, while sitting with one of the event organizers, I even made a couple of strategic suggestions that may improve their scheduling system in the future. The most flattering part, though, was when one of the teachers pre-booked me for next year's event.
I walked away from that event believing that I was a skilled accompanist, an insightful strategist, and a valued musician. Then I went to work on some of the high school accompaniments I am preparing for a couple of weeks out. These piano parts are a bit more challenging, and I was really struggling with a couple of them. One in particular was marked "Allegro con Vivo," which I was interpreting to mean "faster than you would like." It was a difficult piece of music. Nearly at the limit of my ability.
Then, I rehearsed with the saxophonist Monday morning. I asked him about his tempo, since "Allegro con Vivo" is a rather subjective marking. I was astonished that his speed was nearly half the speed I had been practicing. It still sounded fast, and it still had liveliness. But now it was suddenly an easy piece of music. Of course, I'll still practice it and prepare for this student's performance, but I won't dread it or use it as evidence that my skills aren't enough.
Now I'm wondering what else seems to be at the limit of my ability. What else am I making more difficult than it actually has to be?