Who’s afraid of public glitches?

Here’s a tip from left field:

It’s OK (well, often) to make a fool of yourself in public.

Develop your ‘confidence muscle’ by stretching beyond your comfort zone.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable to listeners and they’ll more likely warm to you than tab your mistakes.

We can learn more from a fumble or stumble than from a goal.

I can vouch for this

Would you believe that I was a shy child who grew up in the Australian outback? Then I’d run a mile at the prospect of speaking in public. Now I enjoy and invite it.

How did that change?

Experience, maturity. Speaking foreign languages. My husband and I lived seven years in Europe, and for five of them we spoke French, Swedish and German. We learned Swedish on the job, from scratch, and German with an intensive month’s Anfänger course. Fear of making a fool of myself faded, knowing that most times I opened my mouth, mistakes came out. I just had to get on with living – and speaking. Many who witnessed my embarrassments became friends for life.

‘Your music is fine,’ a colleague said, ‘but why not introduce the pieces with some words?’

‘Because we’d make mistakes!’ By then our Swedish was fluent but ungrammatical.

‘People forgive that, they warm to you.’

We spoke to our audiences and yes, people appreciated that we made an effort. So when we moved to Germany we spoke about our pieces in rudimentary vocabulary. Though some years later it was challenging to present a full day workshop auf Deutsch.

But on radio? We were pleased when Swedish Radio journalist Carl Friedner attended our Brahms concert. But our jaws dropped later when he unpacked his tape recorder as coffee brewed. His encouragement eased our nerves and we found rapport. This month –decades later – we again stayed with this longterm friend in Stockholm.

The mistakes bogey

Whether we perform through words or music, the fear of making mistakes in public can inhibit, even paralyse. But we learn more from our worst moments than we do from our best. If you struggle, check out my book Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out.

Communication skills

During a recent seven-week European tour, my half dozen words of Italian, Czech, Hungarian and Italian often became addled in my head, but people responded to my efforts. I’m fascinated by the process of learning and using new languages, and how they enable us to communicate, interact and understand. This was a theme of the paper I delivered in Turku, Finland at a conference titled ‘Participation, Integration, and Recognition’. In this I cited my grandfather’s migrant experience. Hear more.

In Finnish, you ask? All those umlauts! More on that next issue. 

Turn your negatives into positives

Put any glitches behind you, and focus on your message and your listeners – who may forget mistakes quicker than you do.

Enjoy your time in the spotlight!

How adrenalin lifts performance

Adrenalin helps us to shine in performance. Be prepared and welcome it, for it gives energy and strength to performances. The power of this natural, normal and helpful reaction can catch us unawares. Go with it; don’t fight it. As the fight or flight mechanism kicks in our adrenals work overtime.

Beware adrenal fatigue!

You know the score? Late nights preparing for that big performance, the rehearsals, checking equipment and dress (we’ve thought ahead, right?), the photocopying of adjudicators’ scores. Or sometimes we perform every night, with little time to catch up on our thoughts, sleep and energy. We stoke up our adrenalin constantly so must avoid adrenal fatigue.

Adrenalin has two sides

That big day or night goes well. Relief (but you did deserve it – you practised hard, didn’t you?) Audience congratulations. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

We need down-time 

Wind down. In spite of exhaustion, there’s that wriggly feeling of being overcharged. Mind buzzing. Restless, aching legs.  Many feel pain or tension in their lower backs, a major adrenal pressure point. I feel the fatigue in sore calves.

And finally, to bed. But not to sleep. But I toss and wriggle for ten minutes or more.

Or up-time

Think; I really should get out of bed and do some yoga. A few minutes’ shoulder stands, some stretching exercises would fix this. A cobra or two. Nah, too tired to get up. Maybe if I just lift my legs in bed, that’ll do. Maybe not.

So then I crawl out from the blankets, stretch, ‘lift the mountain’ with my arms. Touch my toes. Elevate my legs. Muscles creak gratefully. A good relaxant is the ‘tranquility pose.’ (Check the poses online.)

And so to sleep…

At last. All that hard work means it’s the deep sleep of the just.

Next day, I’m renewed. On with the next show.
Play beautifully!

More tips in Confident Music Performance 

‘Tis the season for concerts

End of year concerts may be wearing but they are teachers’ top chance to bring parents onside. They love to see their offspring shine onstage, and are at the ready with iPads and smart phones to record for posterity and possibly upload to YouTube. 

Ah, there’s the crunch

Be aware, make others aware, that copyright and privacy may be infringed.

Is it ‘fair use’ to distribute material, performances of works that are copyright?

When playing for weddings, I accept that it’s the happy couple’s day so will be filmed to the nth degree. Thus, I must practise beforehand and resist the temptation to sightread new material during the Canapés, for glitches can feature.

But let’s make a noise…

That performers can be inhibited and distracted when listeners stand in a concert holding a camera of any kind. Professional musicians have fought back. Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman halted a concert in Essen, Germany. He asked an audience member to stop filming him on a smartphone. After the interval he said ‘Apologies, I am now on YouTube’ and refused to play encores or attend the post-concert function.

But everyone does it, right?

It’s illegal and an infringement of privacy to film and post images, video and sound that include other peoples’ children without permission. It infringes composers’ copyright.

Concert manners

We want all the family to attend concerts, to feel at home. But this does not mean to roam at large, chattering and giggling so others can’t enjoy the music. Educate the students – and parents – in basic etiquette:

  • Ears open, mouth closed. At least, a subtle sotto voce.
  • If you must move, wait between pieces or movements.
  • Tip toe…

The upside of technology

A generation ago, young children were primed with a book to combat boredom. Then they moved to digital games, iPod music and movies. The downside is noise. Earplugs, please.

Presents – for you

Buy a copy of my new book Sounds and Souls: How music teachers change lives for your school library and receive an extra copy as my gift to you. This offer lasts until Christmas Day. (Or you can download it on Kindle but I’ve yet to work out how to do specials there.)

Enjoy your break, happy Christmas and God bless,