In April, our orchestra went on a tour to 12 cities in Japan over 13 days. During this trip we traveled around 4 hours daily by Shinkansen (bullet train), Bus, or JR trains, followed by a concert of Weber's Invitation to the Dance, Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 and Brahms Symphony No. 2. It was a grueling trip that took us to the cities of Niigata, Ueda, Ashikaga, Utsonomiya, Sendai, Shin-Fuji, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Miyoshi, Yonago, Kochi and finishing in Sasebo.
When my teachers had gone on tour and came back, I understood how tired they must be from just the traveling portion, but I never really understood how they must have felt about playing the same thing over and over again in different cities. Sometimes when I asked about favorite things from tour the responses would be vague or about the hotel. I now understand why. The moments you have to yourself are so precious and the time with your instrument to maintain your skills are even more sacred.
I think the lack of time with my horn to even just do my routine (25 minutes) bothered me and made me irritable because I felt myself getting weaker and less confident in my abilities to produce the music that I knew I was capable of producing. Also, our orchestra had several issues that happened consistently every concert. In our soundchecks, I imagined we would address those things, and it never happened. Pairing a diminishing feeling in personal skills combined with this orchestral deterioration was incredibly frustrating and the concerts began to feel like going through the motions of performing.
The best part about tour for me was performing in so many different concert halls across the country. It was truly bizarre seeing some of the places where these beautiful halls existed. The one day that we rode a bus 3 and a half hours each way through seemingly untouched forests and hills proved to house a gorgeous concert hall in the middle of a small town. The other thing that was great was how receptive every city was to our concerts and how enthusiastic their ovations were when we finished Brahms.
A funny thing that I learned on tour was that every single town was famous for something; be it gyoza, soba, udon, iridescent squid, beef tongue, each place boasted the best in the country. It was charming. Eating all of these foods was actually quite a highlight, and my waistline and liver paid the price.
Two morals to this story:
1) If your teacher comes back from a tour, let them rest, they need it and will appreciate your understanding of how exhausted they are.
2) Make a routine or have some idea of the bare minimum of exercises you need to maintain your skills, not to replace mindful practicing, but in case you have to play a two and a half hour concert exhausted, with only 45 minutes at the venue after a 4 hour bus ride.