I have recently been fielding a lot of questions regarding how to get ready for upcoming performances/auditions and coaching my own studio in preparation for recitals, semester juries and other projects.

TEN PENNIES is a practice game that I utilize through the learning and mastering process of music. The main idea is that with each repetition of a musical passage, that repetition gets a penny. Before you can move on to the next passage, that particular passage has to garner 10 pennies. A passage can be defined as a measure, a phrase, a larger section of a piece or the piece as a whole. Ten Pennies has been an invaluable tool for me and my students in gaining trust in performance, tackling more advanced music, and tapping into personal, natural learning styles. Ten Pennies is a simple idea on the surface, but there are lots of hidden layers to the game.

  • Allow the mind and body’s natural learning processes to take over.

  • Build confidence through trust in your process.

  • Create / direct awareness. There are certain aspects of the music that you can only feel and hear in repetition 10 that you can’t in repetition 8.

  • Practicing for feel and not to “Get it right”.

  • Allow for mistakes.

    • It is important to know that 2+2=4. But it is also important to know why it doesn’t equal 5. Only then do we truly know the correct answer.

  • Allow for incubation period.

    • We can become hyper focused on a certain passage until we reach a point of diminishing returns and/or frustration. Ten Pennies makes sure that we move on.

  • Simulates performance atmosphere.

    • Fight or Flight

    • Pressure of audience or adjudicating panel

    • Can take away pennies for inconsistent repetitions or start over.

    • End of the mastery phase of piece you are working on.

Whether it’s a professional auditions, university/college audition, DCI/WGI, All-State, semester college juries, TEN PENNIES can be a valuable tool not only for learning music, but also more about yourself as a performer.

michael sammons