I just returned from a weekend trip to New York City. The main purpose of the trip was to perform at the International Double Reed Society annual conference with oboist Andrew Parker. The second reason was for my wife Heather, also a fabulous oboist (for those who don't know), to attend IDRS and to buy a new oboe. (Unfortunately all the great ones were taken by the time we got there...)
We also brought along our 16 month old toddler Frederic. I had the great fortune of spending basically all of Friday with him exploring the streets, parks, and playgrounds of NYC. It also gave me a lot of time to think.
First of all I was of course thinking about our performance on Saturday morning. We played Schumann's Dichterliebe from our upcoming album. I can honestly say that I like the way I play that piece. I like the way Andrew and I interact and make music. I like the music. I like the piano part. I like everything about it. And I earned the right to like it and to perform it. I smile every time I think about it. These feelings made for a wonderful day-before-concert day. That day is usually reserved for "uptight Alan". But not this time. Heck, I didn't even get to touch a piano for 25 hours prior to the performance. Not a worry. It was a beautiful day in NYC with my baby and later my wife, with a performance to look forward to.
This then got me thinking about my students. They are always so hard on themselves. They always worry about making mistakes and what other people are going to think about them. (Not so much about their playing, mind you!) In preparation for a performance the main thought is "What am I going to do IF I make a mistake/have a memory slip/etc.?" However the correct question to be asking is "What am I going to do WHEN I make a mistake, etc.?" This allows for acceptance that we aren't perfect. It allows for a more realistic approach in preparation. And it allows one to like oneself more. It's OK to make mistakes.
How does one achieve this state of mind? It is of course easier said than done. It all starts with preparation. If you leave no stone unturned, look at the problems at hand from all sides possible, work as hard and as diligently as you can, then in the end you have earned the right to perform and to like what you are doing. You will look forward to a performance and you will even like your mistakes.
I loved our performance at IDRS. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. But I liked it, I liked myself for doing it, and I hope our audience liked it as well.