My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Personal checklist for keeping performance anxiety free - Part 3

In today's post I start getting into techniques I use the day of a performance and during the performance itself. And because tip #4 is so short I'm going to give you two tips for the price of one - good deal!  In spite of the first one's brevity, however, please don't overlook it.  As the old saying goes, "big things come in small packages."

Tip #3:  I'm always prepared for mistakes to occur
Sorry, but this is just the way life works.  It doesn't matter how much I practice, how prepared I am, how "in the zone" I am, there are bound to be mistakes and that is OK because a note-perfect performance is not what an audience is there for, at least I hope not.  Besides, what is a "perfect" performance anyway?  (For another post of mine that talks about perfectionism in performing, check out my post, "The quest for technical perfectionism in young musicians - can it go too far?"

Tip #4:  When mistakes occur I try to counteract the contraction of time by making time expand instead
Panic usually sets in as soon as the first mistake or moment of doubt occurs and when this happens I often feel as if time starts to collapse on itself - my heart beats faster, I feel like I don't have time to think, and then the panic only gets worse.  To counteract this problem, as soon as I make a mistake, I intentionally think of expanding time instead of letting time contract and fall in upon itself.  This gives me a chance to breath, a chance for my brain to catch up and do the problem solving it needs in order to get back on track and get in performance mode once again.  The first time I did this I feared that it might seem I was being indulgent with time, or that I was simply having this humongous brain blip, but as most performances, what seemed like a minute to me, really was only a split second to the audience.  My musical SOS came across to the audience as being a musical moment.  What a great deal!

As an accompanist/collaborator, I feel this technique is also an important aspect of  my support role.  When the person with whom I am performing is having a difficult time with memory, for example, I make sure that I give them a feeling of space in order to collect their thoughts.  The act of giving them this little bit of time is enough to get them back on track, calm their nerves a bit, and get their heart-rate back to a more livable level.

Tomorrow we'll have Tip #5: Counteracting the negative mental tape with a more positive one

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