Last weekend, we had the opportunity to see Itzhak Perlman perform live at the Kohler Memorial Theatre in Kohler, WI. I knew it would be an exciting, memorable evening, and it was! Perlman was accompanied by pianist Rohan De Silva, and together they put on a wonderful performance – joyful, intense, playful and moving.
Capping the evening was the public Q & A, held after the 90-minute performance. Perlman returned to the stage and patiently took questions from two lines of people on either side of the theater, sharing how he prepares for his performances, the emotion he most identifies with when playing – happiness – and tips from his practice regimen. That’s when things got interesting. One young girl asked him how many hours he practices, and he said something about the amount of hours not mattering as much as how one practices.
And that should be done slowly. Play slowly, he advised, because it’s easier to remember what you’ve learned when you play slowly, as opposed to rushing through a piece.
Interesting, isn’t it? For part of the performance, I was in “writer’s mode,” wondering what it would be like to interview Perlman, to learn more about what motivates him. How did polio shape him as an artist? How does he choose one piece over another? But when he mentioned playing slowly, my attention was snagged. How could I use this advice in writing?
I won’t take this literally, reverting to my hunt-and-peck typing of high school days! What I translate this to mean for me is a more purposeful approach to writing. Choosing a word with deliberation. Putting the pressure of a deadline aside, so I can focus on the writing and not the time.
I was talking to a friend over the weekend – she’s working on a new book, and said she jettisoned several pages of writing. She revisited her work, and this part didn’t measure up, so it was time to choose some new words. I’ve talked about this before, and Perlman’s advice resonated – whatever you’re doing, do it carefully, with thought.
The highlight of the Q & A session was definitely our six-year-old niece, who attended because Perlman is her musical hero. She bravely went to the front to ask Perlman if he wrote his own music. He was gracious and friendly, saying that no, he didn’t, because “if I tried to write my own music, it isn’t going to be as good as the music that’s already written, so I prefer to play what’s already written.”
Enjoy the link below! It’s Perlman performing the theme from the movie Schindler’s List at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He performed it at the Kohler event, and the audience was absolutely silent throughout, erupting into applause as he finished.