It’s so important to practice in such a way that you learn to “know” a piece rather than just manage to get through it. I tell my students that, should music blow off a stand when they are playing an audition, they should be able to continue playing. I don’t require memorization, but once one has worked long and hard (and well!) on a piece, it’s usually “in the fingers” and is memorized, whether we know it or not. I have orchestral solos memorized, even while we all are allowed to use our music. Spend enough time with something and it’s just THERE. Trust me.
Sometimes a student will say, “I used to know this, but I don’t know it any more.” I ask, “Why not?” “Because I haven’t played it for a month.” “Hmm … can you recite your alphabet for me, please?” That usually gets a look that implies he or she thinks I’m a bit nuts (of course I am!). The the alphabet is recited. Perfectly. With no hesitation. I smile and say, “When’s the last time you practiced that?!”
They get the idea.
Yesterday I forgot my music reading glasses. I opened up the glasses case and … oh dear! … they must have escaped and stayed home. Silly glasses. (Surely I wouldn’t have made a mistake and forgotten to put them in the case, right?!) Without those special glasses the music is blurry and it’s certainly not fun to go without them, but I had no choice. Everything was fine. I played my part.
I know my music. :-)
When students are working on a solo that I’ve played, I sometimes just start to play it for them. I don’t need the music. It’s in my fingers. (The interesting thing is it’s also in my vocal muscle memory and I’ll start singing it on key as well. I love how our brains work with things like that.) The only time I start to fumble with notes is when I start to second guess what my fingers are doing. One needs to trust those “finger brains”. (Yes, I call them “finger brains”. Cute story: I was talking about finger brains to a new rather young student once and he looked at me very seriously and explained that we don’t NOT have brains in our fingers. I loved that!)
As I wrote above, I don’t require memorization, but I do require students know their music. It’s just how it works.