What happens when your performance nerves get the better of you, when you can't play how you know yourself? In a music university audition, this can decide whether you're offered a place to study, or not.
My colleague Cecilia, flute teacher, approached me to ask if I would work with her student Anne, who would soon audition for a couple of selected music universities.
Although Anne was one of her most advanced students, she sometimes suffered from stage fright when she performed in public. When this happened, she stopped playing at her peak. They asked for my advice and support during her preparation journey to a successful entry audition.
We met for the first time in the fall prior to auditions. At the first session, I observed in Anne great musicality and talent, and also that the energy in her torso was blocked and thus not transmitting the sound freely. This lead to tensions in her back and the zone of the neck and shoulders. Although she was definitely conscious about her movements, she was too concentrated on herself, and to control each and every one of her movements. This lead to her becoming quite tired when she tried to stay concentrated.
During the course of several sessions, I worked with Anne on several topics:
creating a support in the lower body and feeling the floor as an active part of this support
as a consequence, liberating the movements of the upper body and to realize the difference this makes in the sound
opening her perception also in the periphery, and thus not concentrating anymore, but having a more "blurred" or "fuzzy" perception
accepting her sound how it is, and thus being more in the moment, where she can really influence the sound, instead of being in her imagination of the "ideal sound" of how it should be like
using musical parameters (such as melody, intervals), to understand the intrinsic expressiveness of the piece, and connecting it to her own expressiveness in the moment of playing
- body movements to train the elasticity of her body
From the fall until the february prior to auditions, Cecilia, Anne and I met several times in my studio, to shine a light on those topics and apply them on the audition pieces themselves. From the beginning until the last session there was an ascending progression in the young flutist.
Her teacher Cecilia wrote this to me about what she observed:
The changes in Anne during the Resonance sessions with you were especially: a greater flexibility in the sound and in the phrasing, and a greater range of colors in the sound, more personal, more interesting... and expressive.
From the outside I could feel that Anne was playing the music with more ease, more natural, without excess effort and unnecessary tension. It was a delight to hear her like that, as if there weren't countless hours of practice behind the piece; it was as if she came into this world playing with this kind of ease. I loved to see this naturalness. For me, it's uplifting to see when a musician becomes her music 100%, and Anne had moments like this.
What I want to emphasize is that Anne finally began to understand (in flares) how she could really make music: she could expand her own mental beliefs about herself... thanks to the body movements of Resonance. This gave her ardour and joy and energy... to prepare herself, to practice and continue her journey as a flutist.
After the workshop on saturday, she said to me: "I was so tired from the week (of so many lessons, rehearsals, concerts, orchestra, solo recital...), that I just wanted to sleep in for once and do nothing, and rest. But now, after the workshop with Maria, I'm eager for this afternoon to arrive and continue to practice!"
Our working process lead to a workshop about body movements of Resonance that I lead last february, and in which both of them took part. There, we emphasized Anne's own ability to change things while she played, and the physical preparation that she needed in order to have elasticity in the body.
At the end of the workshop, Anne played for us the beginning of on of her audition pieces, to realize the impact of the body movements on the music. It was very noticeable for me to see how she consciously knew what kind of changes would favour her musical flow, and which ones wouldn't.
What Anne was able to create thanks to our work together
It was a pleasure for me to work with these two very motivated and committed musicians, who had such confidence and joy in discovering the possibilities of this work. Anne wrote to me these lines, a few weeks after our last session. Here's what she had to say:
I noticed how the movement exercises that you showed me are changing my way of playing. Since the intensive workshop, my body awareness has increased, and I've been able to notice the changes we were talking about.
One thing I learned in the workshop is the difference between the movements that I create in my head and those that I really feel in my body and that I start from the movement waves we talked about. This change I noticed very much!
These exercises make me feel more capable and calm in my body, and now I'm more motivated when I practice. I'm much more able to introduce the changes I need to have better playing sensations. Working with you I have really understood what it means to feel through a piece.
Since the last session, the exercises and the short moments of stillness have helped me to change my mindset and believe in what I'm doing.
I've seen and felt that my sensations in front of an audience and in myself are much better now. I'm much more able to feel and do what I need to have better sensations in front of an audience and keep it that way. Thank you, Maria!
Anne played her auditions and ultimately was offered a place to study in the music university of her choice. I was so happy for her!