Tips for music competition success

In last week’s Queensland Eisteddfod my adjudication comments often echoed an email to my students who also faced competitions.

How to prepare for a competition (or concert)

In the warmup room

• SLOW scales, long notes
• Play any tricky bars at HALF speed
• Hand on forehead and slow deep breaths calms excess adrenaline.
• Buzz lips to prevent tension squeaks (clarinet and saxophone).
• Stand against a wall for upright posture.Main illus man head LR
• BREATHE!

In the performance

Walk on with upright posture that says ‘I am the greatest!’
If people clap, bow. Prime friends to clap so you can bow.
If an MC doesn’t do so, introduce your piece in a big clear voice; look at the audience not your music.
Tune to piano/other players. Nod ‘I’m ready.’
Take a moment to poise.
Eye contact – give a clear upbeat in the tempo you really mean.
Play out with a big, round, beautiful tone.

If things go wrong

Expect your pianist to follow you. Rescue with a clear downbeat, eye contact or gesture; also to indicate if you need time for well-chosen breaths.
A glitch, wobbly bow or fluffed note is not doom.
I tell my clarinet students ‘If you squeak, make it a good one!’
KEEP GOING – DON’T STOP.
Think ‘Even though I stuff up I love and respect and appreciate myself!’

Stand out from the crowdSax crop

When many deserve places the adjudicator prays for someone to shine.

Exaggerate dynamics so the adjudicator thinks ‘ah, musical!’ Feel free to add more.

Communicate with listeners—they love that!
Play musically with beautiful tone, and above all…
ENJOY your music! Have fun!

After the last cadence

Bow and acknowledge the pianist.
Smile–whatever happened in performance is your secret.
‘I’m proud of you for learning, practising and polishing, and presenting your pieces. If you gain a place, that’s the icing on a tasty cake.’ 

Book launchBML Cover med

My latest book Burn My Letters launched at Byron Bay Writers Festival on Friday. The Brisbane launch on Saturday 13 August at Queensland Multicultural Centre is ’ticketed’ for space and catering. It’s nearly full house so do reply email if you’d like to come.

My interview on Radio 4EB FM is online for a week. Scroll through to Breakfast with BEMAC; the interview is 21 minutes in.

Books are available with Paypal and at IngramSpark and Mary Ryans bookshops.

Artwork credit: John Harrison

In last week’s Queensland Eisteddfod my adjudication comments often echoed an email to my students who also faced competitions.

“Playing” music…for free or fee?

Some non-musicians can’t understand that because we “play” music, it’s our livelihood. That we have invested years of decades’ study to finesse our talents. That we still put hours into practice and in many cases into arranging and composing. OK, I’m preaching to the converted. But…

Practice or play?

Why not choose a positive title like “Practice Makes Perfect” someone asked when I published Practice is a Dirty Word: How to clean up your act.

I’m allergic to the words perfect and practice in the same sentence.

practiceIn it I wrote:

Let me explode a myth.
Practice does not make perfect.
Not exactly. Not always. Hey, not ever. Let’s face it, we can’t be perfect.
Even top performers cannot be perfect. None of us can be a hundred percent perfect. Trying to be so is the biggest single cause of nerves, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem. These can cause even the most capable and talented people to give up.
The whole problem is that “practice makes perfect” has been garbled and used as a whip around our ears. Who coined that phrase, anyway? No one admits to it, but the closest we can get to its origin is that the ancient Greek philosopher Periander said: “Practice is everything.” 

But what to call it? Play?

I wrestled to find another word for “practice”. Play is the closest, implying active, creative engagement. (But we know for some it means –er–lack of focus.)

There’s the pitfall…

Some can’t imagine we should be paid real money for mere PLAY.

I must offer professional fees for live musicians at the book launch.

Thank you to those who’ve supported my crowdfunding campaign.Special mention to Althea O’Dee for her heart-warming email:”Congratulations on your new writing project! You inspire me so much. I am working in China at the moment. I’d like to donate to your fund, but when I open the fund-site, it is all in Chinese. Could I donate into your bank account… and you don’t need to send anything in return? I just want to help you, since I already own a couple of your music books, which have really helped me.

We hit the goal! Now to pay musicians at book launchTwoCovers

When my books are between covers, we’ll raise a glass to my wonderful supporters. With live music of course. These talented musicians deserve REAL fees, not mates’ rates.
With extra funds I’ll book a singer and commission son André to arrange Scandinavian music to perform with his gypsy band Greshka).

Because Words and Music are my fortes

There’s a few days left support my campaign. Do check out my crowdfunding site.

Thanks for your support!