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Become the powerful artist you are meant to be!

June 1, 2015

I mentioned in my last post that Life keeps giving us new challenges to grow from.  My current challenge has to do with performing and memorization.

Alexander Technique Cincinnati musiciansI haven’t done much playing from memory since my early 20’s, when I was used to performing solo repertoire from memory on a regular basis. One of the reasons is the following. When I was about 22, I had a negative experience while playing a very challenging solo piece with orchestra, the Chausson Poeme, which instilled a lot of fear in me about playing from memory in public.  So it wasn’t until decades later that I began daring to play new pieces in public again. I still do it very rarely.

You might wonder what the negative experience was, so I’ll tell you:

I was performing as the soloist with the orchestra, with perhaps hundreds of people in the audience, when all of a sudden I realized that I had been playing the entire first page mindlessly, completely on automatic pilot! It was almost as if I had been unconscious and was suddenly waking up from a coma! My shock in coming back to myself was tremendous. Thankfully, I was able to keep on playing without making any mistakes, and nobody noticed. But I was so shaken and disconcerted that I could have performed such a difficult piece in such a public situation without any awareness of it at all. My mind was NOT there, and I had no idea know where it/I was!

It was a good thing I was obligated to repeat the performance the next night, because I might have been scared off of solo work forever, had I not done it again right away. I was VERY much present for the second performance, so I felt much better about it. Curiously, nobody could tell the difference between the two performances (some even preferred the first!), which was also disconcerting. Not one person had noticed that “I” hadn’t been there! It was truly a very strange phenomenon, and I never wanted that to happen again, so I stopped doing solo work for a long time, especially from memory.

Since learning the Alexander Technique, I am always very present when I perform. I have learned how to “BE” in my body-mind-self, without letting myself disconnect from my experience. I don’t let habit take over in a way that erases my consciousness and my creative, spontaneous involvement with the music. I am involved in the music with every bit of my mind, body, soul, and spirit, and it is all done with very clear intention and awareness.

Thanks to AT, I’ve gotten over my fear of being a soloist again, but I’m still working on being more comfortable performing from memory. So I’m excited that Life is handing me more opportunities to do that – even though it’s daunting!

My current challenge:

My current challenge is to memorize two pieces to perform with Apollo’s Fire at Tanglewood on July 2nd. I don’t even remember the last time that I attempted to memorize a new piece of music! One of the two pieces is new, and the other one I’ve played a different version of many times; but, it’s a confusing piece to memorize.  I will be a member of the section – not a soloist or a leader this time – but I find this task challenging, nonetheless.

Alexander Technique musicians

I’m sharing this story with you because I now need to apply to myself what I’ve suggested to so many of my AT students over the years.  In my next post, I will outline the specific steps I’m following in order to accomplish this task of memorization with a deadline!

The first step is to TRUST – myself and the process I will outline in order to achieve my goal. I refuse to doubt myself, and I’m staying open to All-Possibility!  Wish me luck! 🙂

Can you relate to these fears? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!


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Alexander Technique, Awareness, consciousness, fear, habit, memorization

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  1. Good luck, Jennifer!! I think as you said, the key is to trust and believe that you already have all you need to accomplish your goal. I relate with you in so many ways— I used to fear performing from memory because I would practice a piece without conscious awareness and then come performance, I would doubt myself over every note. Now, with Alexander Technique and the awareness I have when I practice, the memory comes out of my own connection and peace with my inner being and syncing it to the task at hand. Memorizing something still feels different and less comfortable than having the music but I’m learning to embrace the different feeling and to inhibit any doubts, letting the music flow from within. I also have been listening to your performance of Songs of the Infinite at CCM, and I am so inspired by the genuine and heartfelt way you communicate through the music. It’s so beautiful I can’t stop listening! 🙂

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    What a wonderful post. I am not a musician but I have had this same experience driving! And I bet a lot of people have. I found this very scary and unsettling and curious. I don’t enjoy driving in general but I find it more enjoyable if I just drive and not do anything else (not even listening to the radio)–and it’s safer for everyone too! Lauren

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