Aren’t PERFORMANCE SKILLS just “GOOD PREPARATION”?
Someone recently answered a question of mine about what performance is: “I believe it’s all about preparation,” he said.
Well, that depends on what you mean by preparation. Of course, a successful performance requires good musical and technical preparation.
I remember watching Cecilia Bartoli once and observing that she was so at-one with the pieces that she was singing that she made it seem like the words were coming spontaneously from her core. That is, like a very great actor, who appears to be making up the words to match his/her inner state and feelings and response to stimuli, rather than recalling lines someone else wrote. Obviously, meticulous musical and technical preparation is required for this kind of performance. But it’s not all that’s required.
It’s possible to prepare to the absolute best of one’s ability and, because of a limited paradigm we might have learned or inherited, our performance may come up short of our expectations. We may unconsciously prevent it from being easily received by the audience, or we may not bring our full selves to the piece or performance situation. Our critical voice might distract us from what we want to achieve, or our performance goal may be one that does not do our playing/singing justice, or that doesn’t align with getting the best out of ourselves on stage. Or, something we’re completely unaware of: our body language might let us down.
Some performers know how to perform instinctively. But most of us have to learn at least some of the skills I’m talking about in order to get the best out of ourselves. Not just to create a performance (rather than a rendition), but also to maximise our mind-body coordination and actually play/sing technically better as well. And, from my master’s and doctoral research, I’ve discovered that even natural performers can learn to perform better.
So, first, I’m not just talking about how to walk on stage, how to talk to an audience, how to bow, and those kinds of things, though these are all really important. Those things are what I might call the bread and butter of performance.
But I NEVER learned these things from a music teacher. Not in my 30+ years of music lessons.
I’m talking about a much bigger picture than just bows and walking. By performance skills, what I mean is being able to:
- Maintain a constructive mindset in the days, weeks and hours leading up to a performance
- Respond constructively to your critical voice when it strikes, and distracts you, mid-performance (and this can happen to anyone, regardless of experience and level of career)
- Practise in a way that makes you ready to walk on stage and greet an audience
- Get the best out of yourself even when things don’t go according to plan, or when the performance conditions are surprising and distracting, or downright unhelpful
- Cooperate with human design at a ninja level
- Create a joyful experience on stage for yourself and your audience
- Be playful on stage, rather than just play notes and phrases
- Be creative on stage
- Create charisma on stage
- Give yourself a constructive and efficient performance review
More about Amanda Cole here.