Ready, Set, Go!

Picture this for a moment: you’re on stage – bright lights beaming toward you – you hear the introduction by the orchestra or piano, and you think, “But I’m not ready yet! I don’t know this piece!” You wake up in a cold sweat, relieved that it was just a dream.

These vivid anxiety dreams are all too common before a performance, and they reveal an underlying, understandable fear that many musicians have: that you are not or will not be ready. Despite hours, weeks and even years of preparation and study of your instrument and the music in question, you still shiver with apprehension at the prospect of a big performance or audition. This is when it’s time to take a mental leap and trust your preparation.

Remind yourself of the time you’ve spent and the care you’ve taken with the music. Picture yourself in the practice room. Maybe even go all the way back to your early music lessons, and see the time and effort you’ve put in since then.

Sometimes all you need is a gentle reminder. Recently, one of my students, who is ten or eleven years old, came to me nervously just before a student recital. “Can I use the music?” she asked.
“N., how have you been practicing?” I asked.
“By memory.”
“And remember how great you played, by memory, in your last lesson?”
In the end, she DID perform by memory and played beautifully. I think she just needed a reminder to trust her preparation.

It’s funny that, no matter what, I always wish for more time before a performance. I think, “If I only had one more month…” But I’m sure that, even if I DID have an extra month or two to prepare, I’d say the same thing! There comes a time when the preparation phase is over, and it is time to go out and do it. You’ve done the work. Now trust your preparation.

Making goals, breaking goals

A new year, a new opportunity to re-evaluate our goals and set new ones for the year…what resolutions did you make this year?

We all know the drill: set specific, measurable goals and then define the steps to meet them. But what happens when the unexpected occurs, interfering with our goals?

Or what if we *do* meet our goals, but we end up missing the bigger picture or an even better opportunity?








Don’t get me wrong – goals have their place in motivating us to achieve new challenges. But, we need to distinguish between process and outcome-oriented goals. Both have their place for the fearless musician.

Outcome goals are, as their name suggests, focused on measurable results: to run a mile in X number of minutes, or to win Y championship. Process goals, on the other hand, involve an aspect of the journey: to take longer strides during a race, or to position one’s feet properly before a golf swing. Or it can even be, to keep one’s mind focused on the present during a performance.

During the training/preparation process, outcome goals can be most useful. They motivate the player to complete a training task, staying focused and interested in the practice session. This same outcome-oriented approach, however, can add unnecessary pressure in a competitive or performance situation, however.

In performance, by contrast, the player should choose a process-oriented mindset, such as listening carefully or staying focused on phrasing beautifully. In this way, the player’s mind will stay in the moment and avoid self-judging thoughts or other negative, potentially harmful mindframes.

This week, when considering your musical goals, can you find examples of both process and outcome goals, and make some of each?

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