Why do we study music? Why do we perform? These are important questions to ask ourselves so we never lose sight of what’s truly important in life and all that we do.
If we seek to aggrandize ourselves through music, we’re mistaking the essence of creativity and expression. The soul of art is found in the experience of joining and sharing, and we can only ever truly share what’s worth sharing when we are humble.
Before you perform remind yourself you are sharing your love of music, and the love inside of you in general, with whomever is present.
When you perform you are sharing your experience of the music. What the music means to you. Since we’re all essentially the same beneath our various external appearances, authentically sharing your experience will touch something meaningful in those who are listening.
And whether people are listening closely or not at all, here is the key to every moment on stage or off:
Express to yourself your love of the loving melos, the inner melody of love.
What could be more beautiful or fulfilling or loving to yourself and everyone present?
Remember, we do not study music to become perfect performers, but to share the perfection of love. And this is possible no matter how many mistakes we might make. So let the inner melos be your focus, not a perfect performance. Let love do the work. Let love be itself.
With the above in mind, here are some practical reminders to help with the mechanics of performing.
1. Is your piece thoroughly prepared? This will aid your confidence greatly. Try it out first on your parents, best friend, baby brother, cat, grandmother – anyone who will listen – as often as possible. Pre-performing for others is the best way to reveal any weak spots that need further work (and to help you practice expressing to yourself your love of the loving melos).
2. Practice saying your introduction (name, title of piece, correct pronounciation of the composer & accompanist) and getting smoothly from rest to play position, to your ‘beginning breath’. A pre-performance routine will make the performance more automatic when the time comes, allowing you to lose yourself in the music as much as possible.
3. Learn what helps you to relax. Each time you perform notice the thoughts that trip you up and the ones that help you relax. When you have a thought that trips you up practice allowing it to be there without fighting it, judging it, or pushing it away. Just let the thought be there without any judgment whatsoever and it will eventually lose its seeming power.
4. When you make a mistake – this is inevitable, so make peace with it beforehand – know that it’s a normal part of performing. Don’t make a face and don’t lose confidence; accept it in stride and go forward with the idea that you will be calm if you make a mistake or don’t make a mistake. They really don’t matter at all. What matters is being kind to yourself and having a peaceful experience no matter what happens.
5. Have ‘safety ramps’ – a spot every couple of lines that you know well and can start from should you get lost. (Where you can call up the beginning note and immediately know how the piece proceeds from there.) Shadow practicing will greatly assist you in mastering this ability.
6. Listen to and enjoy the music you are making. Find the soul of your piece, and let its theme, mood and emotion completely envelop your heart and mind so that you play it with abandon, wholly absorbed in the authentic and heartfelt expression of the music you’ve chosen to share, and your personal interpretation and experience of it.
And, in the end, all that matters is the melos, and that is always there with you no matter the outcome.