I am still thinking about a method for getting my energy and focus better directed so that I might finally win a big audition.
Several people have recommended books – Zen and the Art of Archery, The Inner Game of Tennis, Performance Success, The Power of Full Engagement – and these are all books I own and have read before, enjoyed, and drawn inspiration from. I’ve got them pulled out and ready to refer to.
My December has not been generous with time either for practicing or for reading and intellectual speculation. So many Christmas concerts, so much travel, so much stressing out over the phone with Steve in Tennessee, so many reeds due.
But what I am doing is performing. I’ve had a Nutcracker or a Pops concert or at least an orchestra rehearsal almost every day since the 1st of the month, I’m treating this as an opportunity to really analyze what’s going into my performances. How often do I really focus well, and what did I do to get there?
Here are some things I have noticed so far. Things I can physically control.
Posture actually makes a dramatic difference. If I slump in my chair my mind wanders. Not that I slump in auditions, but I love my new awareness that I can control that tendency in rehearsal or performance.
When I am at my best my actual focus is broader than I had assumed it would be – I see more of the page than just the line I am playing, and hear more than just myself. Knowing that, I can choose to force that wider lens when I am feeling overwhelmed.
I’m experimenting with deep controlled breathing between pieces to maximize my recovery and stay present in my body.
I’m also trying to manage my coffee consumption. Not to eliminate it, no, no, NO. But to be aware of how many cups I have and how long before I play and what seems to be optimal. I’ve found on previous occasions that I can be too calm for a concert. Because stage fright is not fundamentally a problem for me I normally have some coffee on the way to a performance. I figure that a paying audience is entitled to a slightly heightened version of me. I’m not sure I’ve drawn any conclusions yet, besides that multiple cups on an empty stomach are not a great choice. Duh.
This is obviously analysis I could have done 10 years ago – but I’ve always basically been good enough. Good enough to get where I am, good enough to not worry about the nitty-gritty of performing. It’s easy to play exactly as well as I play and hard to be better. But now I want it. My self talk has always been that I am constantly driven to improve, but I am beginning to think that sometimes I work very hard to stay in exactly the same place. I needed that recent kick in the pants to get moving again.
At any rate, I am committed to my new project. I am teaching myself to trigger the time warp I need and to stay out of my own way so that I can perform more consistently than before. I am enjoying dipping back into my performance books and paying attention to my process more than I had been doing. I am inspired by the work I am doing. I love my life.