It's ensemble placement audition season, but as a musician there's likely always something looming on the horizon where we will be performing and (thanks to human nature) evaluated. How do we make lemonade if we're blinded by all the lemons (or limes) life seems to have set before us?
Prepare the best you can. If your deadline looms large, make a chart to attack things logically and in an organized way. What are you most worried about? Start there, and practice in a reverse-timeline format. At this point you may need to assess strategically, recognizing in a realistic way of what is achievable in the amount of time remaining.
Listen to recordings. This time counts as practicing as well, but strive to find the best material you can. If none is available of your piece, listen to other works by the same composer or those in a similar style.
Record yourself in a run through. Do a quick intake on what you perceive as uncomfortable sections or weaknesses. Then listen, and write down your observations of the recording. Compare both sets of "before and after" to see which areas really need more attention. You may be surprised that things aren't as "bad" as they "feel" but we must strive for comfort to achieve ownership.
When preparing excerpts, play for people. Have different combinations of "sets" of excerpts, always including those you are most dreading! Better yet, allow your listeners to choose selections randomly, while still including the ones that make your heart race a little faster.
Practice playing under pressure. Welcome this anxious state so that it is familiar and that you are accustomed to playing - and playing well. This helps you reclaim your power under fire and channel your energies forward. Find your center, shape the line, and focus on your musical goals. We will always feel a little anxious and excited - these ingredients make live music exciting and individual, rather than flat and processed powdered limeade mix.
Maintain perspective. This is just one snapshot of one moment in your life. It does not predict or limit your potentials, but it is time to deliver as best you can. It's not the time to berate yourself on what you did up to this point - that will only undermine your success in playing your best. What advice would you give a friend, or your student, in a similar situation? How would you help them make lemonade?
Learn from this playing opportunity. Every time we play, every time we put our ideas out there in public, we take a chance and we learn about ourselves. That's what this is all about, I believe. Be open to the possibilities and have fun playing - really!
8/20/2014 07:50:17 am
These are all excellent ideas. I would add that for some musicians, thorough preparation and the maintenance of perspective is just not enough to stop the nerves and help them perform to their highest potential. We now know specific skills that effectively help musicians manage anxiety and pressure, including positive self-talk, working with perfectionism, the correct way to do mental visualization, and focusing and concentration exercises off the instrument - to name a few! Thank you so much for addressing this issue.
8/20/2014 08:38:31 am
I agree, Helen, and believe this multi-pronged approach the most empowering. Thank you for your thoughts and investment in helping others!
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