The Value of Process | December 5, 2014

The Value of Process

In November, Mr. Gold, Ms. Warner, and I performed a Schubert trio for you, and today I want to talk not about the performance you saw and heard, but about the part you did not see or hear: the rehearsals.

I know from your response during our performance that not all of you are accustomed to listening to live classical music. This is not a critical comment. It is an observation. For some of you, the Schubert piece felt long. I also noticed that for some of you, when I lowered my bow hand, you thought the piece was over and you started to clap. This shows me that you were very tuned in to the performance with your eyes but perhaps not as tuned in with your ears. It takes practice, and if you have listened to classical music a lot, you know exactly when a piece is over because of its tempo, key, rhythmical patterns, and harmonization. Perhaps it surprises you that I was so aware of what you as an audience was doing, but as our student actors and musicians know, being aware of the audience is just one of the things a performer must tend to as he or she performs.

While Mr. Gold and Ms. Warner made what they do look easy, you should know that it takes hours of practice to become as accomplished as they are. The amount of rehearsal time they have devoted to their instruments would be, more or less, the equivalent number of hours it would take to earn a Ph.D. I put their talent in these terms because it is an end result that might be more tangible for we Americans who tend to measure our lives not by our ability to rehearse, to practice, to study or to learn but by the end result, the performance, the tournament play, the academic award, or the grade.

With the end result in mind, you may be interested to know that what Mr. Gold, Ms. Warner and I liked best about our collaborative work together was not the performance but the rehearsals.

When we first got together we were, in a sense, exploring the music to learn what we needed to learn, and it was clear to the three of us that we were going to have a lot of fun preparing for the performance because we love learning, we love working hard, and, quite simply, we love making music.

Each rehearsal we heard different elements as we became comfortable with the piece and with each other. Playing music is an intimate experience; you are focusing on your part while listening carefully to your fellow musicians, responding to their interpretation while asserting your own interpretation on the piece. Playing classical music, like reading poetry, is open to many interpretations. The beauty of each rehearsal was that we discovered more and more about each other and how we each heard the piece then, together, we created one sound that was our interpretation of how we collectively heard the music.

This kind of collaboration is something we could all do more frequently whether we are musicians, actors, athletes, scholars, or decision-makers.

At MBS, we want you to engage in your learning, to enjoy the process and collaboration, the practices, and the rehearsals as much or more than the end result. You are not a product to be molded and shaped but rather an individual who, with guidance and encouragement, will find your own path to fulfillment and success.

Recently, Mr. Lovelock and members of the English department took some MBS writers on a retreat during which the writers wrote prolifically and they were focused on process not product. They were not hindered by trying to finish anything. Mr. Lovelock's vision when he created this retreat was to use writing as a way to think about and make shape of the world.

One writer spent the weekend writing a story, and at the end of her time she realized she had not written the story she'd thought. In fact, she'd written everything she needed to get out of the way before she could start the real story. Mr. Lovelock described her writing this way: "Her writing was the process of clearing away the debris so she could build." That is process at its best.

I know that some of our actors feel the same way. Although the performance is exhilarating and fun, it is during the rehearsal, when members of the cast discover their identity both individually and as a group, that most of the learning occurs. Talk to a member of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, and I bet that they will say that, during the weeks of rehearsal leading up to the performance they became a family. The performance itself was simply an exhibition of what they had learned together.

If you go through life always looking ahead, trying desperately to achieve a specific goal like a grade, a college acceptance, a faster time in a race, or a fancier mobile device, you will miss out on the here and now, the process that makes life so enjoyable.

What you are doing right now at MBS is valuable in and of itself. Your hard work, genuine curiosity, engagement, and heartfelt passion are the cornerstones to a good life. Hopefully, the MBS culture of support and collaboration will help each of you find your own, individual pathways to academic success, personal fulfillment and social responsibility through a process that is unique to you.


 

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