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Performing from the heart

The Sensible Flutist: Performing from the heart

Monday, July 30, 2012

Performing from the heart

I had a yard sale on Saturday morning. It gave me the opportunity to spend the entire morning outside and just think. I was grateful for the opportunity because I was able to ponder on this question:

How do we integrate all of the elements we practice and nurture in ourselves into a performance, which is simply a moment in time? 

I want to play freely. I want to have a conversation with my audience. I want to be authentic. But at times, some things holds me back. I feel that I'm not perceived as a "serious" player. I am attempting to build a career on my own terms, and not be accountable to anyone. I cannot control how others perceive my work or my status; however, that doesn't mean I let it get to me on a subconscious level.

These moments of self doubt are thankfully fleeting. For instance, if I was convinced that I had nothing worthwhile to say, this blog wouldn't be in existence. I don't let these moments consume me, but they are a reminder that I have to choose my working relationships carefully. Toxic relationships that are not grounded in honesty, but are instead built on greedy expectations of what the other person can do for them is a recipe that can create self doubt, aggravate symptoms of performance anxiety and make you feel that your work is less valuable.

We all have a need to have supportive relationships. A support network can help you reach your potential and increase your confidence in your abilities. Often times, a lot of the negativity we perceive seeds itself and grows in our own minds. We're less likely to talk about these very human moments with others. Negativity will usually dissipate when exposed to the light; however, when left to simmer unsaid and unexpressed, can be destructive. Supportive relationships can stop these vicious cycles in their tracks. Being able to talk about your self-doubt with those you trust can make it seem less scary, and leaves you better able to begin performing the way you want to.

Also, the more frequently you perform, the easier it will be to integrate all the best aspects of your playing into a cohesive and inclusive performance. Here are a few things that I like to do to ensure that I have the best chances of success when I go on stage:

1) Perform frequently, no matter how small the venue. Take charge of your own opportunities. The more frequently you arrange your own performances and tap into the type of audience you want to build, you'll begin to create a following. And who says a fan base isn't good for developing authenticity?

2) If it's new music you're learning, find smaller performance opportunities that don't have a lot of pressure associated with them. You learn the piece in a new way when you perform it than in the practice room. Familiarize yourself with how it feels to perform the piece and the music takes on new meaning which you'll be better able to communicate the day of the big performance.

3) Play for friends. Invite people over for wine and music. Let them play for you and vice versa. Informal musicales are a great way to spend time with people whose company you enjoy, and also allows you to experiment with your performances in a low pressure environment.

4) Taper your practice to no longer work on details, but to maintain a sense of the whole. See my previous post on practicing like you train.

5) Nurture yourself. Are there toxic influences in your life? Minimize their impact by distancing yourself from the source of the toxicity or eliminating them completely. This can be difficult, but having the supportive relationships in place that I mentioned earlier will help this process.

6) Live life. Don't spend endless hours in the practice room, but socialize with friends, read a book, go to a gallery opening. Do what you love to do. Life allows us to enrich our performances and our artistry. When we live life, we are preparing for performances.

Above all, keep in mind that performing is a moment in time. It could be your most fantastic moment, or it could be an off day when things don't go as planned. Diligence in preparation can help make it your moment, but be gentle to yourself. Prepare confidently and don't compare yourself to others. Part of the joy in performing is what you make it to be. There's only one you in the world, and share that uniqueness with the audience.

Prepare, nurture, integrate, perform. All of these things happen from the heart if we allow it.

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