As musicians, we climb up to some important events along the journey here and there. One might call these milestones, highlights, or significant check-ins. These moments can take the form of a concert, an exam, a recording project, an audition, or even just a lesson. Sometimes it feels like a lot is at stake. For example, final audition results can vary even with the best preparation. Not to mention that auditions can get very expensive! However, if we zoom out, one thing becomes certain. These big events take up a very tiny percentage of our overall growth as musicians. Continue reading “The 24-48 Hour Rule”
Last week I enjoyed being a participant of the Starling-Delay Symposium at the Juilliard School. It left me overwhelmed to say the least – I haven’t felt this inspired and lit on fire in a very long time. In the spirit of Ms. Delay’s legacy, much of the Symposium revolved around discovering “one’s own truth”; self-discovery, authenticity, possibilities, and purpose. Over 150 participants from around the world gathered to learn, play, absorb, interpret, and exchange ideas and personal experiences. Within this review and reflection, I decided to share some (paraphrased) quotes and notes I took. I hope that they inspire you too.
Affirmations – positive statements about ourselves in first person and in the present tense. But do they really help cope with performance anxiety and resolve negative feelings leading up to a performance?
Have you ever felt like a fool sitting there repeating phrases to yourself like “I am a great musician. I sound amazing. I am very confident about this.”? All in the midst of being a nervous wreck just before getting up on stage or taking an audition. Ever feel like you were forcing this message to your subconscious self and try to trick yourself out of feeling inadequate, intimidated, or like an impostor?
This is a pretty common scenario. Unfortunately, affirmations don’t always work, even with all best intentions. If we feel like we are lying to ourselves with these statements, affirmations may cause us more harm than good.
There is a better way.
Going into the new year, one of my resolutions this year is to be stricter with myself about the “less but better” principle when it comes to striving for the bigger goals (whether it be in the practice room, the studio, or the gym). Ever since the pandemic started, my social media and email inbox has been bombarded with a crazy amount of (very valuable) information. It caused my attention to divert in too many different directions. I would rotate a few too many hats in a single day, convincing myself that I could somehow “do it all” – of course the reality is that everything comes at a cost.
If you’re anything like me, the busyness and excitement of holidays (combined with shorter/colder days in the northern hemisphere) can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. One effective way to manage (besides sitting with the feelings and accepting them for what they are in the moment) is by practicing gratitude.
Try an exercise with me, called Three Great Things: Continue reading “Three Great Things: The Power of Gratitude”
Have you ever been told (or know someone who was told) “It’s too late to learn an instrument at this point in your life” or “You’ve aged out of all music festivals and haven’t landed a big job – it’s too late to progress”? This is part of an old, false belief that’s still making its rounds around the globe. It’s part of a fixed mindset epidemic that’s easier to fall into as we go through life.
Like most classical musicians, I occasionally have some very unwelcome guests in my mind – feelings of doubt, uncertainty, or insecurity. Having some of these feelings are quite normal and in fact, there is a way they can help us grow. However, they become a serious problem if we try to either force them out by faking confidence or dwell on them too long. The longer the negative feelings and thoughts stay, the more they push confidence and reassurance out, leaving us potentially feeling helpless.
This post won’t be about centering or visualization – both essential skills for improving our best performance under pressure. This is a deeper dive that explores what strengthens the roots of true confidence. I’ll briefly summarize 3 concepts as explained by bestselling author, athlete, and coach Steve Magness in his brand new book Do Hard Things. Continue reading “3 Practices to Achieve True Confidence on Stage”
Did you ever take a break from playing your instrument and worry about getting your chops back in shape? Perhaps some time off to go on vacation or recover from an injury? You might experience some surprising benefits.
Happy New Year! May yours be filled with good health – physically, mentally, and spiritually – and beautiful music! It’s the 1-year anniversary of my bi-monthly newsletter and I’d like to start off this year by expressing my gratitude to you for being part of this community.
My goal this year is to dive deeper – to continue exploring beyond practice strategies and violin technique and discuss how each of our individual musical journeys and ever-evolving roles within the music world are connected to everything else in our lives.
For a work in progress, it’s common practice to zoom in and dissect every phrase, every note, every motion… that’s all great (and important!) but if we learn to recognize within ourselves when it’s better to zoom out and take a more holistic approach, we can regain perspective when it comes to the bigger musical picture.
Beyond any specific piece or event, as musicians let’s also take into consideration hobbies in other disciplines, our overall lifestyles, and people that surround us on a daily basis. While some folks use music-making as an escape from the stress of everyday life, the reality is that everything remains connected in one way or another. Our other activities influence our music, and vice versa. We can learn about our craft from outside sources. And in some cases, taking a week off from playing after a long season can be surprisingly beneficial for long term growth.
In fact, the next blog post will be about growth during periods of rest.
If you know someone who may be interested in my newsletter and would like to explore/discuss topics about musicians’ personal growth and well-being (and also get a summary of recent content on violin technique and practice), please invite them with the following link: https://www.violinna.live/newsletter/
Let’s be realistic – not every big goal will come to fruition; especially not on the first try. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it’s a good idea to keep going or call it quits and look for the next shiny idea. However, if your goal is nicely aligned with your personal values in life, there’s usually a valid reason to be stubborn and keep going. In every unique growth timeline, there are tipping points along the way – moments that can completely change the course of the journey and decide what happens next based on small actions you’ve taken across a long period of time.