I had a fantastic time yesterday at the November Catch-Up & Performance day - thank you again to all who made it along and especially to those who performed. I'll be sending out a link to the videos and photos from the day very soon. As I watched each performer, and as I prepared to perform myself (the teacher always plays), I was thinking about nerves. Not the physical nerves in our body, but the sensation of feeling nervous.
You would probably think that over all my years of performing in front of crowds big and small that maybe I would be immune from feeling nervous. It all really depends on what your personal reasons for being nervous are and how that reflects upon your assumptions for other people's nervousness. For instance, I get nervous performing as your teacher because deep in my beliefs I feel like teachers should be immune to mistakes, so that if I make a mistake, then it's a bad reflection on my ability as a teacher. I can't say that it's a very helpful belief, as I can't remember a single performance in my whole life where I've not made some sort of mistake, big or small.
As part of an upcoming project, over the past week I've brainstorming piano "myths" - things that you've heard that you've assumed are true, but might in fact be misinformation or information that needs updating as our knowledge of how people learn and the way that our bodies work develops.
I'm curious to hear from you - is there anything that you had assumed to be "true" that you've discovered is not the case while learning the piano?
As part of checking in with their goals and progress, I was having a chat last week to two of my longer-serving students about my role as a teacher. They were surprised to hear that, ultimately, my job is to put myself out of a job! It might seem like a strange business goal to have but it cuts to the heart of why I love teaching the way I do. As I state at the bottom of each newsletter I send, my goal is to give music lovers the skills and understanding to creatively explore their passion through playing, composing and listening. So, why do I want to put myself out of a job?
I'm a bit sore and sorry today - yesterday I played in a tennis tournament at the Morningside Tennis Centre. "B Grade" Singles to be precise - the lowest grading I could enter! I play tennis once per week, social doubles with mostly over 60s on a Thursday morning and I love it, so I was keen to see how my skills stacked up against the general tennis playing public.
Well, out the four round-robin pool matches I played, I lost the first 3 but managed to notch a win in the 4th. As I was playing each match, I was taking notice of the thoughts that came in to my head each time I hit a bad shot or lost a game I could have won. It was an interesting exercise to hear how often I was putting pressure on myself, how often I was giving myself new instructions, and how often I was calming myself down. One point at a time, as they say.
How good was the rain on Friday and Saturday! It's sprung a bit of life back in to some of my plants in the garden, including some chilli bushes that I thought were dead and gone. I have to admit that in the midst of the best rain on Friday, I was sitting in my studio, headphones on, oblivious to most of it! After spending a few hours in the studio the weekend before (as I mentioned last week) I wanted to finish off a couple of projects that I started. One part of working on creative projects of any sort is the unleashing of the almighty beast...
...THE INNER CRITIC.
The inner critic is that little voice in your head that says, "No, that's rubbish. Stop what you're doing. How unoriginal."
So, is this voice in your head ever useful?
How many of you got caught out in some way, shape or form by the clocks switching to Daylight Savings time for the rest of the Eastern states? Everyone whose phones incorrectly tell the time seem to have a great complaint - "I had to get up an hour early!" But for those of you who often feel time-poor, how useful would and extra hour in the day be?
I had the opposite experience on Sunday - I lost a lot of time! My wife was away with some friends on a trip to Tasmania over the weekend, so I had free reign over how I spent my time. After doing some piano practise (yes, even teachers do it...), I looked at my electric drum kit, put some music on, and a half hour later had reminded myself of how fun it is to drum. That got me thinking about rhythm, so I decided to listen to some of my old demos, which took me back to the piano so I could play some songs I'd written a while ago but never recorded, which then took me to my computer so I could start producing one of those songs. All up, I spent about 3 hours playing and making music, and it went by in a flash!
I've been watching a lot of the TV series "Hip Hop Evolution" on Netflix over the past few weeks to help me fill in a few gaps in my knowledge of the genre (and there were some LARGE gaps) and it has me thinking about the way we can construct deliberate rhythms with our words. One of the exercises I do with students who are starting to do more rhythm-based improvisation is to ask them what they had for lunch today. For example, today I had cheese, tomato and tuna on crackers.
How's everyone been coping with the wind and dust and smoke over the weekend? I mainly kept myself shut up inside the house, watching lots of sports with mixed results. Wonderful to have the Ashes retained in the cricket, but losses over the weekend to the Broncos and the Lions made for frustrating viewing.
Do you ever notice what happens to your body when you get frustrated watching TV? Maybe you clench your jaw or other muscles, maybe you freeze everything in place, maybe you yell or groan.