I am just now coming out of a self-imposed sealing off from society, of sorts. This past week, I had three auditions for graduate programs in collaborative piano, all of them nearly back to back. To prepare, I essentially cut myself off from everything that wasn't sleep, semi-regular meals, work, and practice for the better part of two months.

You learn things about yourself when you do something as extreme as that, as it turns out… The first thing I learned is that it's not necessarily good for my emotional well being to be cut off from most contact for that long. When that nagging voice in what I suspect every performer or artist's head comes sneaking back in, whispering things like "What are you even doing this for?" or "Who do you think you are?", it's good to have people more level-headed than yourself to snap you out of the ensuing funk.

Second, I learned -- or, more accurately, re-learned -- that music is, at least for me, not just a left-brain or right-brain activity, but one that bridges the hemispheres in a way that nothing else I do can. I was furiously practicing a Bach prelude and fugue when my mind started wandering (it had been a long month). I started thinking about the performance of the pieces; how a prelude and fugue pair is essentially a musical puzzle to be solved, how the three equal voices are split between two hands in an ever-changing sequence of permutations, to the point of the pieces being exercises in "Look what music can do!"

I'd spent a lot of time working on the emotional aspect of my music-making -- how to convey meaning through piano and voice -- and it was good to focus back on the physical and mental aspects of it; to get my brain to convince my hands to work in tandem to create melodies and harmonies that a few months ago I couldn't even dream of doing.

I have no idea what will happen with this application process, but my hands (and brain) are in far better shape than they've been in years, and I'm excited to apply what I've retrained myself to do to this record.

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