Friday, June 29, 2012

What defines a successful music performance?--Bellevue School of Music

With our spring Student Recital recently concluded and lessons focused on reviewing performances, I’m reminded students need guidance to recognize their accomplishments. Understandably some inexperienced students arrive at their lesson with a gloomy face hounded by memories of nervousness and the notes that got away; they view their nerves as a weakness and their errors as failure. Nothing could be further from the truth. A student’s willingness to accept the challenges of performance is itself a tremendous achievement and the single most important prerequisite to developing their talent. The nervousness and errors are essential components a student learns to manage through experience.

Violin Student Bellevue School of Music Spring Recital 2012
Violin Student, Bellevue School of Music Spring Recital 2012

“Just do it.” Breathtakingly simple yet astonishingly insightful, the Nike slogan neatly sums up an axiom of success all musicians must embrace; through frequent performance students gain confidence, forging nerves into emotional intensity and honing concentration to a laser-like focus. Students must seek every opportunity to perform, from social occasions with friends and family to community events, each performance is an important step in their evolution. Performing is a skill attained by doing, not through preparation beyond the public eye.

Nervousness is an indication a musician cares deeply about their performance; caring motivates musicians to sit through hours of meticulous practice, refining their technical skills and exploring the subtle complexities of phrasing. Each time a student performs, their nerves become less distracting and confidence grows; once a student matures, nerves are tamed to deliver energy which elevates performance beyond the bounds of the practice room. Accomplished musicians accept their nerves as a requisite element of performance; the excitement inspires them to spontaneously transcend route recitation, creating a higher-level collective experience.

While perfectly executing the notes is an important goal in daily practice, in performance it is a distant second to communicating the depth and breadth of human emotion—the supreme aspiration of music. Mistakes are inevitable, try as we might the perfect performance is virtually impossible. Students must learn to accept human fallibility because fearing mistakes creates distraction at every misstep; losing self-control, students become too distracted to concentrate on their continuing performance, often delivering a series of errors. An experienced performer accepts their momentary lapses with unshakeable resolve, remaining focused in the moment, intent on delivering their performance and confident in the knowledge they are serving the ultimate purpose of communicating with their audience.

Life would be easy if things were simply explained to us and we instantly adopted their wisdom, as it is, overcoming human nature requires frequent performance. Solely through performing will students gain the necessary skills to transform their practice time into a powerful means of expression. Learning to accept human fallibility and channeling their nerves into inspiration, students discovers the successful performance is one in which the musician delivers their best and guides listeners on an emotional odyssey.

Robert H. Wilson

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