October 2, 2013

Risky Business

No matter how many times you might step in front of an audience, it is always a little stressful.  There is a lot on the line, whether you are playing to put someone to sleep or getting up on a concert hall stage – especially if it’s just you and your harp. 

Why is it stressful?  Because you are taking a risk!  It might not, on the surface, be as dangerous as we typically think of risky behavior, but there you are, taking a risk. And we learn from very early not to take risks!
One of the good things about leading a double life is that you have twice as much material to work with!  I was talking with a colleague about risk taking – he was talking about Alpine skiing racing (literally – he started his skiing career in the Alps!).  He’s even published work on this area: http://www.academie-air-espace.com/publi/newDetail.php?varID=180.  But I started thinking immediately about performing. 

We can take a page from the book of risk takers – the tightrope walkers, skiing racers, mountaineers, and others.  What do professional risk takers do to minimize the risks they take?  Well there are many things, but here are three to start with - you can use them to improve your comfort when you step on stage:

1. Preparation – successful risk takers are prepared.  They do not proceed unless they are prepared.  They spend a great deal of time and attention to assuring that everything they need they have.  You must also be prepared –know what “being prepared” means to you (determine what your comfort will require you to do), do not be bullied into performing before you are ready, perhaps schedule in “growing” time to perform for small, unthreatening groups (you might go from performing for your cat, to then performing for your sister, before venturing out to your church or other larger audience).

2. Routine – develop, practice and solidify a routine.  The experienced risk taker understands that an established routine allows not only assurance that all is well beforehand but it also frees up time for your brain to do the heavy work you are going to ask of it while you are performing.  You need a routine – pack up and set up your harp in a particular order, use a checklist if you need one, practice your set list, in that order, etc.  Routine also allows you to reduce your worry (because it can improve your preparation) which allows you to focus on the music rather than on your fear.

3. Connectivity with people – Successful risk takers work collaboratively with other people.  This connectivity provides not only support but also feedback.  Build your connectivity with other harpers – you’re not in this alone.  Find a teacher, mentor, friend who will provide you with honest, kind, usable feedback to improve your performance.  Build what you learn from their feedback into your preparation and routine.  And to build your connection – be willing to share what you know with other harp players.

Go on – take a risk!

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