The experience of watching live music is something special. Every time you get the chance to sit and listen to a person or a group of people perform, you are watching hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months of preparation, culminating in a performance for you. As musicians, it’s hard to avoid comparing our own musicianship with the performers we are watching. This can either be very helpful, or it can be damaging to our own experiences the next time we are in the performer’s roll.
Ask yourself: how do you react when you hear an error from a performer you are watching? I will admit, there have been times when I am hoping to hear a mistake, to in some way validate my own errors, past and future. This kind of listening, however, does not make for a very enjoyable experience and doesn’t do anything to make me feel any better about my own mistakes.
A much better way to help your own performance, and actually enjoy the concert you are attending, is to root for the player you are watching, reveling in the beautiful music they are making. The way you listen to music will inform your own concept of what the audience is thinking when it’s your turn on stage. As an audience member, if you are listening with a positive, encouraging spirit, then when you are performing you will feel that same energy from your audience.
Next time you get the chance to enjoy a concert, see if you can stay in this positive mindset throughout the performance. Actively engage with the performer or performers on stage, sending them all the good vibes and encouragement you can, and don’t let a mistake pull you out of the enjoyment of their music. Focus on all of the good things happening on stage, and the next time you are performing, maybe mistakes won’t distract you as much from the beautiful music you are sharing with your audience.
Enjoy your next concert!
Sometimes, nearly hitting a goal can be just as inspiring as actually achieving it. While this concept might be somewhat counterintuitive, there has been quite a bit of research into this phenomenon that I was made aware of listening to a Hidden Brain podcast titled, “Near Wins, And Not Quites: How Almost Winning Can Be Motivating.”
Through interviews and citing the research of his guests, Shankar Vedantam explores this possibility, presenting some interesting findings. According to the research of Monica Wadhwa, who as a young girl felt the thrill of almost winning the lottery, coming very close to a goal can motivate you to win something else that comes up. For her it was a big exam in school, but for you it could easily be the next audition, big job interview, or fantasy football matchup (which I’m sure for some of you will matter greatly in the coming months).
There are a lot of interesting implications in this idea. However, I think for this effect to be really powerful, we also have to frame our “failures” in the right way. Instead of reacting as if the world screwed you over in some way, get excited about how close you got! Think about what you can do to push yourself to the next level that might get you to the goal you just barely missed.
A couple years ago a was a finalist in a principal horn audition for an orchestra, but I didn’t win the job. I was disappointed, but also really excited! I was so close! After that, I was able to ride that excitement and keep working hard toward whatever opportunity was going to come my way next.
Think about a recent “miss” and notice how you respond. How can you alter your outlook to spin a failure into motivation? This is not always an easy task. Take some time to process the failure, but think about what you can do to push yourself over the edge next time. You might even discover you are creating obstacles for yourself, an idea we are going to discuss next week...
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