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.

Ms. Crotchet calls time on tutti

Group vs. individual music lessons?

Kudos to colleagues who teach mixed groups of instruments, standards and ages as their norm. I know some who battle groups of 30 Bb/Eb clarinet and sax beginners. They’re braver than me!

So I’m blessed…

That last week, in a group of three, some Year 4 clarinet beginners managed a few opening notes of Pink Panther in their third lesson. I was as surprised as they were. With help from parents who play a little clarinet, they managed the first phrase next lesson. Are they practising? Heaps!

But I am OVER mismatched groups!

I sent an email to parents last year:Ruth + Student_6921

“Dear parents,

To best realise your child’s potential and optimise your investment, consider:

GROUP LESSONS – Pro and Con:

  • Group suits family budgets.
  • They nibble a teensy taste of music.
  • It’s sociable – if players are well matched and compatible.
  • BUT age, instruments and standards often vary.
  • Little scope for timetable changes, or adjustment.
  • 2 students in 30’ group = 15’ each.
  • 3 students in 30’ group = 10’ each. Pieces chosen for the group pace.
  • Time goes on aspects where Matt struggles but Jake plays easily.
  • Fingers twiddle while Mr. Quaver fixes a student’s bent key.
  • If a student misses a lesson that others attend, there’s no scope for make-up.
  • Exams aren’t feasible for groups with little time to cover all aspects. Ms. Crotchet talks staccato sfz, marcato, V between brows.
  • Presto to hear what students practised and give new pieces.
  • If no time to play all they prepared, why practice next week? They lose interest.

Practice dwindles > performance nervespractice

They need Ruth’s books (check the half-price deals and class sets).

Capable students stop lessons if frustrated, wasting talent and parents’ investment.

PRIVATE LESSONS

  • Negotiate timetable for premium times in break/before class.
  • Make-up lessons if 24 hours’ notice of illness or tests.
  • With teacher’s undivided attention, students move at their own, faster pace.
  • Ms. Dolce chooses pieces and styles they like, is enthusiastic, relaxed and fun.
  • Exams and competitions are well prepared, so high results are likely.
  • Students set and meet goals, enjoy challenges, realise potential and SHINE IN PERFORMANCE!”

CMP-with-shadow

Andante con momentum

It was a risk. But this year, Mrs Dolce’s schedule is full, her days long, but she emerges grazioso!

Adrenaline: performance highs and lows

End of year exams, presentations, and concerts to juggle and prepare, we’re tired and living on adrenaline.

ALERT: Beware adrenal fatigue.

PRIORITISE as time runs short. I could have posted this blog sooner, but chose to schedule a massage and a nap before the afternoon’s teaching and practice sessions.

My students played their concert last week. That morning, I wasn’t surprised when some asked to change their pieces to Plan E (for EASY) instead of the mooted Plan C (for CHALLENGE) or Plan D (Doable). Because many students – and teachers – struggle to fit everything into the time before any big event. Myself included.

As I practise for solo performances this weekend, and prepare my students for exams and concerts, I need the advice in my own books! So I reread the chapter “Me-Time” in Sounds and Souls: How music teachers change lives.

The days beforesoundsandsoulsmedium

Actors and singers know to “save themselves” as well as their voices on the day of a performance. They talk less, eat less, pamper themselves a little, and don’t rush around. They retreat into themselves, focus on their part or persona, and avoid arguments or upsets. Try to plan the lead-up days, to reschedule where possible any draining commitments. Maintain a balanced, healthy diet. Curb caffeine, sugar, alcohol and…

Channel adrenaline

Seasoned presenters have learned to go with the adrenaline rush, even to welcome it as a source of energy and vitality. Yet this is also the province of the “fight or flight” response triggered by the primitive brain stem when in pressured situations. It is the very breeding ground of those unsettling physical symptoms like dry mouth, queasy stomach and shaky hands – which even experienced speakers may occasionally experience.

Try this quick fix to channel and focus this adrenaline by accessing the sophisticated part of the brain, the cerebral cortex.  Defuse the negative responses of the brain stem and to access your brain’s frontal lobes: sit quietly backstage, breathing slow and deep, with a hand on your forehead.  Holding these forehead pressure points, called the “positive points” by Brain-Gym exponents Paul and Gail Dennison, has a bonus effect of also calming an unsettled stomach. And unwelcome symptoms of nerves fall away like a pack of cards.

Hear Ruth Speak

BRISBANE: 3 December
Ruth will present and workshop around how to “Stand & Deliver and Power Up your Professional Introduction”

LikeMinds Networking breakfast The Gap  Bookings:  0406007753

BRISBANE: 3rd July 2016 Music Teachers Association Queensland

“Dealing with performance anxiety”

Ruth Tours 2016

NEW ZEALAND March, April and again September

ADELAIDE April, May 2016

Contact Ruth to check available dates for student workshops, Professional Development, training and coaching.

Ruth Performs

As soloist with Brisbane Symphony Orchestra: Mendelssohn, Konzertstücke for 2 clarinets features Ruth Bonetti and Sian Davis, principal clarinet of Noosa Orchestra.

Movie Themes Family Fun Concert

28 NOVEMBER | 3PM Lake Kawana Community Centre 07 5413 1400 29 NOVEMBER | 3PM St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, Corinda Tickets

Water therapy for healthy performance

‘Tis the season of exams and recitals. We’re prepared, right?

(‘Fail to prepare > Prepare to Fail.’) As stress levels lift, we need clarity to function to our ability. Or we fluster in performance and lose the plot – and control of passages or scales. “I played that perfectly at home!” we groan.

WATER: a miracle boost for performers

Under the spotlight, we challenge our systems in many ways. Multiple signals buzz from brain to body. Our bodies are made up of about 70% water. This is an excellent conductor of electrical energy, necessary to efficiently pass messages between the central nervous system, brain and sensory organs.Ruth Sian

How many glasses of water did you drink today?____

In a “normal” day we need about eight glasses of water; even more in pressured times. 

Stress dehydrates. Responses become sluggish when we’re dehydrated. During challenging times, maintain water intake to improve concentration, mental and physical co-ordination. It alleviates mental fatigue, increases energy levels, and keeps our brain firing.

The downside

I know what you’re thinking! More frequent visits to the bathroom – another pesky performance symptom. Many performers notice that nerves increase their frequency of urination. Why? The smooth muscle of the genito-urinary system contracts when our sympathetic system is activated. Increased adrenaline rush and resulting cardiac racing can cause diuresis. Such issues are eased if we learn to channel that adrenaline away from such symptoms into energy. 

Make water a habit

Drink plenty of water in pressured weeks, days, the morning of a performance. Ease back in the hours and minutes before, perhaps rinsing your mouth before walking onto the platform. On-stage, I like to have a water bottle at hand for a discreet sip between pieces. This helps another problem that besets performers; dry mouth.

Singers and speakers

Water is essential for voice production, to lubricate the vocal folds. Room temperature or warm is best; cold constricts and heat relaxes. 

“Water is the only drink for a wise man.” (Or woman) – Henry David Thoreau

  Let’s drink to that!

Hear Ruth play

Mendelssohn Konzertstücke Op. 114 with Sian Davis and Brisbane Symphony Orchestra
                      Sat 28 November – Sunshine Coast Tix  
                      Sun 29 November – Corinda, Brisbane Tix Ph. 07 3847 1717

Workshops and Coaching

Ruth offers one-on-one sessions in SE Qld or via Skype. Email to check availability.

Countdown to Performance

Tips to shine in performance

You, or your students, face a big performance. Time runs short: 5—4—3—2—1 weeks. The next few blogs give practical, holistic, do-able tips to help you focus and poise in the weeks, days, even minutes before you walk onto the platform.

Fail to Prepare = Prepare to …?

It’s all cause and effect. We reap what we sow. Especially when it comes to a concert or competition. If we know, submerged deep down under the distractions, procrastinations, avoidances, excuses and trivia, that we have not worked, who’s surprised if we stuff up? It’s as likely as Monday following Sunday. We deserve to be nervous. However, take heart, and rescue it with:

The 80/20 Principle

What is the 20% (give or take a bit) that needs 80% of your focus, time and effort?

G# melodic

WORK SMART

I enjoy people’s reactions when I say: (drum roll)

‘Please, DON’T WORK SO HARD… ‘ (pause for effect)

‘At the easy parts.’

 Practise what you can’t play – instead of what you can!

Often we reassure ourselves playing the passages that we CAN play, instead of facing the ones we can’t. That’s precious time wasted.

Would a coaching session help?

Target your needs with one-on-one sessions in SE Qld or via Skype. Email ruth@ruthbonetti.com to check availability.

Performance coaching

RUTH BONETTI PERFORMANCE COACHING

There’s a good chance we will even enjoy performing if we prepare intelligently and regularly in the months before. We may even shrug off the butterflies and nervous greeblies. As long as we program our brains for success. (Excerpt from Practice is a Dirty Word: How to clean up your act.)

Let’s start at the top with our head. What’s happening in it…

Program your success

Create a self-fulfilling prophecy by visualising your triumph. Overcome potential self-sabotage of negative “what-if’s” with mental preparation.
See yourself, calm and poised, walking onto the platform, opening your mouth to speak. Hear the vibrant tone that flows out, resonating to the back of the hall. Out of the corner of your eye, see those fear-gremlins skulk away into the shadows, while you are encompassed in the warm, flattering and protective stage light.
And do you see those faces in the audience responding, smiling up at you? Hear the applause of their standing ovation? See yourself backstage with diary open, wondering where you can find time for a repeat performance.

OK to talk – but can Ruth play?

Hear her repeat concerto: Mendelssohn Konzertstücke Op. 114 with Sian Davis and Brisbane Symphony Orchestra

27 November – Sunshine Coast

28 November – Brisbane