Mindfulness, Confidence, and Performance:
Awareness Techniques for Musicians
To music faculty and administrators who want their students to have more confidence onstage and to excel in performance:
As musicians, no matter how much we prepare for a performance, when the moment comes to step into the light onstage, we may lack confidence and fail to shine our brightest. Passages we’ve practiced hard may even fall apart, and we may not know why, or how to do better the next time. We may wonder how some musicians rise to the occasion and radiate confidence in performance—how that scary moment in the spotlight brings out their very best.
We try many things to achieve confidence in performance. We push ourselves to practice extra hours. We repeat tough passages countless times in a joyless, desperate way to gain technical security. We give ourselves energetic pep talks backstage. Or we take pills before going onstage to slow down our racing heart and to prevent our hands from shaking.
The problem in each of these approaches is that we are run by fear. It is fear and desperation that drive us to overexert, to over-think, or to cover up our symptoms with medication. And as long as we approach performing in this way, we remain victims of our fear instead of learning to rise above it and master it. We never find out how proud and powerful we could really be in performance.
To master our fear we need to strengthen our presence of mind—to free our mind of distraction and judgment. Then we can use our mind to focus on what really matters: our connection with our instrument, with the music, and with ourselves—with our deepest musical feelings and our innermost motivation to perform. When our mind is fully engaged with all of these things, we can then fully engage with our audience. We can fulfill our musical gift by giving it to others in performance.
We can strengthen your presence of mind through a practice called mindfulness. Mindfulness means noticing what’s happening in the present moment—both within us and around us. It includes observing the details of how we use our body with our instrument, and focusing intently on how sounds affect is. It also includes tuning into our body before we practice, and tuning into our deep intentions before we walk onstage. As we practice such awareness, our instrumental technique, our musicality, our stage presence, and our communicative power all grow stronger. In fact, they begin to outweigh our fear, and we become fearless in performance
Since 1985, I’ve helped thousands of musicians fulfill more of their potential by using mindfulness techniques—in workshops, summer programs, and private sessions, and through my highly acclaimed book, The Art of Practicing. And since 2006, I’ve helped hundreds more musicians find powerful confidence onstage through my unique mindfulness technique, the Fearless Performing Exercise. Your students, too, can learn these techniques to bring out more of the music that is within them and to give it fearlessly to their audience.
Mindfulness, Confidence, and Performance is a unique course designed to guide your students toward a new level of confidence in performance. In sessions with and without their instruments, students learn simple, potent techniques that transform their practicing and performing. The non-competitive approach and class discussions enable students to absorb what they have learned and to deepen their understanding.
Even for musicians who have never done mindfulness techniques before, this course will give them the instruction and experience they need to apply these techniques directly to your preparation for performance. Mindfulness, Confidence, and Performance will open their minds to surprising, new possibilities, and take them to a whole new level of confidence onstage.
You can bring this course to your students in a one-day, three-day, or four-week format. I would also be happy to talk to you about adapting the format to best suit your students.
Mindfulness, Confidence, & Performance can be taught in three one-hour modules, which can be expanded, combined, or adapted to meet the needs of your students.
Each workshop includes:
- Instruction in a specific technique
- A question-and-answer session
The three modules are:
1. Mindfulness Meditation – a mental technique for establishing basic presence of mind
Technique: mindfulness of breathing
- Clears the mind and opens perceptions and intuition for practice and performance
- Reduces stress
- Increases mental focus
- Strengthens stage presence
- Familiarizes musician with state of flow that happens in performance
2. Body and Sound Awareness – a combination of two techniques using one’s instrument
Techniques: body scan
mindfulness of sounds and sensations
- Connects the musician to full capacity for appreciating sound while playing
- Enriches sound quality
- Allows musician to play with more emotional intensity yet less physical tension
- Creates more engaged and engaging performance
- Strengthens artistic conviction
- Deepens familiarity with state of flow, contributing toward confidence in performance
3. The Fearless Performing Exercise – a 7-minute technique for rousing confidence
- Increases communicative power
- Shifts mental focus from self-consciousness to generosity onstage
- Transforms stage fright into confidence