Come this Friday evening, I will be performing in the UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s first concert of the year. About a year ago, I was doing the same thing. Look back at myself from that time, I’m amazed at how much improvement I’ve made in my ensemble playing skills.
Last year, I was so nervous I could barely even focus, let alone play musically. Whenever I made a mistake, I would beat myself up about it horribly, even walking home crying sometimes. That wasn’t productive for me or the ensemble. I had trouble making entrances in time, I didn’t count rests well, I was terrible at looking up at the conductor while playing, and sometimes I didn’t even have my parts properly prepared.
Since then, I’ve learned that confidence is the best thing you can do for your playing. Letting nerves get in the way just screws you over before you’ve even started playing. I also figured out that it’s OKAY to make mistakes, that’s what rehearsals are for! Everyone makes them, and no one is going to hate your guts because of it, so no reason to be nervous. I learned to deal with mistakes productively; ie. identifying the problem and fixing it without getting upset, rather than taking it way too personally and making myself unable to solve the problem. I’ve learned to always have my parts learned fully for rehearsal (seems like a no brainer, but it’s just a matter of prioritizing I somehow didn’t grasp), I count better (usually..), and I’ve gotten way better at looking up at the conductor.
It’s truly amazing what a difference a year can make! Just wait til I’m in fourth year, I’ll be unstoppable!
Earlier today I had the pleasure of performing at the Dodson Series Concert (these are concerts held once a month in the Dodson Room in Irving K. Barber Learning Centre), and I’m happy to report that all of the performances (all by UBC Music students) went very well!
Like pretty much anyone ever, I get a bit nervous before I play. I used to get a lot more nervous than I do now, but with every performance I gain better control over my adrenalin. As I sat down at the harp, I took a deep breath in, imagined the first few bars as I wanted them to sound, and then began to play. I knew that I had that piece down cold. I’d practiced well, and I had just played it in the dress rehearsal, and nothing was going to go wrong. One of the most important things I think I did today was keep breathing while I played – it’s easy to forget when you’re nervous, and not breathing makes it very easy to get tense and tired which can sabotage your playing.
I finished the piece, and I don’t even remember playing a wrong note. I stood up, smiled, and bowed, letting the applause wash over me. After pouring all that energy out into the audience, it felt so good to feel all the appreciative energy of the audience come back to me. A few people came up to me afterwards to congratulate me on my performance and let me know how much they enjoyed it. I think those people who come up afterwards are my favourite part of performing; knowing I’ve played in a way I’m proud of makes me feel great, but knowing that I’ve been able to connect with and inspire another person so much that they want to come up and thank me for it makes me feel amazing.