I just had a really gratifying “pass on to your student” moment this week. One of my major downfalls as a young performer was my inability to be able to perform (when it counts) at my fullest potential. I had some amazing practice sessions while preparing for NYSSMA solos and other public performances. The actual performances would be ok, but they were never quite as good as those magical practice sessions. My mindset was all wrong, and I didn’t understand the impact that our mindset has on our performance.
You see, I was focusing too much on not messing up. I remember watching the Winter Olympics as a child and seeing a top level figure skater fall in the middle of her big performance. I was shocked! Here was a person who practiced way more than I did, and in her big moment she blew it. From that moment on, I locked into a habit of focusing on “not falling” during a performance.
At home, while I was practicing alone, I could relax and enjoy the music. However, on stage I was focused on all the difficult sections of the piece, and hoping that I would make it through them ok. You could imagine what kind of performance this mindset resulted in. My creativity and expression was trapped inside a mind of worry. I was getting through the piece instead of performing and expressing it.
Now, thank goodness, I am no longer trapped by that terrible habit. I have learned to focus on all of those wonderful moments during my private practice. Those were the moments where the expression and passion of the piece were revealed to me. Those were the moments when I connected with the music. I string them all together in my mind, and edit them (the way one would edit a video) into a perfect performance. That is what I focus on while performing. I aim to recreate that perfect performance that I have edited together in my head. I realize that it may not all go perfectly, but if I don’t go for it, then there is no chance of it happening. I might as well shoot for the stars and see what I get.
I had the privilege of explaining this concept to one of my band students the other week while helping her to prepare for her own NYSSMA solo. She had experienced her own magical moments while preparing her piece, and I didn’t want to see her experience the same disappointment that I had in the past. Thankfully, she understood what I was explaining and took it to heart. I just received her NYSSMA results today, and she received a perfect score. I may not have a time machine, but I can help others to save time. Moments like that make teaching a rewarding experience.