6 Questions to Help You Evaluate Your Performances
On Saturday, March 4th, I gave a solo recital for my family, friends, and students. I'll be sharing 6 questions that I used to evaluate my own performance, as well as my honest answers to these questions.
The program was:
Fantasia in e minor - Telemann Sonatine quasi fantaisa in G Major - Gaubert Night Soliloquy - Kennan
Orange Dawn - Clarke
Tango Etude no. 4 (alto flute) - Piazzolla
Sonata in A Major - Bach
It was a very ambitious program, which meant lots of opportunity for great music-making...and a lot of opportunities for error. Let's dive into it:
1. Technique: How did you feel about your technical execution during the performance? Were there any moments where you felt you could have played more accurately or expressively?
Listening back to the recording, I noticed that I took some tempos a lot faster than I had rehearsed - oops. I need to be more conscious of playing too fast when I get excited. I was also dissatisfied with my tone production in the low register, especially during the Telemann. There are some low articulated passages that could have come out clearer.
Intonation, however, was solid - someone even told me afterward that it was so in tune, he couldn't tell the difference between the flute and piano at some points (probably my favorite compliment of the evening!) I also felt very connected to my body and aware of the physical aspects of my flute-playing, such as breathing, avoiding tension in my neck and shoulders, and keeping an open throat.
Overall, I felt satisfied with my technique. My strengths included tone production and intonation; weaknesses were low-register articulation and playing things too fast.
2. Interpretation: How did you feel about your interpretation of the music? Were there any moments where you felt you could have conveyed the emotions of the piece more effectively?
The piece I felt that I played most convincingly was Night Soliloquy. The piece fascinates me and I connect to it on an emotional level, so it felt the most natural to perform.
Though I tried to play stylistically accurately in the Bach, one comment I received was that it didn't really sound like Bach because of the timbre and articulation of the piano. I could have talked with my pianist about matching our articulation and tone colors so we could have a more cohesive sound.
3. Preparation: Did you feel well-prepared for the performance? Were there any aspects of the preparation process that could have been improved upon?
I started preparing for this recital in January, which meant I had a little under 3 months to prepare. I was satisfied with my preparation process. Besides practicing the music, I also studied the score and listened to and critiqued a few different interpretations of each piece, which helped me understand the music at a theoretical level.
I distinctly remember one wrong note that I played in the Bach - I played a G# where it should have been a G natural. My Bach-loving friend didn't notice because there were "so many notes." But even though the mistake was imperceptible, it still meant that the piece was not completely in my fingers. The Bach in particular could have benefited from more slow practice.
4. Communication: Did you effectively communicate with your fellow performers during the performance? Were there any moments where you felt you could have better coordinated your playing with others in the ensemble?
I consider ensemble-playing one of my strengths; however, I felt the most insecure about the Gaubert. There were many tempo changes and breathing spots that are tricky to convey. We fell apart in the first movement but were able to find each other again, and apparently nobody noticed. We could probably have used one more shorter rehearsal to solidify the piece.
5. Impact: Did you receive any feedback or criticism from others about the performance? If so, what was the feedback, and how did you respond to it?
When I talked to the audience after the recital, I thought it was interesting that every piece on the program was somebody's favorite. I was also glad to hear they learned a lot about both the music and my instruments. Overall, feedback was that my program was varied and engaging.
6. Takeaways: What lessons did you learn from the performance that you can apply to future performances or practice sessions?
Take more time to let the music "breathe"
Could have benefited from one extra rehearsal to solidify ensemble.
More slow practice couldn't hurt, especially for note-y pieces like the Bach.
Audience seemed to like the programming & way I presented the music; keep doing more of that.
Self-evaluation of your performances is important for identifying areas of playing that need improvement, such as technical skills, ensemble communication, or musical interpretation. But don't forget to celebrate your success! As a perfectionist, I struggle with this; I'm so focused on every mistake I made that I often have trouble enjoying the moment.
One of my college conductors reminded our orchestra of the importance of celebrating every performance before reflecting and critiquing. Enjoy the evening; have fun, and don't forget why you do what you do. There is a time for everything - the night of the performance is for celebration; the day after is for reflection. So celebrate before you reflect!