24 Nov 2017

# blog # blogger

KB Abroad: The Power of Letting Go

Almost 2 months without a proper blog post, shame on me! I should take inspiration from blogging goddess/good friend/blog mentor Alice Dodd and up my blog productivity game. But alas, November had me lacking blog inspiration, until today!

The majority of us these days are guilty of experiencing that running commentary that goes through our heads, whether it’s at work, when speaking or when looking at yourself in the mirror. It’s all too easy to think ‘I’ll never achieve that’, ‘I’ll never be as good as them’, ‘I wish I could lose a few kilos’… it goes on and on. And it’s no surprise either, for this is a direct result of a bombardment of information from all media sources.

Last week I finished a class called podiumpresentatie or stage awareness and I really think it has changed the way I think about my performing. The classes involve performing a piece to the group and talking objectively about what you experienced during that performance. The teacher, Mart Blom, provides ideas about what can be done to combat nerves, obvious problem areas or difficult passages in a very safe and non-judgmental way. This often comes through reminders like ‘breathe’ (a phrase which was probably the most commonly used throughout the classes!) and reminding us to stay present in the moment and taking our awareness to the whole room. It’s seriously fascinating how these seemingly simple aspects of life enhanced our engagement as performers (from a range of instruments) and as an audience. We want to control things, and for musicians this is much the same. So, today I  want to share with you some of the lessons I learned through the simple act of ‘letting go'. (This mostly relates to what I learned musically, but I feel this also has some relevance to daily life too..)

It’s scary
Letting go is ALWAYS scary, because it taps into a fear of the unknown. Often this self-criticism has become ingrained in our system and like quitting any bad habits, it takes time, practice and trust. Fearing the unknown is understandable, but if we don’t venture into it, (whilst making a few mistakes along the way, musically or personally) you might not learn the limits of your instrument or environment.

Leading on from the first point, once you test those limits, finding a feeling that you didn’t realise was possible is so empowering. In the final class, a friend and I performed a modern piece that I had been finding particularly difficult and was dreading performing in an upcoming concert. After working on it in front of the group, maintaining my sense of spacial awareness and allowing the difficult passages to come and go without over-analysing, I felt like a new woman. I never thought I would be able to feel comfortable with that piece and yet, (granted, it’s not perfect yet and still throws up a few issues here and there) now I know that I have the capability to sing it in front of people without having a mini breakdown. That’s always a bonus…

Not controlling vs Out of control 
The thought of not controlling a certain difficult phrase or note can be seriously challenging and scary because it seems contradictory to be ‘out of control’ during a part that is difficult. However, recognising the difference between not controlling and being out of control has really changed my approach (in a positive way) when tackling these problems in my own practice. The more we worry about our faults or previous mistakes, the more our work will be scattered in them. Leave the past in the past and set aside the commentary - the difference can be immeasurable.  

I have learned some invaluable lessons through this (all too short!)  course; the power of presence and awareness will definitely stay with me. I think letting go is one of the hardest things to remember to do, especially when you want whatever you are doing to be as perfect as possible – but perfection is intangible and the more we recognise that, the more empowered we will feel. Performance, in all its forms, is a process. Ultimately letting go of the running commentary and self-judgement equips you with the tools you need to combat challenges that arrive, in life and music!


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