Today, I went to my Alexander Technique lesson, and my teacher, Jennifer, was able to offer some great advice on some performance concerns I have.
Traditionally, I am used to bowing once, sitting down and playing my program on the piano, then bowing again. However, I am sharing this recital with someone else. This is very exciting but also very different. That means I will play one piece and then wait outside of the stage varying from 4 to 12 minutes. As someone with lots of energy, this could be a source of nerves. My teacher gave me some of the following suggestions.
1. Practice constructive rest possibly while thinking about your music.
This is definitely very new and different. The thought of me lying down before and during a performance seems very daunting. This may be a technique I will definitely try at a more informal concert setting. Practicing wall slides and monkey are also important.
2. Take your time to walk to the piano and back and while you are bowing.
Your recital is not a meeting you are trying to rush into and out of. This is the time where you command the stage. Usually, most people realize this. Usually the problem comes in when you may have an anxious stage manager or director. What may happen is that they may make you anxious, and then your body language mirrors the anxiety they have inflicted on you.
In Alexander Technique, we call this startle response. Then, you seem nervous about the performance. This creates a wrong message to the audience because you were simply reacting to a certain person. Basically whatever happens, remember to keep your ground. My teacher tells me to imagine that you are a princess, prince, queen, or king.
3. Keep your chest tall…like royalty.
This is something that I struggle with and am not always aware of. I tend to cave in in the chest instead of keeping things open. According to Alexander Technique movement directions, you should feel your abs connect and flow out of both shoulder blades. This is very important to think about as you are walking, even when you are bowing, and in the process of sitting down.
4. Genuinely connect with your audience.
I enjoy practicing in the Chapel in my stage. It usually doesn’t bother me when one or two people come in to listen. However, I realized earlier during my rehearsal that the scenario is very different if I had a room full of people. I have a strong kinesthetic awareness, so sometimes, I have to think about how those subtle differences affect how I feel when I perform.
Today, when I practiced I thought about trying to connect with each person in the audience through musical emotion and gesture. This really drove me to be more expressive.
You can also connect to your audience through speaking during/before/or after the concert, genuine eye contact when they congratulate you afterwards, touch, laughter, and by simply having fun on stage.
5. Do not fall into comparison with other people.
” Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else”-Galatians 6:4
And An Example….
I have a personal story on comparison. I went to piano camp two summers ago in a lot of pain. Despite that, I managed to pick up an old piece and play it for an recital.
Before my performance, I put a lot of Icy Hot on. My right shoulder had suddenly started being in pain before the recital, while previously, the pain had been just my left shoulder. Thus, I was very relieved that when I was playing, I had very little pain. So, I went back to my seat pretty satisfied that I was able to perform. Then, I realized that there were so many younger musicians with much more technically difficult pieces who played after me.
All of a sudden I had a sudden sense of shame over several things. I felt ashamed that I had seemed anxious over what was evidently a relatively simpler piece before the concert. (Although most people will tell you that Mozart is not simple at all.) I felt like I had embarrassed myself in front of other teachers who didn’t seem to understand why I was worried before. (I even wrote a note to my teacher apologizing for the fact that I may not be able to play as well as he’d liked. I handed it to him and left because I did not want to process what he would think.)
After the concert was over, I made a hurried exit and went to my room, crying. I later learned that apparently, the other performers had been looking for me afterwards…. the shame was pretty much self-inflicted.
For an article about the above piece of Scripture from Pastor Rick Warren, click here.
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