Guest blog by Olivia Williams (Piano Prodigies student)
What does the word “nervous” mean to you? Do your thoughts draw a picture of failure? Some might think of green faces expecting to tip over, others might think of restlessness. I get a little nervous, but my piano teacher Miss Elizabeth helps me think of ways to overcome the trepidation of failure and accept the feeling that clouds my stomach.
Practicing is a big key to success. Don’t expect the pieces to play by themselves. As musicians, we make sacrifices that some don’t understand in order to keep in touch with our instrument. The piano (or whatever instrument you play) has to become your best friend. Would you want to fight, lose touch, or stay away from that special person? Surely not. Don’t tell yourself it’s impossible—with the right mindset it IS possible.
Mental thoughts can jab at your performance, whether they are good or bad. Before a big day, make sure to keep all thoughts and conversations positive. If you make others believe it, it’s much easier to believe. We can admit negativity can do a lot of damage until we are the ones doing it to ourselves. Don’t be shy to yourself -tell yourself that you are going to do well and smile.
Earlier today, I competed at the Rockville Competition for Piano and Strings. The judge met me with a smile and I told myself I was going to do well. While sitting on the piano bench, I made sure to take a moment to breathe and even look around (out of my peripheral vision). Glancing at my feet, I felt the floor and I envisioned them reaching into the ground and rooting themselves there. Funny thought perhaps... but it let me know that I wasn’t going anywhere and neither was the piano. We were both stable and I was ready to begin.
When I finished my pieces, I felt a pang of sadness that it was over. I realized that I had actually enjoyed the experience. I reflected on how I prepared mentally, and how Miss Elizabeth gave me all of these extremely helpful insights. A week ago, she asked me how I could be thankful for competitions and recitals. Many thoughts ran through my head, because I had not thought of performing in that way. My answer now is I am thankful for the judge’s time, and those who put together performances for students, because some musicians do not get that chance. Each performance is an exciting way to show others how much music means to me.
The MTNA National Conference included poster presentations on a variety of topics. This one, by Evan Engelstad of the University of Wisconson at Madison, caught my eye. Students and parents - please read!
Elizabeth Borowsky is a pianist, teacher, and composer. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano (Music Teachers National Association).