…because some thoughts are worth remembering
Not having attended concerts and rehearsals for a while, the notes played and emotions that they evoked felt fresh, almost raw, when I attended my musician friends’ performances. Time truly brings about perspective where similar experiences can give you pause to pose an obvious question you hadn’t before. I’ve gotten so used you them performing, I never thought about the kind of pressure they might be under right before they go on stage. This time, I asked them how they prepare themselves.
My composer friend who is also an accomplished pianist doesn’t perform as frequently, so he said it’s important to remember the basic needs of your body and routine, like having a bottle of water near by, and to not have the schedule of rehearsals and performance trump your meals.
My violinist friend who performs often is also a poised individual, and you probably can’t tell if he’s nervous or not. Perhaps it’s because he relies on keeping three things in mind: 1. elbow height, 2. breathing, and 3. felt. He said it’s important to keep the list to 3 items because when you are nervous or under stress, there isn’t enough room for any more.
From years of experience, he was able to boil down what was most important to his performance in terms of technique: as long as he minded the height of the elbow, he can start on a good note (literally as well as figuratively) and allow the hours of practice to come through.
Breathing was no surprise. Many cultures, religions and exercises emphasize the importance of (correct) breathing to settle the mind or to simply assure your body is getting enough oxygen and exhaling enough carbon dioxide.
Felt was interesting, and it reminded me of how my piano teacher chose to instruct me without enumerating specific techniques. Rather, she would provide imagery (e.g., play like a ghost) which would then call upon all the technical elements to align. For my violinist friend, the texture of the fabric, felt, somehow summoned the timbre he aimed for.
In both cases, though, they rely on the hard work in preparing for the performance day. The mantras and the routines they have are there to ensure they can realize their potential.
Photo: Sculpture of Sibelius in Helsinki, Finland