Saturday, May 27, 2017

Have trouble learning all your music? Read this!

Post 20 of 31 for May 2017!

I wish I could remember the name of the class or the teacher, but even though I don't, I'm very grateful to them for sharing the article "Hospital Corners" from It doesn't seem like the website is still running, but I saved a copy of the article because I knew it would be meaningful to me and my students in the future!

The article copy I have is just a blurry printout, so I thought I would retype it here so you can read it more easily. I encourage you to read the story patiently (instead of just skimming) and think about any connections to you, your practicing, and performing that may be helpful. 

September 17, 2008

hopital corners.

In this hand you have the theory, and in this hand the practice, and in the difference of their unfolding we make the beds our patients lay in. 

As a new student nurse I was instructed in the correct way to make a hospital bed. A neatly folded rectangle of starched white is placed in the center of the bed and carefully folded. 

This was done slowly, in a sort of gentle reverse origami, so as not to generate disturbing air vortices that might spread organisms from one patient to another. The overhanging sheet is tucked under the mattress with a series of slow poking karate chops. When you got good at it, you could tuck the entire length of the mattress with a single letter-opening sweep.

The sheet is tied under the mattress at one end, to stop the patient sliding down when the head of the bed is elevated. Granny knot. A tricky fixing 'cause the sheet only just reaches, and if you pull it through too much you end up with a banana bend in your bed. 

Do it right and your bed is smooth as wedding cake marzipan. 

Finally, the flourish that is the hospital corner. Lift the edge, corner tucks under and the overhang falls back down. Just like folding the nose of a paper plane. Flip. Flop. 

My first day on a busy surgical ward and the registered nurse takes me out to make some beds. I place the starched rectangle in the center of the bed and began the unfolding. I am at one with the sheet. 

Open, open, over and out to the edge. Move around to the other side. Open, open, over and out to the edge.

The nurse bends over the bed. Leans in real close.

Sweep down the edge (I had been practicing this move), and then flip...
'Ian!!...what in the name of Nightingales nipples do you think you are doing exactly?'

Grabbing the sheet the nurse pulled my work undone and with a fisherman's cast, slung the sheet out over the bed. It spun out in an instant of frozen gossamer before collapsing with a Hindenburg flop atop the mattress. It was crimpled and slightly askew.

Left over right. Right over left. On goes the top sheet. And the blanket. Fold it all back. Pillow is jackhammered into its case. Flop. Done.
'We have twelve beds to make and then five people to shower in the next 45 minutes! Then we have to do the pill round and change those dressings. Save the bedroom Zen for home...this is a hospital!'

And so I began to realize the difference between what we should do, and what we must do. 

As musicians, there is a constant battle between the old-school-take-your-time-polish-every-detail-patient-preparation that would make our music as "perfect" as humanly possible vs. the reality of a busy schedule and upcoming performance deadlines. 

My last post, The Practice Honesty Awesomeness Policy, mentions how honest, detailed practice is actually easier (and much, much, better!), but I also think it's important to recognize when our practicing polishing has turned into obsessive perfectionism. 

Occasionally, a student will come into a lesson with a piece only half-learned, or the hard parts completely skipped, and then tell me the reason is that they were striving for quality over quantity. I try my best to explain that quality over quantity is important to a degree, but that quantity cannot be ignored! When it's time to perform, you can only perform the entire musical work, not just selected parts. 

My solution to this tricky balance is to combine honest practicing with constant practice flow. Even if some sections of new music need a slower tempo or a practice game version, if I decide to work on a piece, I work on the entire piece! This way, there are no notes or rhythms that I have not engaged with before I put the piece away for the day. 

Remember, beauty in the details is a huge part of high quality music making, but it is definitely not an excuse to avoid the big picture.

Happy Practicing!
Terri Sánchez

P.S. HERE is a link to the page with an ongoing list of posts from my 31 Posts in 31 Days May 2017 Challenge. I've received three donations as a result of my posts so far, and it would mean the world to me if you added your donation to the Maverick Flute Choir GoFundMe Campaign - thank you!!