“When you project a centered presence from the stage,
your audience becomes attentive and relaxed.”
–The Musician’s Way, p. 180
To make our best music, we performers need to be mentally, physically, and emotionally in sync. In a word: centered.
Then, assuming that we’ve learned our material deeply, we can trust in our preparation and connect with our audiences.
In fact, centered musicians often captivate their listeners from the moment they step on stage because their powerful demeanor generates an expectant energy.
What’s the key to being centered under the spotlights? Habitually being centered in practice.
Here’s a 4-phase approach to centering suited to the practice studio, concert stage, and any situation:
1. Release; 2. Breathe; 3. Affirm; 4. Focus.
Sitting or standing:
• Balance supply on your sitting bones or feet.
• Let go of any tension in your shoulders and arms.
• Allow your spine to lengthen.
• Let your head ‘float’ freely on your neck.
(see “Balanced Sitting and Standing” on p. 250-257 of The Musician’s Way).
• When you’re highly tense, you might opt to center lying down.
• Use either the Constructive Rest or Total Rest positions shown on p. 80-81 of The Musician’s Way.
• Release all tension and let yourself melt into the floor.
• Lower your gaze; close your eyes if you wish.
• Inhale through your nose and deeply into your abdomen
• Exhale through either your nose or gently pursed lips (maybe do 2-to-1 breathing)
Mentally or out loud, utter a positive statement that captures your intention; group members could affirm together.
• “I’m grateful to be able to make music.”
• “I’m ready: this is going to be fun.”
• “Let’s make some music!”
Wholeheartedly direct your attention to the task at hand:
• In practice, think about and then act on your practice goals.
• Backstage, mentally review some opening phrases and get into character.
• Onstage, before launching a piece, mentally image the opening phrase, and then set the air vibrating
Centering can be either calming or energizing. For instance, band members preparing for a stage show could ratchet up their energy by moving rhythmically as they center. Conversely, a harried musician who’s about to practice or audition alone might center peacefully to restore inner harmony.
After you’re accustomed to centering, experiment with doing so in a single breath: release, breathe, and affirm in unison, and condense your affirmations – the above examples could be reduced to: a. “Thank you.” b. “Ready.” c. “Music!”
The concept of centering, as I use it here, is adapted from the writings of sports psychologists Robert Nideffer and Don Greene with additional influences from the Alexander technique and yoga traditions.
© 2010 Gerald Klickstein