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Should Soloists Always Perform from Memory?

Andre Watts performs from memory

“Performing from memory can be a beautiful thing.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 82

As someone who has performed countless solos, I know the upsides and downsides of playing with and without a score.

We musicians often hash over whether to memorize or not, so let’s consider some of the issues here. Continue Reading

Excelling Under Pressure

Mindfulness Gives Performers an Edge

Those of us who watch athletic competitions such as the 2012 Olympics witness some athletes who triumph and others who choke under the stress of performing.

What differentiates those two groups? Continue Reading

The Twin Aims of Deliberate Practice

“Practice holds a place of honor in the life of a musician.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 4

All of us veteran musicians share the same twin aims when we practice: to polish our skills and prepare music for performances.

We also know how to accomplish our goals efficiently. Continue Reading

Post-Performance Creativity

“A concert may end when the applause fades, but your artistic work and your responsibilities as a performer are far from complete.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 196

As you exit the stage at the end of a performance, how do you typically feel?

Then, when you interact with listeners and coperformers, how do things go?

Continue Reading

Backstage Mode

Claudio Arrau

“I don’t say that I never feel fear before a performance,
but I have learned to channel it.”
–Claudio Arrau, pianist (The Musician’s Way, p. 162)

Imagine that you’re arriving at a venue 90 minutes before you’ll perform.

You have to set up the stage, check the lighting and sound, confer with technical staff, warm up, and change clothing.

How do you carry out all of those tasks and still prepare to give an inspired show? Continue Reading

Launching the First Phrase

Violinist playing“You must start well, and you must end well. What is in the middle is not so important because no one is listening then.”
–Maurice Chevalier, singer & actor (The Musician’s Way, p. 180)

I chuckle every time I read Chevalier’s words, but they aren’t intended solely in jest.

The start and finish of performances truly are vital moments in which music blossoms into and then fades out of existence. Continue Reading

The Primary Error Response

“Display confident body language, come what may.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 194

Are you confident in your ability to deal with on-stage mistakes?

I’ve found that rising musicians seldom practice handling errors, so they typically don’t manage them as gracefully as they could. Continue Reading

Dealing with Onstage Distractions

“If things get rocky, stay positive and engaged,
and give your audience the best possible experience.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 189

Recall the last time that you were distracted during a performance: How did you cope? Continue Reading

Becoming a Confident Performer

“Your central tasks are finding inner peace and strength, on the one hand,
and being very well-prepared for your performances, on the other.”
Eric Maisel, author & psychologist (The Musician’s Way, p. 146)

In my previous post, “The 3 Roots of Performance Anxiety,” I classified the causes of stage nerves as personal, task-related, or situational.

Here, I point to ways in which we can address those causes and become joyful, artistic performers. Continue Reading

The 3 Roots of Performance Anxiety

Image of worried musician“No matter how much I rehearsed, I never felt ready for the stage. Instead, I felt like a deer stumbling into oncoming traffic on a dark road.”
–Shannon Sexton, singer & writer (The Musician’s Way, p. 140)

I expect that every performer knows what it’s like to feel nervous at a show or an audition.

Still, whether we deal with mild uneasiness or debilitating fear, by taking steps to understand the causes of stage fright and acquire countermeasures, all of us can become more capable performers. Continue Reading