Building Confidence

Building Confidence

RNZ Concert asked me for advice around confidence, and in particular if it can be built.

I believe it can.

You can read what I had to say about it all on their website: Confidence Tricks – some tips for musical performance

Building Confidence

RNZ Concert asked me for advice around confidence, and in particular if it can be built. I believe it can. You can read what I had to say about it all on their website: Confidence Tricks - some tips for musical performance facebook LinkedIn Instagram

Effort, Age and Survival  

It is over a month since my last blog post and with the 6 weeks that have passed, we are well and truly in mid-summer here in Central Otago.

I have been systematically working through the 10 sonatas, regularly inspired by the awesome landscapes outside my window, and accompanied by my trusty sidekick – Coco the cat.

It turns out one of the biggest current challenges is physical fatigue…

A reset from the inside out

Having previously performed 6 of the 10 sonatas more than 20 years ago, it has been a lovely process coming back to the familiar, as well as discovering the new. Primarily due to the work I have been doing over the last 2 years getting to the nitty-gritty of my performance philosophies, these incredibly pristine works of Beethoven are proving to be an absolute gift for me.

Where to from here?

The next three months are super exciting for me, with 3 concerts confirmed in Mid-Feb 2020 for the performance of all 10 Beethoven sonatas within three days…and all in my new gorgeous neighbourhood of Central Otago.

It’s quite possible that I am naïve to the full enormity of this project – but one thing is for sure, sinking my teeth into these works again is a true treat, and the magnitude of the project is just what I am now needing at this point in my life.

Mountains and overcoming self-consciousness

I love mountains - always have, always will. Having recently moved to live amongst the Southern Alps of New Zealand, I am lucky enough to interact daily with these magnificent mountains. I am acutely aware of the support and inspiration they give me as a creative...

Acknowledging the positive

Beware of your greatest strengths! Shakespeare is quoted as saying “your greatest strength begets your greatest weakness”.   As performers, one of our most valuable strengths is our skill in self-critiquing. We are highly trained in the ability to judge and...

Discovering whole-body awareness

Reflections from a piano classInvited to explore ListenFeelPlay philosophies in an Auckland University piano class, four talented young pianists and I experimented together, witnessing and demonstrating, on the spot, the power and relevance of whole-body...

Be true to your own creative voice

One of the lessons I have learnt over and over again through my career has been the importance of honouring your own voice, your own perspective and your own self-expression. In order to do this, you must pay close attention to your creative intuition, and have the...

Taking ownership of your confidence

I used to think of confidence as something you either have or you don’t have, but in fact confidence is something you 'do', or more to the point often ‘don’t do’…to varying degrees. Let me explain. It was somewhat of a lightbulb moment for me when I realised that...

Attitude is everything

"Attitude is everything" It’s a common saying and personally I couldn’t agree more. When it comes to successfully and confidently expressing yourself and having a great time in the process, awareness of your attitude allows for a wealth of opportunities. Do you adopt...

Effort, Age and Survival  

Effort, Age and Survival  

Effort, Age and Survival  

Summertime Practising

It is over a month since my last blog post and with the 6 weeks that have passed, we are well and truly in mid-summer here in Central Otago.

I have been systematically working through the 10 sonatas, regularly inspired by the awesome landscapes outside my window, and accompanied by my trusty sidekick – Coco the cat.

Physical fatigue

It turns out one of the biggest current challenges is physical fatigue. Kate has mentioned the same, both of us recognizing that our not-so-youthful bodies simply can’t take what they used to…mine being past the half-century mark at 51 years old!!!

Seeing the bright side of this slippery slope, there is a definite opportunity – my body demanding, as a matter of necessity, that I discover and eliminate any unnecessary effort involved in my approach.

It is a matter of survival!

Discovering effort

At this stage in my preparation, pretty much without exception, with each and every phrase I play, upon scanning for ‘effort’ or ‘imbalance’, I always discover something that can be approached with greater ease, balance or release.

I relish these discoveries – each new awareness providing me with knowledge for a better and more rewarding physical approach. Repeating the phrase, peeling off the layers of effort, or feeling renewed balance where it wasn’t, there is always a significant improvement in my technical control and musical expression.

Considering how valuable this renewed ease is for my aging body and my stamina, these discoveries regularly feel miraculous.

A theme for each day

With each day, in my warmup or early stages of playing the first sonata of the day, I look to discover a part of my body that is appealing for attention. For example, as I warmed up today (having just come off a couple of hours of admin at my computer!) my bow arm felt shaky and unstable.

It was not a nice feeling!

So, first locating my centre, then relating how my bow arm was moving relative to my centre, I set out to observe unnecessary tension and/or effort in my whole bow arm.

Quite quickly discovering a feeling of effort, my next task was to locate the precise locations of this effort or tension.

Today’s theme

Turns out, there was locking and stiffness in my wrist.

Next, paying more attention to the specific feeling in my wrist, still relating my movements to my centre, I noticed inflexibility in the relationship between my wrist and the placement of my right elbow.

What followed was hugely valuable clarity that these two points in my arm – my wrist and my elbow – instead of being consistent and stuck in their relationship, benefit hugely from constant malleability. To achieve this malleability, my wrist requires effortless mobility.

This vital awareness become my ‘theme of the day’.

Throughout my practice of Sonatas 9 and 6 today, by applying this awareness, I kept catching the unnecessary tension in my wrist and subsequent inflexibility between my wrist and elbow.

Resetting through release into renewed malleability and ease, I was regularly able to achieve more physical ease and subsequent technical control of my bow. It was the revelation of the day!

In days to come, I will be vigilant to keep this observation alive, over time unravelling my habit of wrist tension and then reveling in the release and ease that follows.

I wonder what I will discover tomorrow?

A reset from the inside out

A reset from the inside out

A reset from the inside out

The gift of Beethoven

Having previously performed 6 of the 10 sonatas more than 20 years ago, it has been a lovely process coming back to the familiar, as well as discovering the new. Primarily due to the work I have been doing over the last 2 years getting to the nitty-gritty of my performance philosophies, these incredibly pristine works of Beethoven are proving to be an absolute gift for me.

New discoveries

Even though I have spent my whole career consciously peeling layers of tension away in my playing, with the recent time I have had to step back and observe in much more detail what is going on inside my body, I have discovered subtle yet deep habitual layers of tension that hinder ultimate control and comfort. I have felt these blocks in my playing and performance over the years and in some ways they were becoming more apparent and problematic as time went on.

These Beethoven sonatas are offering me an opportunity to reset my physical and mental foundation.

Rather than the more traditional building ‘from the bottom up’, I’m approaching my foundation ‘from the inside out’.

Building my foundation from the inside out

Wonderfully, locating and clearly feeling my physical centre before I even begin has the instant impact of putting me in touch with my whole body.

This whole-body awareness is a powerful place to begin from and the challenge is to keep the whole body involved in the process of playing and performing.

Holding onto the feeling of centre, I experiment with relating my movements directly to it. In addition, I also search for balance in whatever movement I make with my body, big or small.

Balance

When I look for balance, I instantly discover where balance is lacking. And as soon as that discovery is made, my body feeds back to me where the balance can be found.

This ‘search for balance’ always reaps surprising rewards. With balance comes the ability to observe and let go of unnecessary tension.

What then follows is more technical control of sound and easeful freedom of musical expression. I am finding this process to be incredibly liberating.

Vigilance

I have to be vigilant, as my habits of tension, restriction, doubt and fear so easily slip into my playing when my attention drifts away.

When I catch myself in that state, I bring my awareness back to my centre and inevitably the source of tension is uncovered. I celebrate these moments, as with this enlightening clarity the tension invariably evaporates and the whole body returns to ease and freedom.

Development through sound

I am discovering that any imbalance or lack of centre is ultimately expressed negatively in the sound – perhaps as weak or unsupported tone, poor intonation, forced sound, awkward shift.

So, any less than ideal sound is a signal to return to centre and seek out the imbalance. Time and time again, this concept is proving to be incredibly powerful and rewarding.

This week, as I have practised these sonatas, my aim has been for every movement to germinate from my sense of centre, every movement in balance, every movement free, malleable and strong.

With this approach has come a renewed freedom of expression. Every movement can so much more directly and easefully respond to the precise detail of what I am listening for – each movement intimately led by the creative listening of my ear.

Whole-body choreography

Being conscious of the involvement of my whole body in my playing has connected me to the concept of whole-body choreography. In the past, I have been conscious of the choreography of different parts of my body in isolation, but to become aware of the choreography of my whole body as one cohesive unit has presented a sense of being like a dancer.

A dancer focuses on the cohesive choreography of every part of their body, aware of each movement and its intimate impact on their technical and expressive ability, each movement free, easeful and balanced.

Using my whole body like a dancer as I play is liberating and I intend to explore this awareness in more detail in the weeks to come.

Where to from here?

Where to from here?

Where to from here?

The next three months are super exciting for me, with 3 concerts confirmed in Mid-Feb 2020 for the performance of all 10 Beethoven sonatas within three days…and all in my new gorgeous neighbourhood of Central Otago.

It’s quite possible that I am naïve to the full enormity of this project – but one thing is for sure, sinking my teeth into these works again is a true treat, and the magnitude of the project is just what I am now needing at this point in my life.

New challenges

As many of you will know, I left my beloved NZTrio more than 2 years ago. Ready for some new challenges and moving on from one life-dream to another, my husband Marc Taddei and I sold up in Auckland and bought land in Central Otago in order to build our dream home – which was completed in August this year (2019) and we absolutely love it!!

Throughout the 12-month build, I was heavily involved helping with the project management – a role that I absolutely relished. But of course, this role was all consuming, so for a while there, my violin playing took a bit of a back seat, with just a few projects here and there to keep me in the game.

Where to from here?

Taking several steps back from my performing career has proved to be hugely insightful for me. Initially, I put some significant time into articulating my personal performance philosophy, which required me to analyze in detail my whole approach to playing.

As a result of my continual desire to improve and develop through my career to this point, I have made all sorts of mind and body discoveries that have proved to be hugely valuable – and with some extra space to consider ‘where-to-from-here’ I realise that I’m highly motivated to share my knowledge with other performers. Fundamentally I want to help other professionals perform at their best – and most importantly, support them to truly enjoy what they do. Too many have lost that ability.

ListenFeelPlay

In order to share my knowledge, I created my Creative Performance Coaching business ListenFeelPlay, built this website and then started coaching professional musicians. I am thrilled to report that every musician has reaped significant rewards from this coaching – and interestingly all this new work delving into my approach and helping others with theirs, has very positively impacted on my own playing and motivation to perform.

Beethoven 2020

Encouraged by this new-found inspiration, I jumped at the chance to perform all 10 Beethoven Sonatas when pianist and good friend Kate Boyd approached me to create a project for her sabbatical from Butler University in the States.

The time was right for a significant project – so Beethoven 2020 was born.

Mountains and overcoming self-consciousness

Mountains and overcoming self-consciousness

Mountains and overcoming self-consciousness

I love mountains – always have, always will.

Having recently moved to live amongst the Southern Alps of New Zealand, I am lucky enough to interact daily with these magnificent mountains.

I am acutely aware of the support and inspiration they give me as a creative person and I’ve been contemplating what it is that inspires me most about them.

 

Mountains exude a disarming lack of self-consciousness.

Mountains don’t worry about how others see or experience them. They don’t question or doubt themselves for a second. They each simply do their ‘mountain’ thing, standing tall and proud. The mountains are utterly in the moment. This way of being inspires me.

Self-consciousness is of course a human condition and as a creative performer, I am well aware of its destabilising pitfalls. I assume mountains can’t experience its negative effects, but in contrast, their projection of unwavering strength of purpose and confidence in what they are and what they do strikes me strongly. As creative performers, this state is hugely valuable for us to embody.

I find it interesting how strongly I have been struck by the mountains’ lack of self-consciousness. Through my own career, I can point to many times when the destructive impacts of self-consciousness have impacted on my playing and performances.

Gaining more understanding around what it is, why it is so destructive and how to overcome the negative impacts, has been enlightening and rewarding.

What is self-consciousness?

If you are self-conscious, you are:

  • Excessively aware of being observed by others
  • Unduly aware of yourself, your appearance, or your actions
  • Uncomfortably conscious of yourself as an object of the observations of others

The pitfalls of self-consciousness

When we are overly self-conscious, we focus on how others might be observing us, and this often turns into concern about their assessment of us.

As a result, we enter a downward spiral of destructive thoughts, our minds becoming full of worry, anxiety and judgement.

In the process, we lose ourselves.

The imaginary external perspective

As a result of self-consciousness, our perspective changes. We imagine ourselves from the external perspective of others – a perspective that is completely outside of ourselves.

Paying attention to this imaginary external perspective, we lose touch with our actual internal awareness – and this is why self-consciousness can be so self-destructive.

In the case of creative performers, it is easy to recognise this preoccupation with being observed and judged by others, especially as the very act of performing for an audience involves being observed.

Though we are definitely observed by others, there is another particularly powerful observer within this destructive self-conscious mix that has the potential to be the most distracting and destructive of all.

That observer is YOURSELF.

What is your perspective?

  • When you perform, do you have a sense of observing yourself from an external perspective, outside of your body?
  • Is it almost like another person or perhaps a different version of yourself is observing?
  • Perhaps from that view point you are looking down on yourself, or maybe the view is from the audience’s perspective.
  • Perhaps the perspective is similar to that of another colleague.
  • Does this observer have opinions about how you look, sound, move and feel?
  • Is this observer ultimately supportive and encouraging of you, or is this observer critical, eating away at your confidence with discouraging comments and assessments?

I suggest this external observer has huge potential to destroy your performance, and how you engage with this ‘shadow of yourself’ is a key element to your performance success and enjoyment.

Why is this?

Self-consciousness relies on a heightened external awareness.

If we are observing ourselves from the outside, we are distracted from the active sensing and awareness of our body. We are no longer connected and alert to our internal world. We are dislocated from the intelligence of the body and its natural expressive ability and we consequently lose our natural physical control and comfort. Our ungrounded mind, disconnected from our body, effectively runs wild.

The key to reversing this destructive pathway is to turn our focus inward with great curiosity.

Constantly building a more detailed internal perspective gives us access to a completely different performance experience and outcome.

Perspective from the inside out

There is much natural intelligence and wisdom to tap into when we pay attention to our bodies from the inside out: how best to move, how we are actually feeling, how we want to express ourselves.

The results of truly sensing and acknowledging our internal wisdom are often astounding. Paying attention to this wisdom allows for ease of movement, which in turn allows our creativity and self-expression to flow more naturally, unlocking our innate confidence.

Turning off self-consciousness

So, self-consciousness and its destructive impacts can be turned off by practising self-awareness and internal sensing.

When we are self-conscious, our focus is on our distracting and judgemental thoughts. By placing the focus of our minds within our body, there is less room for the destructive dialogue of our external observer and our unruly minds begin to settle.

With full and clear internal body awareness comes a calm, liberating and productive focus and attitude. We become centred, grounded and in touch with the current moment – and this current moment is where true creativity and spontaneity reside.

 

Being like the mountains

As creative performers, when we are focused within our bodies, we become just like the unquestioning mountains, confident and strong in ourselves and our purpose.

Having discarded the destructive powers of self-consciousness, we can simply do our thing.

Best of all, in this state of whole-body connection, by focusing our attention on intimately listening and feeling within ourselves, we can unlock our true unrestrained creative voice.

Discovering your own internal perspective:

Personally, I am still discovering how liberating and empowering it is to intimately explore and develop self-awareness from the inside out as I play. This has required being constantly alert to how my body feels, and listening to what it is communicating to me.

Fundamental to this exploration has been the ongoing development of a clear and detailed sense of my centre and how it relates to the rest of my body. The positive impact of this awareness of centre is hugely powerful and impressive – and wonderfully, it also brings a much greater sense of enjoyment in the whole process.

As a creative performer, my aim is to be completely authentic and confident in my own creative voice. Developing a clear sense of my centre connects me with my whole body and this connection has allowed a completely different level of comfort and control.

As a result, through detailed and focused feeling and listening to my body, I find myself to be much more in touch with my own unique creative perspective.

Try this:

Experiment with the following ideas within your creative practice and performance.

Practise bringing this awareness to every aspect of your creativity, and notice the impacts.

Stay curious, keep discovering and have fun with it.

  • Feel your centre, notice it, get to know it in as much detail as possible and try to keep your sense of it alert.
  • If you are struggling to find your centre, consider a spot inside your abdomen, approximately 5 cm below your tummy button, and 5cm within your body. Place your attention at this spot and notice how it feels.
  • Consider the size, shape, consistency and colour of your centre. Simply pay attention and notice what comes to mind.
  • Consider this centre and internal awareness as your foundation – fundamental for everything else to flow in balance and ease from.
  • Notice how other parts of your body relate to your centre.
  • Build a sense of your whole internal body in relation to your centre.
  • Notice how different parts of your body feel and how they want to move in relation to your centre.
  • Consider your posture, and build it from the inside out, relating everything to your centre. Rather than imposing any external sense of how your posture ‘should be’, be guided by how your internal body ‘wants to be’.
  • Throw out the rule book of how you think you ‘should move’ from an external perspective and explore movement from an internal perspective of feeling ease, flow and balance.
  • Relate different parts of your body to your centre: Sitting bones, feet, knees, shoulders, arms, lips, tongue, back of your neck. Notice what affect relating different points to your centre has on your internal awareness.
  • Keep feeling for comfort and freedom…explore where you are uncomfortable, and allow you body to advise and guide you on how it wants to be.

When ever you drift away from the awareness of your centre, simply bring that awareness back.

You will need to do this time and time again.

Just bring your awareness back into your body, back to your centre, and notice the affects on your comfort, self expression and enjoyment.

Building Confidence

RNZ Concert asked me for advice around confidence, and in particular if it can be built. I believe it can. You can read what I had to say about it all on their website: Confidence Tricks - some tips for musical performance facebook LinkedIn Instagram

Effort, Age and Survival  

It is over a month since my last blog post and with the 6 weeks that have passed, we are well and truly in mid-summer here in Central Otago.

I have been systematically working through the 10 sonatas, regularly inspired by the awesome landscapes outside my window, and accompanied by my trusty sidekick – Coco the cat.

It turns out one of the biggest current challenges is physical fatigue…

A reset from the inside out

Having previously performed 6 of the 10 sonatas more than 20 years ago, it has been a lovely process coming back to the familiar, as well as discovering the new. Primarily due to the work I have been doing over the last 2 years getting to the nitty-gritty of my performance philosophies, these incredibly pristine works of Beethoven are proving to be an absolute gift for me.

Where to from here?

The next three months are super exciting for me, with 3 concerts confirmed in Mid-Feb 2020 for the performance of all 10 Beethoven sonatas within three days…and all in my new gorgeous neighbourhood of Central Otago.

It’s quite possible that I am naïve to the full enormity of this project – but one thing is for sure, sinking my teeth into these works again is a true treat, and the magnitude of the project is just what I am now needing at this point in my life.

Mountains and overcoming self-consciousness

I love mountains - always have, always will. Having recently moved to live amongst the Southern Alps of New Zealand, I am lucky enough to interact daily with these magnificent mountains. I am acutely aware of the support and inspiration they give me as a creative...

Acknowledging the positive

Beware of your greatest strengths! Shakespeare is quoted as saying “your greatest strength begets your greatest weakness”.   As performers, one of our most valuable strengths is our skill in self-critiquing. We are highly trained in the ability to judge and...

Discovering whole-body awareness

Reflections from a piano classInvited to explore ListenFeelPlay philosophies in an Auckland University piano class, four talented young pianists and I experimented together, witnessing and demonstrating, on the spot, the power and relevance of whole-body...

Be true to your own creative voice

One of the lessons I have learnt over and over again through my career has been the importance of honouring your own voice, your own perspective and your own self-expression. In order to do this, you must pay close attention to your creative intuition, and have the...

Taking ownership of your confidence

I used to think of confidence as something you either have or you don’t have, but in fact confidence is something you 'do', or more to the point often ‘don’t do’…to varying degrees. Let me explain. It was somewhat of a lightbulb moment for me when I realised that...

Attitude is everything

"Attitude is everything" It’s a common saying and personally I couldn’t agree more. When it comes to successfully and confidently expressing yourself and having a great time in the process, awareness of your attitude allows for a wealth of opportunities. Do you adopt...