14. April 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Ramble

Some of my students are busy auditioning for youth orchestras for next year. Some (all?) are nervous. One mentioned it to me today, and I smiled and said, “Do you think I don’t get nervous?”

He knew, from the way I asked it, what he was supposed to answer.

Yes. I get nervous. Most of my colleagues do as well. (There is one who told me he never gets nervous, but I will admit here that I simply don’t believe him! He sure seems nervous sometimes to me.) I get nervous. I get angry when I play poorly. I get sad sometimes when I don’t play well too. Sometimes, to be quite honest, I just want to run off stage, leaving the oboe and all its woes behind me.

But of course I’ve not done that. (I can’t tell you, though, how many musicians have the “I’m outa here!” dream … just thinking that someday we might yell that out and escape the stress.)

If I’m doing my job right, though, the audience doesn’t know any of this. (Unless they read this blog. Hah!)

One of my students went through a big demonstration of “I am so nervous and this piece is so hard” thing prior to playing the solo for me. Sighing. Fidgeting. Really scaring me along with making it worse on himself. I explained that he had just telegraphed failure to me. I explained that no matter how difficult something is, or how scared he is, he needs to look as if it’s just another day in the park. (Well, I didn’t use that expression with him … not sure he knows it!) I also suggested that not only should he pretend so that the audience or audition panel doesn’t see his fear, but that he is also, in a sense, lying to himself because, believe it or not, lying to one’s self about the fear actually does help!

If I say, prior to a solo, “Oh this is so HARD and I know I’m going to BLOW it” I’ve set myself up for big time failure. (I used to do this all the time, by the way. My belief was sad, but it really was this: if I DID fail, I could say, “See, I was right!” and if I played well I could then be pleasantly surprised. It’s not a healthy way to go into a solo, whether or not it worked at times.) Now I just try hard to lie and say, “This is nothing! This is a breeze!” and then I don’t lie but think the truth: “I love what I do. I love making music. This is a joy!” Because it is if I allow it to be.

That being said, I’m not always that positive. I know some of my colleagues read this and they are probably cracking up right now and calling me a liar. Ah well … I’m always good for a laugh!

But truly, we are not only musicians. We really need to be good actors too.

1 Comment

  1. Here’s a great bit of advice from the pros that I like to pass on to nervous students:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Yb6pGEq-GM&feature=player_embedded#at=17

    – Bob