I tell my students that you can’t cram piano. Skills like sight reading, memorizing, and developing technique must be worked on every day so the ability is in place when it really counts. Cut corners in your practising and you won’t be able to deliver under the pressure of performance.

Last week I found myself in a high pressure situation. On Monday I received an emergency request to accompany a university student for a jury…on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the regular accompanist had cancelled at the last moment, and was I available to step in? The music was delivered Monday evening, and I read through the score a few times after I finished teaching. First thing Tuesday morning, I sat down at the piano again. Mid-morning the student arrived for rehearsal. Things went well, and we finished with enough time for a rest before the jury. Then it was time.

Several things contributed to our successful performance. The student was well-prepared and handled any feelings of panic very calmly. Years of teaching, analyzing, and accompanying brought things into sharp focus so I could prioritize and learn the music quickly. The performance was good because everyone had done their homework. And the jury didn’t suspect a thing.