"Practice, Play, Perform"
The time is 2003 and I proclaim to the world that "I, Chris Vazquez, am going to be a musician." How? Well, I didn't think that far ahead. As far as I knew, I had a guitar and I could kind of play it. I figured that would be enough.
My guitar teacher at the time was a man named Gustavo Them. Gustavo was a strict classical guitar teacher preparing me to follow in his footsteps. Every lesson, Gustavo insisted that I stop practicing and start playing. At my age I just rolled my eyes. However, after practicing passages over and over and eventually stringing them together, I began to play full pieces. In the classical world, a guitarist plays with their finger nails and creates a similar fullness to the piano. A classical guitarist is complete on their own. Once I could get through a whole piece, Gustavo would say, "Now play!" He explained that now, since I knew how to get through, I could put myself into the piece. Gustavo wanted me to show my emotions in the music. He wanted me to stop thinking and just let the music come out. He wanted me to have fun.
These music lessons were preparing me to audition for the Baltimore School for Arts, a free, world-renowned arts high school in Baltimore. Once I could play, Gustavo said, "Now we must perform." To him, as well as many other teachers that I had over the years, performing was the culmination of practice and play. Performing was mastery to a point where a musician of any age or skill level could execute their piece with absolute confidence, delivering it to the audience exactly how they intended.
This concept was echoed throughout my career as recently as a year ago when Troy Lauretta, the music director for Ariana Grande, said "Play everything like it's a record...like whatever comes out is being recorded in history. You are proud." Troy and I have played many shows together over the years. As a music director Troy would rehearse the band (i.e. practice them), then run through the show (i.e. playing) and then finally he would add in the dynamics, energy, and emotional quality of a real show (i.e. performing).
At home, students can take this concept on as a challenge each week. Simply take one song, or one short example, and practice it until it is memorized and playable. The next step is to play it in time, slowly trying to get it up to speed. Once that is all done, take the same example and try playing without looking, with attitude, and with intent. This exercise can start with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "Hotel California." The results will be undeniable.
Chris Vazquez is the co-owner and director of SoundLife Music Academy. He is also an experienced Los Angeles based session musician. Chris has performed all of the world with artists such as Air Supply, Leona Lewis, JoJo, Kenny Lattimore, and many others. As an instructor Chris has over 15 years of teaching experience. He is also a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.