“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” ~ Cicero
So much has been written on the subject of performance anxiety that there seemed little to add to the wise words of Barry Green and Timothy Gallwey on awareness, trust and skill in The Inner Game of Music.
Certainly, I was greatly influenced by this bookwhen I read it a number of years ago. The approach I normally take with my own students, most of whom take Advanced Level performance examinations, is two-fold. Firstly I provide weekly performance opportunities at a lunchtime Piano Club, so that playing for an audience becomes routine and loses its power to frighten them. Secondly I ask them literally to talk themselves into being calm, focused and confident by repeating positive affirmations, aloud, to themselves when they are relaxed, for instance before bedtime and when they wake up.
The most effective statements seem to be:
When I play I think only of the music
When I perform I play fluently and musically
The examiner enjoys hearing my playing
When I perform I feel excited, calm, focused and happy.
The affirmations must be placed in the present tense, not in the future, so it is not advisable to say, ‘When I give my recital I will play fluently’, but better to say, ‘In recitals I play fluently’.
Recently, however, I read an interesting post by Daniel Miller on the Tiny Buddha website* about how gratitude can calm your nerves and make you more effective and I’m thinking that this could be added to my pre-recital support programme. Gratitude has many benefits, including the capacityto promote happiness, health, self-esteem, as well as improving relationships and sleep patterns.
Thinking grateful thoughts could be helpful in taking the emphasis away from the importance of ‘Me’ in the recital and putting the focus where it belongs, on the music itself. Helpful statements could be along the lines of
I’m grateful that …
I am able to play this wonderful music
I am doing something I love to do as part of my education
I have this opportunity to play for a fellow musician who wants me to do well
I am privileged to play on a good, grand piano.
Gratitude can shift our focus from negative to positive thinking; it can give us a more balanced perspective on the situation – if I make a slip I can keep going because I am well prepared; it can allow us to stay in the ‘now’ moment rather than dwell on the outcome; it can take the place of fear.
*Tiny Buddha http://archive.feedblitz.com/850672/~4766223/29317868/68abb382e5838eb2e4a9c8f82b887f8b