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What's Wrong With Me? Performing the Prokofiev Three Piano Concerto

Dr. Michelle Conda is the Head of the Keyboard Division and Coordinator of Secondary Piano and Piano Pedagogy and Professor of Piano at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma, where she studied piano with Dr. Jane Magrath and pedagogy with Dr. Jane Magrath and Dr. E. L. Lancaster. She received her M.M. in piano performance from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and her B.M. in piano performance from Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. The pedagogy program in CCM includes undergraduate pedagogy, graduate pedagogy, and a cognate (minor) in pedagogy on the doctoral level. CCM graduates with cognates in pedagogy can be found in teaching positions all over the country, including Louisiana, Nevada, Colorado, and Ohio. Dr. Conda is Associate Editor for Keyboard Companion magazine, for which she heads the “Adult Study” column. Other writings can be found in Soundpost, Piano Forum, and American Music Teacher. She is one of the founding members of GP3—National Group Piano/Piano Pedagogy Forum, which held its fifth event in August 2008. Dr. Conda is a member of the Cincinnati Community Orchestra, for which she has performed as soloist for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Shostakovich Concerto #2, a four hand concerto with her husband—Interplay by Michigan composer David Gillingham, Khatchaturian's Piano Concerto and most recently Prokofiev's Piano Concerto #3.


Prokofiev 3. Prok 3. I don’t care what you call it, I call it wicked. I’m not saying I don’t like it, it’s actually a fantastic piece. It’s just hard. Very hard. Or maybe it’s me. I’m just too old to play this. Oh the doubt of a pianist—an older pianist. An old pianist. My whole life I’ve learned music easily. Once I learned the Schumann concerto in a month and a half. I memorized it as I learned it. That wasn’t that long ago, was it? I called myself a pianist back then with no trouble. Oh, those were the good old days. Old-the word comes up again. Perhaps the reason I have to practice eight hours a day on this piece is I’m old. I don’t have it anymore. Wow, this self doubt is killing me. I find I’m doubting my sightreading, doubting my performing, doubting my talent. I have developed a fear of performing, something I’ve not felt for a long time. This is especially ironic because my area of expertise is andragogy. I like and specialize working with adults, especially older adults. Now that I am one of the people I preached about, and I don’t like it one bit. Last year was horrible. At first I got terribly depressed, then I started talking about my learning issues. I talked with students—they reminded me how hard this piece is. One said she wouldn’t learn it because it was too hard. And she’s young! My husband warned me this is one of the harder works of the concerti repertoire. My mood started lifting. Truth #1: Before I started working on this piece, I hadn’t practiced in at least six months. My fingers were rusty and certainly not able to do the type of playing this piece requires. Truth #2: I wasn’t familiar with this piece or the “language”it represents before I started preparing for the concert. My knowledge of Prokofiev was one piece which took me just as long to learn. Truth #3: I couldn’t make a recording or get an accurate recording of the orchestral part to practice along with. Truth #4: I got no coaching. When I played the Schumann concerto, I traded computer lessons for piano lessons. Why had I forgotten that? Ultimately, I performed it, after a year of extreme practice. I played with music with my husband turning pages. No, it wasn’t the memorization, it was the comfort of him at my side. Recently Brianna Matzke shared an article with me that I wish I had read earlier. Every one needs a little help, no matter what age, skill and profession. [Read the article here:] I also suggest keep playing. Don’t get as rusty as I did.

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