Being wild isn’t the same as being comfortable in your own skin.
A pianist can be wild in the practice room but uncomfortable displaying this onstage. We have so many names for this– nerves, performance anxiety, butterflies.
I’ve interviewed performance experts around the world, and so many of them suggest that the playing must push aside the mundane thoughts that occupy your mind. In other words, love the moment so much that you cannot possibly care what others think.
Years later, I’ve finally figured out how to hop into that mindset.
Discovering this ‘wild side’ to use in performance
Last week, I went to an elements park with my fellow bloggers. WildPlay (Mapleridge) is an ex-campground outfitted with ropes for people to behave like Tarzan without hurting themselves. My kind of place.
There were four levels, and once you completed each level, you can choose to end for the day.
I kept climbing as people trickled off. One person behind me said, “You’re very brave, being a girl involved with music, and all.” I didn’t take notice, until different people repeated this to me.
I didn’t care, though– climbing was too fun.
The last level, Black, was when I started feeling shaky. The water bag stationed at the start was almost empty, the cups dotted with dirt. The course became high and hard, with freefall moments, and when I used 100% of my strength, to “stay alive.”
Lovely, right? You’re always wrong when you think you have no strength left. Like, when you’re playing a piece of music that you didn’t think could be improved any farther, until someone points out a hole.
Nevermind telling my brain that I was “perfectly safe”, harnessed into the ropes. Once slipped, twice shy. Which is exactly what a performance onstage feels like, to the body.
Afterwards, my buddy and I hit the ground and we gathered with the others. The group was shocked by my “bravery” on the ropes, and I was surprised at how only 5 of our 20 people finished the entire course.
Along the way, people commenting on this strange girl, a Classical pianist, was far away on the ground– and I, up in the trees. I didn’t hear nor care, I loved climbing so much.
That is my wild side– that place I love so much that I can’t care what everyone else is thinking. A place I need to be when performing on piano.
Finding your ideal state of performance
Instead of linking to a study today, I’m going to challenge you to find your wild place, where you can let loose.
Think about that place where you couldn’t care what everyone else is thinking.
Months ago, I had a brief coaching session with Dianna David, who told me to envision a situation when I felt confident that everything was going right. This is mine; what is yours?
Once you find that, you’ll want to assess how well you can share that with another human being. After all, life is a hundred times better when you can share it with others.
Here’s a test to see how comfortable you are, in your own skin.
1. When a teacher critiques a piece you’re playing, would you change it even if you didn’t agree with the changes? (Yes/No/Maybe)
2. Does your heart skip a beat when someone important is listening to your playing (which, messes with your mind)? (Yes/No/Maybe)
3. Do you try to please everyone? (Yes/No/Maybe)
4. Let’s say you love an artist that you shouldn’t love, like Justin Bieber. Would you be upset if people found out? (Yes/No/Maybe)
5. If you say something that hurts a friend’s feelings, would you dwell on it for at least a day? (Yes/No/Maybe)
- 2 points for every “No”
- 1 point for every “Maybe”
- 0 points for every “Yes”
0 – 4 points: Shell-Dweller
Watch out that one mistake doesn’t shut down all your future performances. You are safe, so safe that you might be living someone else’s idea of a life, instead of your own. Once in a while, take one more risk that makes you happy.
4 – 6 points: Crowd Pleaser
Stay balanced. You know when to stay firm and when to take the high way, which means you’re reasonably comfortable in sharing what you know with others. You know when to keep things at a distance; students probably love you. If you have performance anxiety, it’s probably because you haven’t centred your mind.
6 – 10 points: Wild Champion
If someone gets frustrated with you, try to see things from their point of view. Then decide on a course of action. Like, if a student refuses to correct their playing despite your insistence, ask “Why”– you might be surprised at the response. Nevertheless, you’re probably piecing together a life that you love. If you’re not, then you should– you’d be great at it.